Student performance in Wake County

Yesterday, News & Observer education reporter Keung Hui wrote extensively about a Wake County Board of Education discussion of magnet schools and student achievement.  He linked to a huge collection of data and charts that detailed student performance and demographics at elementary, middle, high, and alternative schools in Wake County.  If you are into “that kind of thing,” I encourage you to check it out.

Anyway, I reviewed a handful of the documents to see how low-income (a.k.a. free and reduced lunch or FRL) students were doing in Wake County.  The previous school board majority eliminated policies that sought to limit the percentage of FRL students at each school.  This type of forced, income-based busing was a policy that had been touted by a number of left-wing academics and Wake County was the exemplar.

So, I took a look at the five elementary schools with the highest and lowest concentration of low-income students and the performance of FRL students at those schools on state End-of-Grade tests.  I use the percentage of FRL fourth- and fifth-graders that met expected growth on state tests (3-year average), mostly because educators seem to prefer to focus on growth rather than proficiency rates.

Creech Road (80.2% FRL) – 52.9%

Hodge Road (79.8% FRL) – 59.7%

Brentwood (76.4% FRL) – 63.8%

Fox Road (75.0% FRL) – 51.1%

Wakelon (71.7% FRL) – 57.2%

Sycamore Creek (5.1% FRL) – 58.0%

Highcroft Drive (5.8% FRL) – 52.0%

Davis Drive (6.6% FRL) – 62.6%

Morrisville (8.5% FRL) – 67.9%

Olive Chapel (9.2% FRL) – 51.9%

Without a doubt, the most impressive elementary school in the entire county is East Garner Elementary.  The school has a FRL population of 64.3 percent (tenth highest in the county) and an average growth rate of 71.7 percent (second highest in the county).

My son’s elementary school (Fuquay-Varina) has a FRL percentage of 40.2 percent and a growth rate of 58.0 percent, which is the exact same growth percentage as the school with the lowest FRL percentage in the county, Sycamore Creek.

Obviously, this is a small sample of Wake County’s gazillion elementary schools.  Moreover, the three-year average growth percentages for FRL students are only one measure of many, so take my analysis for what it is worth.  That said, the data suggest that attending schools with low FRL percentages is no guarantee of success and enrollment in schools with high FRL percentages is no guarantee of failure.

By the way, I second school board member Jim Martin’s call for more detailed data.  I agree with Dr. Martin that there are more questions than answers.

Terry Stoops / Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies

Terry Stoops is the Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the Locke Foundation, he worked as the progra...

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