Education

Help for students is stuck between old models and new data, consultant tells Wake panel

Posted June 24, 2010

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— Programs intended to help at-risk students are caught between old models that classified students by race, income or other categories and the current ability to look at data about how individual children perform in school, a Wake schools task force on economically disadvantaged students heard Thursday.

Classifying students as at risk according to demographic information is a holdover from the 1960s War on Poverty, a program evaluator and former math teacher told the group in a meeting at Garner High School.

It's now possible to gather and analyze data about individual students, Janet Johnson, founder and president of EDSTAR Inc., said, but some regulations remain based on the older system. For example, schools that have high percentages of low-income students and that fail to make adequate academic progress every year have to begin remediation for everyone in certain groups, she said.

Regulators are learning, she said, to evaluate programs by the results they produce for students instead of counting how many students in certain groups were given how many services, regardless of the outcome.

What happens sometimes, however, is that minority or other students who actually score highly on end-of-grade tests in middle school are dragged down by the programs, Johnson said. In addition, a self-fulfilling situation occurs in which teachers and counselors who know a student has been put in an improvement program believe that student must be at risk academically and do not recommend him or her for advanced classes, she said.

Data show that students who come from demographic groups long labeled as "at risk" can often do better than they are given credit for, Johnson added.

Schools are in a no-man's land in the change from old, demographic-based thinking to new data-driven ways, she said.

Elaine Hanzer, principal of Wake Forest Rolesville Middle School, and Assistant Principal Patches Jacobs, described their school's pilot program of pushing math students who had scored well on end-of-grade tests into eighth-grade algebra without pre-algebra work and bringing parents into the program to support the moves, even though the students had not been considered capable of that work.

The program identified 50 students who had scored in the 80th percentile or higher on tests but who were not being recommended for higher-level classes.

"They were lacking the push" to reach higher, Hanzer said. "We recultured their minds," and the students succeeded, she reported.

The task force, which technically is a school board committee of three members but has dozens of community and organization leaders and community advocates, is the brainchild of board member John Tedesco, who has driven a move to assign students to schools in their communities rather than trying to balance socioeconomic diversity across the system's 150-plus schools.

One of Tedesco's arguments against diversity has been that school systems stereotype students by race or economic level and create programs that lower their expectations for themselves.

The task force goal, Tedesco told the group, is "to create some real solutions for real kids" by making suggestions for school board actions.

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  • Tawny Jun 25, 2010

    This is not new information. There are many schools within the county who use data driven computer programs to evaluate the success of their students. This has NOTHING to do with diversity issues. The methods by which a school or teacher may use to evaluate student success is a seperate issue. This information that was shared at this meeting was just another tool that teachers use to evaluate student progress.

    There are many students who have IEP's (Individual Education Plans) because they need them - as indicated by evaluative measures which showed that these students needed extra support and assistance to be successful. A GOOD IEP team, including parents, will develop a program with clear, measurable objectives to support that student in being as successful as they can be.

  • inquistitor Jun 25, 2010

    It isn't just kids who can't afford lunch. It involves kids who have IEP's for OHI as well. The "educate by the label" concept is still the same. The only way to get the kids what they need is to fight it, and alot of parents don't.

  • Not_So_Dumb Jun 24, 2010

    "What happens sometimes, however, is that minority or other students who actually score highly on end-of-grade tests in middle school are dragged down by the programs, Johnson said. In addition, a self-fulfilling situation occurs in which teachers and counselors who know a student has been put in an improvement program believe that student must be at risk academically and do not recommend him or her for advanced classes, she said."

    And here we see the reality of Wakes "acclaimed" diversity policy. You are from a family that cannot afford lunch, so you must be stupid. It is an institutionalized discriminatory culture of failure.