Local News

Race Gap Found in School Grade Promotions

Posted May 23, 2007
Updated May 25, 2007

— Freddie Bullock only wants his daughter, Crystal, to get her diploma. But he's concerned her school is trying to convince her to get her GED instead.

“You know, people are concerned when they see you started something and then quit,” he said. “That’s a mark on you.”

Crystal said she is determined to get her diploma, because she thinks it will look better on future resumes, and it will help her get the jobs she wants.

If she drops out, Crystal would become another black student who did not get ahead.

This is a concern statewide, because black students are being held back at higher rates. In Wake County, half of all children who are held back are black. Although the retention rates in Wake County are relatively low at 4 percent, school system officials are concerned about the racial breakdown.

“That’s a huge concern for us,” said David Holdzkom, assistant superintendent for evaluation and research. “Because we don’t want to have a systemic fail.”

In some grades, more black children are held back than their white counterparts when they are on the bubble.

For the 2005-2006 school year, 9,120 students didn’t meet state standards for third grade. Nearly 89 percent of white students were promoted anyway compared with 85 percent of black children.

“I think it all boils down to parent involvement,” said Calla Wright, a spokeswoman for the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children.

Wright believes the achievement gap would be narrowed and retention rates would be lowered if more parents of black children got involved.

“A lot of times they come in at the end," she said. "They don’t know what things to say or do or how to conduct a parent-teacher conference.”

Wake Forest-Rolesville High School Principal Andre Smith said individual principals need to take notice because principals get the final say in who gets promoted and who stays behind.

“I think every principal has the responsibility to look at the numbers and see what the root cause of the problem is,” Smith said.

Wake Forest-Rolesville High School has a unique approach that is working. The school has a freshman academy that gives individualized attention to students. Over the last five years, the school has had a lower retention rate of freshmen than the average systemwide.

The topic of retention rates in Wake County is the focus of a forum this Saturday at Hunter Elementary School in Raleigh. The Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children will host the conversation from 10 a.m. to noon. Speakers from Wake County and the state will be there.


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  • fletchermse May 25, 2007

    With respect to the following:

    "Actually, bigguns, you are incorrect. I won't get into the details of posting statistics for every county in NC (because it'd take pages of data and that won't fit here) but the following rates are remarkably consistent across all of NC's counties.

    Suffice to say that for Wake County, births for unmarried females aged 15 - 19: White - 597, Minority (i.e. all non white) - 491. If you want to start addressing the problem, look as much in your own backyard as you seem to be in the black ones."

    These are not rates, but raw numbers. Compare the percentages to the race percentages, and see how disproportionate the numbers end up being.

  • mulvay8888 May 25, 2007

    The real problem with the schools in NC are that teachers only teach what is on the EoG. Maybe I said that wrong. Teachers help children memorize what is going to be on the EoG. Now before I am attacked, I do not belive it is the teachers fault, I blame the State for mandating this. Teachers paid all that money to recieve a college education, let them put it to work.

    As far as parents getting involved, Here is what I have to say about that. My wife and I and very involved with our childrens education. That said, my children are still having difficulty learning the key concepts that NC schools teach to memorize. I DO NOT remember a time as a child in 2nd to 4th grade where I had over 3 hours of homework each night. It seems to me that schools teach what is on the EoG and send homework home for the parents to teach. I think this is ridiculous.

  • jetstream May 25, 2007

    It is not the school system's job to raise your children. Become an involved parent. From birth, you should know whether your child is developing normally. You should see whether or not they are struggling in school. If the African American community doesn't like these numbers, than do something to fix it. It shouldn't be the government's job to fix it. Nor mine! I, along with my family raise my own children. No one else does it for us.

    I have a nephew who was just diagnosed with Autism. And guess what? His parents didn't wait until he entered school to find this out. He was not developing as a toddler. Now he is getting the therapy that he needs. They took responsibility for their own child. What a shocker!

  • ForeRight May 25, 2007

    RACE GAP? The article quotes, "This is a concern statewide, because black students are being held back at higher rates. In Wake County, half of all children who are held back are black." What is the other half, non-white? It appears that the numbers are more even then the headline suggests. The real disturbing issue regarding the GED is that it sounds like WCPPS educators see the GED as a way of removing students from the classroom. Noo current student should ever be ecouraged by a WCPPS employee to drop out and seek a GED.

  • ForeRight May 25, 2007

    Over 9,000 students not up to 3rd grade minimum standards. 1 in 9 black students and 1 in 7 whites studetns not prepared to move ahead. Those numbers are incredible!

    The WCPPS is broken. I am an involved parent,I work and play with my child. He could have passed those tests in Kindergarden of first grade. I agree that parental involvement is necesary, but the school system should and needs to identify these children who are at risk earlier, work with them to improve basic skills and allocate resources to these needs. Even if the parent is unwilling or unable to be more involved, it should be a priority to assist elementary school students to obtain basic skills that will prepare them for higher educational challenges.
    At 5-10 years old they should not be punished or passed over because of lack of parent involvement, or parental ability, to suppplement and enrich their child's education.

  • scal May 24, 2007


    Just goes to show you that the "dummy down" method doesn't work either. Why punish excellent students by throwing them in with the more academically challenged when the WCPSS is just going to push kids threw the school system to keep their numbers up (no child left behind and all that garbage). Leave the ones who are medium to advanced and want to learn alone. No sence in making everyone suffer.

    People seem to forget we ALL have the same oppurtunities to get an education. Some of just take advantage of it and work a little harder.

  • Mean Old Mom May 24, 2007

    Uncle Rukus: You bad--link great! http://americandaily.com/article/18093
    It's true that statistics can be manipulated to portray whatever bias the writer desires. (shhhh...don't tell the writer this, they may get better at manipulating statistics for the next story to make it sound more believable!) Those who pass HS and make it to college might understand statistical analysis, but our youth are spoon fed figures like this ad naseum. If you don't teach kids to think for themselves, others will think for them. End result---lower class serves upper elitists. We are only a generation away from this.

    Personal experience--two boys failed math EOG last year. One son did not pass any EOG's. Both passed GO and Collected $200 so to speak. We are NL,involved,two parent family. Boys are adopted,learning disabilities/ADD/ADHD, but schools ignored problems when they first transferred to WCPSS. Getting the school to admit there was a problem was the biggest hurdle. And it still is.

  • supermom2 May 24, 2007

    Did anyone here happen to hear the ethnic lady's response to this article yesterday? She said that it come down to parental involvment with their child and thier education. It is not the education system job to raise your child, and that is what so many parents have done black and white, just drop their kids off and let the school take care of them. And yes you can still be involved with your children even if you work, but you ahve to want to, you must have a desire to help your child, and to lead them in the right direction. You have no choice but to be active so that your child...you know the one you love, the one you gave birth to, or adopted. You have to be there, to help them understand, support them. You want your kids to pass and move on....then get active in their life and their education. This is how children become successful, respectable adults.

  • mindyourown May 24, 2007

    Beachgal, you said it perfectly, I second your words and congrats to you!

  • claudnc May 24, 2007

    this happens in every school district in NC and most in America. All factors are taken into consideration when trying to retain a child