October 18, 2012
Tech center moves ahead with a nagging question
Wake County school board members committed the district this week to opening a long-awaited career and technical education high school in 2014. Those who enroll, however, might not be the students that board members first had in mind.
At the heart of the issue is a thorny 21st century question: Is there still a place for high schools that aren’t trying to move kids to college?
The technical and education center, which would be located south of downtown Raleigh, is a joint project between the school district and Wake Technical Community College. It would enroll about 700 high school students during the day and up to 1,000 community college students in the evening.
The high school would be designed to graduate students who could quickly find jobs in fields such as plumbing, welding, biopharmaceuticals, game development and other high-demand areas. The same would be true of the community college classes, although the two programs would be run separately.
School board members have praised the idea with unusual accord since it was suggested earlier this year. And they quickly agreed that the center should not enroll freshmen so those students could have at least one year on a traditional high school campus.
But when they were asked this week if sophomores should be a part of the mix, they began to realize the new school might not be a viable option for students who were struggling in traditional classes and looking for an “alternative pathway” to a job.
That’s because juniors and seniors at the center would be taught by community college instructors through a program known as the NC Career & College Promise. The school isn’t financially feasible without the community college instructors – and that means students will need to meet certain minimum standards. It also means most will be in a position to earn program certification and community college credit.
“So is this an early college program or is it a CTE high school?” asked board member Debra Goldman.
The answer to that question isn’t black and white, but it’s impossible to ignore the college component of a community college partnership. The distinction was apparent in earlier presentations to the school board, but the consequences didn’t seem so stark at the time.
“Now we kind of find ourselves in another one of those scenarios where we’re chasing the money to make it fit the program,” said board Vice Chair Keith Sutton.
Board members made their support for the overall project clear with a unanimous vote to proceed with the new school. They agreed to revisit question about classroom instruction at their next scheduled meeting Oct. 30.
New timetable set for next assignment plan
Wake County families could see another round of proposed student assignment maps as early as November, but school district leaders say it will be the 2014-2015 school year before any major changes are made.
Board members are hoping the decision to wait a year will give them time to come up with a plan that provides school choice, the predictability that comes with fixed assignments, academic diversity and long-term family stability. It’s been an elusive and often divisive goal the past several years.
A timeline for the coming year was released this week that includes the following key points:
While not a part of the timeline or formal board discussion, it’s also clear that delaying a final decision on the assignment plan also postpones a decision about how much academic diversity the district should try to create within schools and how to achieve that goal.
A plan should be approved before the fall of 2013 because that is when magnet schools start to hold information sessions for the following year. Parents considering magnet schools in 2014-2015 will want to know early where they would otherwise be assigned.
In the meantime, the school board is expected to hold public hearings in November on the interim assignment proposal for 2013-2014.
Top companies join in supporting diversity
When the U.S. Supreme Court last week heard the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the arguments focused on whether the school’s admissions office should be allowed to consider a student’s race.
The case received significant attention among all educators because it speaks directly to the question of racial diversity in the classroom. But the arguments of non-educators also stood out among those articulating the merits of a diverse student body.
In a brief filed by Fortune 100 companies, attorneys argued that in order to succeed, businesses “must be able to hire highly trained employees of all races, religions, cultures and economic backgrounds.”
The brief went on to say it was critical “that all of their university-trained employees have the opportunity to share ideas, experiences, viewpoints and approaches with a broadly diverse student body. This is a business and economic imperative.”
Groups ranging from Teach for America to retired military leaders made similar arguments inside and outside the courtroom.
No one, for example, was going to mistake the writings of retired military leaders Dan Christman and John F. Regni with the language found in school brochures. But in a column published by the McClatchy-Tribune News Service this week, it was difficult to miss the way their overall themes echoed the calls for a curriculum that promotes 21st century skills.”
“In the post-9/11 world, modern warfare requires a rich mix of skills and experience,” they wrote, “including foreign language skills, knowledge of other cultures and the ability to collaborate - and even culturally empathize with - different kinds of people. That is why the military must recruit more officers who reflect the diversity of our nation and the world with which we are engaged.”
A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is expected by late June.
…The Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy and the Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy received approval this week for permanent locations beginning next year. The leadership academies, which serve students in grades 6, 7, and 9, opened in August 2012 at temporary sites. About $4.6 million in bond funds from the district’s 2006 building program will be used to help permanently locate the two academies.…Brentwood Magnet Elementary School of Engineering Principal Ken Branch was named 2012 Principal of the Year last week by hispeers. Branch has held several leadership roles during his 33 years as an educator, including serving as the district’s Senior Director of Magnet Schools and Middle School Programs. He was also the first principal of Centennial Campus Magnet Middle before moving to Brentwood. Branch will be invited to join the Partnership’s Board of Directors as an ex-officio member. Ruth Ann Freeman of Bugg Elementary School was named 2012 Assistant Principal of the Year.
…Three elementary schools and two middle schools would get new magnet program themes under a proposal made to a school board committee last week. The plan calls for Fox Road Elementary to focus on the International Baccalaureate program; Green Elementary and Carroll Middle would have a leadership theme using Stephen Covey’s book “The Leader in Me” to teach leadership principles; Poe Elementary and Moore Square Middle would offer the Academically Gifted Basics/Gifted & Talented program. Wake Education Partnership is working with the school district on expanding “The Leader in Me” programs beyond its current site at Combs Elementary.…Register today for the Partnership’s 2012 Education Summit on Oct. 30 at Cary Embassy Suites. Business leaders and educators will help explain how the new Common Core State Standards Initiative is changing our classrooms and helping to provide businesses with graduates who can better apply knowledge and solve problems. Registration closes Oct 23. Don’t delay
Wake Education Partnership is a 501(c)(3) non-profit created in 1983 to support public schools, in part by educating the community on current school issues and serving as a strong advocate for student achievement and world-class academic standards. Most of its financial support comes from individuals and local businesses. Please send comments or questions to Tim Simmons, VP of Communications, at email@example.com or visit our website at www.wakeedpartnership.org.