Expect schools fallout

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Eastern Wake County, you might be surprised to learn, boasts the state's fourth-largest charter school. Almost 1,100 students attend East Wake Academy, a K-12 campus in Zebulon, and its waiting list approaches 600 students.
That so many parents want in might make a person wonder whether there's something they want out of.
The academy's average three-part SAT score is 1451, below most of the county but higher than Knightdale High, whose 1368 average is the lowest. The academy was recently named a School of Distinction.
Knightdale High also has the county's highest percentage of high schoolers qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch, at 40.4 percent.
And Knightdale High had the county's highest number of teachers requesting transfers last year. Hmm.
Most of Eastern Wake's schools now have free and reduced-price lunch populations nearing 60 percent. Wakelon Elementary in Zebulon has more than 70 percent.
Knightdale's Hodge Road Elementary has an F&R population of more than 70 percent, too. Across the street, 76 subsidized apartments are going up. Brilliant.
Right up U.S. 64, Wendell has the county's highest percentage of subsidized affordable units at more than 11 percent of all housing.
Know how much subsidized housing western Wake has? In Morrisville, that'd be 0. Apex? Cary? Each has 1 percent.
We used to have a school board that tried, not terribly successfully, to mitigate the imbalances of our housing patterns by keeping the numbers of poor children assigned to one school as low as possible. It recognized that high-poverty schools are challenging schools, where many children arrive ill-prepared with myriad needs that can burn out teachers quickly. And it realized that wasn't good for the children or the county.
Now we have a board that wanted to make "neighborhood" schools the priority, even though that can create high-poverty schools that can lead those neighborhoods to decay when many residents with the means leave.
The current board opened Walnut Creek Elementary knowing that more than 80 percent of its students would be poor, but it gave the principal a $7,000 bonus and paid for him to fly around the country to recruit teachers willing to work there.
Because that's a model we can afford to replicate 60 times?
Twist any metric you like to make a point about Charlotte-Mecklenburg, which ended diversity efforts and went to "neighborhood" schools 10 years ago. Know what North Carolina's fastest-growing county is? It ain't on the coast.
It's Union County, right east of Mecklenburg. Hmm.
Despite a move toward board consensus this week on a choice-based assignment plan, far too many questions remain. And the answers will depend on the outcome of Tuesday's school board election.
Johnston County might want to get ready.
Next week: In 1997, when I sent my older child to a magnet school, I wasn't leaving Knightdale schools; I was helping a downtown school. An amazing group now works to make Knightdale's schools first choice for all residents.

Read more: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/10/07/1545924/expect-schools-fallout.html#ixzz1aL6b9XC

1 comment

Ben McDonald said...

My wife and I have commented on the fact that many of the people in our neighborhood (Churchill) choose to send their children to EWA vs our base schools, Knightdale Elem. Wendell Mid. and Knightdale H. The parents who are sending their kids out have stated great concerns about the aformentioned schools. I think some parents forget that one's acheivement level often has more to do with parental involvement than the students they sit next too.

October 10, 2011

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