Wake's plan for single-gender schools based on Guilford model
Posted September 19, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Education could vote Tuesday on a plan that would create both an all-boys and an all-girls leadership academy for middle and high school students beginning with the 2012-13 school year.
Superintendent Tony Tata proposed the idea this month at a board meeting as a way to create more options under a proposed student assignment plan aimed at offering parents more choices for where their children go to school.
"If we can offer these programs, ideally in partnership with local colleges, we can offer more choices to families, create enrollment capacity for our school system at a cheaper cost and provide new paths for success for all students," Tata said earlier this month.
Guilford County's school system has had a similar model in place since 2002 at two local universities – Bennett College and North Carolina A&T State University.
Both schools, referred to as middle colleges, have 116 students enrolled for the 2011-12 school year and have a per-pupil expenditure of approximately $14,000 – more than twice the district average.
Guilford County Schools says that's partly because of lower student enrollment. The schools have some of the same fixed costs as other schools, such as administrative salaries, that are not spread out over as many students.
Esther Coble, who's principal at Guilford's all-girls Middle College at Bennett, says the cost is worth it. The classes are smaller, she says, which keeps students engaged. Learning is highly interactive.
"Our school is for young ladies who are disinterested in or dissatisfied with or disconnected from the traditional high school setting," Coble said. "Last year, 100 percent of our students graduated and were accepted to a two- to four-year college."
Critics have raised questions, however, about what the schools would look like in terms of diversity in Wake County. Black students mostly comprise the two Guilford schools, and there has been a debate over the past two years about whether the district's new student assignment policy would lead to segregation.
It's something the Greensboro schools are working on, and the issue will likely come up at Tuesday's Wake school board meeting.
Also up for consideration at Tuesday's school board meeting is a plan that would convert Hilburn Elementary School in northwest Raleigh to a grades K-8 school.
The school system has posted an online survey for parents who would be affected by the change, asking for their thoughts about the school's calendar, program offerings and other information.
Tata recommended the change, saying it would open more middle school seats and postpone the need to build a new middle school in northwestern Wake County.
If approved, it would also go into effect in 2012-13.