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Wake Education Summit Looks To Goals Beyond 2003

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RALEIGH, N.C. — More than 800 Wake County community, business and parent leaders convened Thursday at the McKimmon Center for the sixth annual Wake Education Summit.

The theme for the summit was: "Many Voices, Smart Choices: Charting the Future of the Public's Schools."

Those in attendance heard the results of and set priorities regarding a year-long initiative to gather input from all parts of the community while the Wake schools consider what their next goals should be for continued quality improvement.

The year-long community initiative, called Voices&Choices, was launched at last year's education summit.

Wake residents had the opportunity to tell the school system what they view as the most pressing priority for Wake public schools, what specific change they recommend for the schools and what goal they would like to see the school system adopt for the future.

"Our public schools have made tremendous progress since setting the very ambitious Goal 2003," said Harvey Schmitt, president of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and member of the Voices&Choices Steering Committee.

"Voices&Choices has given people from across Wake County the chance to share what they believe is most important for our schools going forward, so our school board can once again set an ambitious goal to take our public schools to new heights."

More than 1,850 citizens from across the county offered priorities, changes and goals for the future through Voices&Choices.

Eight central themes emerged from their survey responses:

  • Student achievement -- a need for all students to reach their highest potential; closing the achievement gap; challenging high-performing students who are already above grade level.
  • Size -- smaller class size and, in some cases, smaller school size, to achieve school improvement goals and also allow teachers to provide more individualized instruction, improve teacher effectiveness and satisfaction, reduce discipline issues and improve communication and school climate.
  • Involvement -- greater involvement by parents and the community, creating shared accountability and improved communication.
  • Curriculum -- diverse,equitable curriculum offerings across all schools, with the necessary facilities, funding and teacher resources.
  • Teachers -- keeping and recruiting highly qualified teachers to ensure academic achievement for all types of students; higher teacher pay; improved working conditions; more professional development; reduced paperwork; increased respect for the profession.
  • Assignment -- some participants called for neighborhood schools and a new choice plan, while others expressed the desire to maintain the current diversity policy and magnet program.
  • Testing -- concern that the current emphasis on standardized test scores, while important for raising scores, is too strong; desire for more balance between testing and teaching.
  • Change -- concern about the system's ability to manage the change needed to meet the needs of a diverse, growing community; constant growth, changing demographics, influx of English-as-a-second language students, and the continual need to update facilities.
  • Also at summit, participants prioritized the central themes and discussed goals that could connect to these themes.

    Feedback generated during the summit by business, government, school and community partners will be presented to the Wake County Board of Education for its consideration in establishing achievement goals beyond 2003.

    Past recommendations have directly affected policy changes and the use of resources by community groups and the public schools.

    Each summit has enhanced the strategic focus of agencies, businesses and the schools, while creating a climate of shared ownership for excellence and measurable results.

    "I believe that this process has made more people aware of the progress that our system has made," said Wanda Denning, past president of the Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce and member of the Voices&Choices Steering Committee. "But it has also helped them to think about areas that could be improved, and the phenomenal response we've had for the summit shows that our community is genuinely interested in public education."

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