WRAL Investigates

Students in high-poverty Wake schools show progress

Posted September 2, 2015
Updated September 4, 2015

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— Student achievement in Wake County schools was flat last year, but test scores in some schools with more than 70 percent of students from low-income families have shown improvement in recent years, according to state data released Wednesday.

Data showed a slight increase in overall proficiency for the Wake County Public School System, to 66.7 percent, up 0.1 point from the year before. Wake County students outperformed the statewide numbers by 10 points on the ACT test and 10 points on end-of-grade and end-of-course tests.

Because the state switched to a five-tier system in 2013-14 to determine student proficiency from the four-tier system used the previous year, Wake County Public School System officials recalibrated the numbers to provide a more accurate comparison of achievement across all three years. Using numbers from the state Department of Public Instruction, a WRAL News story on Wednesday overstated the schools' improvement.

Looking at Wake County's recalibrated comparison, Brentwood Elementary School in Raleigh, one of the district's higher-needs schools where about three-quarters of students receive free or reduced-price lunches, has seen its grade-level proficiency scores in reading and math jump by 13.3 percentage points over the last three years.

Other high-poverty schools have also shown proficiency growth in recent years:

Smith Elementary School, up 9.5 percentage points since 2012-13; Creech Elementary School, up 7.7 points; Fox Road Elementary School, up 5.9 points; Lynn Road Elementary School, up 3.2 points; and Walnut Creek Elementary School, up 2.7 points.

Still, all of these schools, along with five other high-poverty schools, continue to lag behind the county average.

Wakelon Elementary School comes the closest, at 54.5 percent proficiency, followed by Brentwood Elementary at 51.6 percent and Creech Road Elementary at 50.2 percent. None of the other high-poverty schools had a majority of its students scoring as proficient on state tests.

"The real interventions that we put in for our elementary support only started about six months ago, so we really haven't had a chance to see the difference we think we're making," Wake County Superintendent Jim Merrill said.

To improve performance at these schools, class sizes are smaller and teachers are supported by intervention specialists.

"Each year is going to be a little bit better because it's going to take a little time for our students to reach those minimum expectations," said Eric Fitts, principal of Brentwood Elementary, which often wins accolades for its work as an engineering magnet.

"It is challenging," school board Chairwoman Christine Kushner said. "Children of poverty need support from home, they need support from their community, and we're doing what we can to support the teachers."


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  • Chris D Mathews Sep 3, 2015
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    View quoted thread


  • Roy Hinkley Sep 3, 2015
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    Follow the second link under "More on this"

  • Chris D Mathews Sep 3, 2015
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    Where is the data? Do I need a FOIL request for it?