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Audit: Wake Schools Good, But Have Work to Do

Posted September 4, 2007
Updated September 5, 2007

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— The Wake County school system needs to manage its schools better to improve student achievement, according to an extensive audit released Tuesday.

The 400-page curriculum audit by the Indiana-based education organization Phi Delta Kappa International said the school district has a good plan for success, but isn't executing it well. Random visits to three dozen schools in recent months showed fewer than two-thirds were adequately implementing the plan, the audit said.

The district paid $215,000 for the six-month audit, which it hoped would find areas for improvement because student achievement has plateaued in recent years. The school board had set a goal of having 95 percent of students in the third through 12th grades testing at or above grade level by next year, but Superintendent Del Burns said Tuesday that the goal won't happen.

"Having 95 percent of all students at or above grade level in 2008 is not realistic," he said.

In the 2006-07 school year, 91 percent of the district's students in grades 3 through 8 tested at or above grade level in reading, while 76 percent scored at or above grade level in math. The lower math performance is attributed to the state's changing how it handles math scores, an issue that has bedeviled many districts.

Burns said meeting the 95 percent goal became more difficult in the past year because the state has changed the way it grades end-of-year tests, causing scores to plummet statewide. But he acknowledged that the problems cited in the audit also are hindering the district's success.

In middle school math last year, for example, 88 percent of white students were at or above grade level, compared with 48 percent of African-American students. In the 10th grade, 87 percent of white students performed at grade level, compared with 50 percent of African-American students.

Similar gaps in student achievement extend across gender and income levels – more girls take advanced classes, and more boys are in special education classes – and the auditors determined that the district would never close those gaps at its current rate of progress.

"Having achievement gaps is not acceptable to me, and it's not acceptable in our community," Burns said.

More consistency is needed districtwide, according to the audit. It noted resources are distributed unevenly among schools – different levels of involvement by parent support groups is a main reason for this – and that principals often chart their own courses for their schools.

The district also needs to restructure teacher evaluations, the audit said. Evaluations produce little constructive feedback, making it difficult to use them to improve classroom techniques.

The audit also recommended hiring more male and minority teachers. Eighty-four percent of Wake County's public school teachers are white, and most are women, according to the audit.

The district's long-range building plan was praised in the audit, but the report said the school board needs to gain control over taxing authority, which is now held by the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

Schools are using some strategies to close the student achievement gap, like having teachers work together in teams to help certain students, but Burns said it could take months or years to implement programs to correct problems.

At Wake Forest-Rolesville High School, for example, freshmen are isolated to identify those with potential problems and those with the ability to excel.

"I'm happy that we're beginning this dialogue about something that's often sensitive to talk about," Principal Andre Smith said. "We know we have a good school system – one of the best in the country. Now, we have clear objectives as to what we're doing instructionally."

Twenty-three auditors visited nearly 4,000 classrooms, interviewed 479 people and reviewed 50,000 pages of documents during the audit, officials said. Such curriculum audits usually are performed at low-performing school districts and are designed to highlight problems and areas for improvement.

Fearing that the audit could harm morale in Wake County schools, district administrators plan to meet individually with area principals on Wednesday morning, Burns said.

District officials said they hope to present a plan for change to the school board on Sept. 18.


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  • scal Sep 6, 2007

    (yawn)....just glad my kids will be out soon.

  • gpd Sep 6, 2007

    Well we can all talk about what is wrong, but the answer to every problem at WCPSS is the same, "we need more money". This report is just a set up for the more money they'll ask for in November. Mark my words.

  • -info- Sep 6, 2007

    Diversity is the all inclusive problem or cure for todays education,,BS......you want kids to learn then hold parents accountable...if the parent cant or wont address issues put the kid in a structured alternative school along the lines of boarding schools the expense will be payed back in full with a productive society member...

  • Mobile Geek Sep 5, 2007

    Part 4.

    What happened to consequences? If you do not get an education, then that is tough. Live on the street as a bum. That is your fate for not taking advantage of what is given to you freely, at my taxpaying expense. That may sound inhuman, but is no more than handing charity out at the unwilling expenses of others. Haven’t you every heard the expression “Don’t give the man a fish, but rather teach him to fish so he may do so for himself.”

  • Mobile Geek Sep 5, 2007

    Part 3.

    Oh, when the Board starts talking about adjustments, it generally means dumb down the curriculum or move troubled kids to schools that do excel to balance the numbers. Anyone remember the story of Harris Bergeron? Probably not, it is probably banned from reading in our schools. It is a story about egalitarianism. It teaches the inhuman treatment of an individual, Harrison, who was of exceptional intelligence and physical being. So in order to make him equal he is punished and suffers greatly under handicaps given to him such as distracting noises, several hundred pounds of extra weight, eyeglasses to give him headaches, cosmetic changes to make him ugly, etc. Everyone was suppose to be equal, so instead of lifting people up, the usual liberal route is to bring those on top down.

  • Mobile Geek Sep 5, 2007

    Part 2.

    On another note, WRAL’s video report of this mentioned that Asians were up there with white children in performance. Well, I know from my experience in college, that Asian students generally out perform all the students as a whole. They have been disciplined and understand the important of the education. In many cases, it is perceived as an absolute must of life is over type of attitude towards learning. I know this, because my wife is Chinese, and she grew up with that type of attitude. Schools are limited in China, so students have to excel or they have no future. Perhaps, if students here felt the same pressure, they might not take for granted what is given to them so easily.

  • Mobile Geek Sep 5, 2007

    Part 1.

    I have to agree with –info- that children are a product of their environment. Wake County is doing everything wrong and nothing right, with the attitude they have. As always the idiots on the Board of Education are missing the point. It is ridiculous to assume that diversity is what is needed to help people get a better education. It has nothing to do with it. Oh sure, it may feel all warm and fuzzy, but it just isn’t practical. You hire the best EDUCATORS. You get people who know how to communicate with the kids and get them interested in what is going on.

    But, more importantly is the children’s family has to be more proactive and create an environment for learning. So before you go off creating mythical problems, try taking a look at those failing kids environment in which they grow. I think you will see the real problems.

  • -info- Sep 5, 2007

    I want a study where these brainless twits go home to home and interview(opps, that could have its draw backs, first finding a substantial number of parents no where to be found and loss of life when the interviewers are killed when walking up on a drug deal going down)and verify the learning environment of the home...GO TO THE ROOT...this is stupid, childern are a product of their environment...a worthless home is like a black hole it continues to suck them back in and few teachers have time to save the kids who deserve it AND battle the parent, because that kid no matter what has to eat and try to have a roof...so even the most worthless piece of sh&# of a parent usually has the upper hand.

  • UNC Doc Sep 5, 2007

    What a damned joke. The WCPSS continues to be more concerned with "Diversity" than education. How about teaching about Beethoven instead of condom-fitting? How about teaching about the works of Tolstoy instead of the joys of homosexual sex? How sick are we of hearing about whining overpaid (yes, overpaid) public schcool teachers asking for more and more and more? And it is not all their fault. If they were actually allowed to teach the kids that were there and wanted to learn, then they would get better results, and more respect. But as it is, we must keep that awful "God" and "Jesus" out of the public schools (but not allah), so as not to corrupt our children with such awful values as "Thou shalt not covet" or "Thou shalt not steal", or "Thou shalt not commit adultery.
    Face it. This is all about a bunch of 60's generation idiots who fancy themselves as anointed and appointed to teach our children. Memo to y'all...Send your children to private schools.

  • pleshy Sep 5, 2007

    DLG - I would argue your child is likely an exception to the rule...