Local News

Quality Matters: Annual Report On Wake Schools Released

Posted April 13, 2004

— Wake County Schools received a report card from the community they serve Tuesday.

The Wake Education Partnership conducted an independent assessment of the school system. While the nonprofit found a lot of areas where the system is doing very well, its Quality Matters 2004 report also found areas that need improvement.

The report finds Wake County Schools have shown unprecedented growth in student achievement and that the school system is good steward of taxpayer money.

While Wake County led the state last year in the number of teachers receiving board certification, teacher turnover also increased.

Quality Matters 2004 finds blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in advanced placement courses. Overall, a small percentage of students are taking the classes.

The report says those reasons need to be examined.

"No superintendent can do it alone. No board of education can do it alone. No principal or teacher can do it alone. It is going to take the community coming together," Superintendent Bill McNeal said.

The report card also found as the number of English as a second language students grows, so does the demand for resources and teachers.

"Teachers without ESL certification are being used to meet the needs of the growing student population," said Gordon Brown of Quality Matters 2004. "In fact, Wake County, compared to the benchmarking districts that we looked at, had the lowest percentage of licensed ESL teachers among those districts, so we have some work there to do."

This past year, nearly 1,200 new Hispanic and Latino students entered Wake County Schools. In order to move up in grade, they must learn English and know it well.

Many rely on ESL courses to be promoted. The report calls for more time, personnel and materials for these services.

At Hodge Road Elementary School more than 100 students participate in ESL classes. ESL teacher Tracy Moseley says the pressure grows as the Hispanic student population grows.

"We like to keep our groups small so we can work on their proficiency in English," Mosley said.

Teacher student ratio in ESL classrooms is one concern; another is the threat of strict sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"They're expected to achieve at the same level as kids who speak English as their primary language. Without that funding, I don't think that's possible," Mosley said.

The Quality Matters 2004 report says just to maintain current programs, an additional $800 is needed for every ESL student. With 14,000 ESL students projected in the system by 2008, that is an additional $6.4 million.

Wake Superintendent Bill McNeal says they are looking for funding and support to tackle growing demands.

"It requires us to look creatively to come up with solutions and there is no doubt that creates pressure for us but that's the business we are in," he said.

Currently, 76 Wake County schools provide ESL services. McNeal says he is pursuing money from the county, state and other funding sources.

Wake County is not alone in the challenges dealing with ESL students. Wake is behind only Charlotte in the number of ESL students; however, both are well ahead of other large school districts such as Guilford and Forsyth counties.

However, Wake County is well below the others in the number of teachers licensed to teach ESL students.

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