Wake County Schools

Wake school leaders exploring whether academic options could help improve diversity

Posted January 21, 2020 7:21 p.m. EST

Wake County Public School System

— Wake County Board of Education members are exploring how different academic options might help schools become more integrated. Tuesday's discussion was part of the board's ongoing efforts to balance student diversity across schools.

The board has been working with facilitators from RTI International, who are leading the discussions about how to define diversity in schools and what data should be examined.

Michael Martin with RTI told board members that data show "a lot of equity with course offerings" across Wake County schools, but there are "some very stark differences" in how students perform.

"When we think about course offerings, we don't see a major disparity in offerings, but that doesn't mean we don't see disparities in outcomes," Martin said.

Just because schools offer the same courses doesn't mean they are equal, according to board member Jim Martin.

"There are AP classes that are offered over the web. That's very different than person-to-person," he said.

One question to answer, according to board Chair Keith Sutton, is whether academic programs and offerings impact integration at schools. If so, he said, what can the board reasonably use as a lever to entice parents to send their children to different schools.

"There needs to be something at every school that inspires a kid," board member Jim Martin said. "What’s the inspiring component? ... What’s going to inspire you to want to learn?"

To help balance student diversity across schools, school board members have discussed using county economic health data, including household income, food stamp usage, rent and mortgage rates and poverty levels to help guide their work.

The school system would not collect data on individual students or families but would instead review regional Census data based on where students live to measure socio-economic imbalances in schools.

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