Knightdale Education Work Group a learning tool for county

mhankerson@newsobserver.comJanuary 10, 2014 

— After a half-dozen meetings, the Knightdale Area Education Work Group is nearly ready to release its recommendations to the Wake County school board.

School officials say the results of the committee’s work will be posted on the school system’s website this week. Wake County Board of Education chair Christine Kushner, who participated in the meetings, said she hopes what the group identifies in Knightdale can work on a county-wide level.

“We found problems that are unique to Knightdale (but) there are some issues that we need to look at on a district-wide level,” she said.

The work group received information about student assignment, test scores, Advanced and Intellectually Gifted students and how the county handles magnet schools.

Student assignment data showed Knightdale’s lone middle school, East Wake, was losing students because students at some elementary schools matriculate to Wendell Middle to keep yearly schedules consistent. Maps provided by the Office of Student Assignment also showed most of East Wake Middle’s base (where students live) is not assigned to the school.

An independent audit of Knightdale schools that sparked the group’s creation said one challenge East Wake Middle faces is a lack of outside participation, among other logistical problems caused by school assignment.

“Student assignment has exacerbated the difficulty in involving and engaging parents, as so many students live far away from the school building,” the audit reports. “Busing gets some children late to school every day ... .”

Kushner said she would take a lot of what she heard at the meetings back to the board, but the student assignment issue stuck out to her and was valuable in the beginning of her term as board chairperson.

“I think it will inform us as a board as we go into the student assignment process (like) some things to avoid and some things to strengthen,” she said.

Knightdale schools audit by mechelleh

Student achievement issues

Throughout the group’s meetings, it became clear many high-performing students were leaving Knightdale schools as they got older.

Data presented at the first meeting on Oct. 22 showed that 532 of 893 Knightdale students who opted out of Knightdale High School for the 2013-14 school year chose magnet schools outside eastern Wake County.

The students are fairly evenly divided among Enloe High School (175), Millbrook High School (172) and Southeast Raleigh High (144). Enloe and Millbrook offer the International Baccalaureate program and Southeast has a leadership and technical center.

As meetings went on, the group began discussing the cons of creating a magnet school in Knightdale, and focused on bolstering what the town already has.

While the group was working through identified problems, test scores under the new Common Core standards were released.

The results were abysmal: no noncharter public school in eastern Wake County had more than 50 percent of its students performing at or above grade level.

Kushner said improving rigor and core instruction are two ways to improve the quality of Knightdale schools.

“I’m enamored with Knightdale,” she said. “I think it’s a great community (and) … I want the schools to be embraced by the community. I want the schools to be well-regarded because I think there’s staff and teachers that work so hard for students.”

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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