Cary, N.C. — Wake County school administrators are looking for ways to boost student achievement, and ultimately, graduation rates. The school board met Thursday to discuss options from computers to classroom coaches.
In most area public school classrooms, there's one electronic device for every three students. School board members said they want a 1:1 ratio, and they are considering a BYOD – bring your own device – policy.
Wake County Public School System staff will review various aspects of the idea, from the cost of boosting bandwidth at schools to accommodate an array of student laptops and tablets to the guidelines for classroom use.
"Kids are watching videos when you're trying to give instruction. My point is we need to make sure our policy is very clear there is teacher authority," board member Jim Martin said.
"How do we alter the culture to positively use this technology for student benefit, that’s the question," board member Bill Fletcher said.
More immediately, the board could vote next week on spending $350,000 to add graduation coaches at area high schools this year.
"Anytime you have someone who is truly focused on working with individual students to get the credits they need to stay in school, to address the attendance issues, it makes a difference," Knightdale High School Principal Carla Jernigan said.
Knightdale High has had graduation coaches for four years and has seen its graduation rate increase each year. Jernigan said the coach works with at-risk students over lunch and after school – one student even stopped by the school over summer break to meet with the coach.
"When you have that relationship, when you feel connected, the kids are going to stay in school," she said.
The proposal to expand graduation coaches drew little opposition.
"None of the people who work for this school system want to see a student fail – none," Fletcher said. "The only reason it happens is because the need outruns the resource."
Board members also discussed curriculum audits of Knightdale Elementary School, Hodge Road Elementary School, East Wake Middle School and Knightdale High.
Parents in eastern Wake County have complained for years about a lack of resources and attention from the school system. The audits found inconsistencies in teacher expectations and resource distribution.
"We’re probably approaching 50 percent of our Knightdale students not attending public schools in Knightdale. To me, that’s horrifying," board member Tom Benton said. "We’ve got to be able to regain the trust of the public across the board that our schools are meeting their needs."
Benton, a former principal, said part of the problem is the lack of experienced teachers in the schools, and he called for a district task force to track the curriculum issues in the schools over the next few years.
"We've got to find some way to make sure we can attract and retain quality staff out there and we're not just a training ground for the rest of the county," he said.
"How we can help support those teachers and staff at the schools to level the playing field for those students is very important," board member Susan Evans said.