If your child passes Algebra I by eighth grade, he or she is much more likely to be college-bound. However, not all Wake County Public School System students who could have succeeded in Algebra I were placed in the right courses to put them on this path. Through a new school board policy and guidelines, and using data tools that help us better predict student success, WCPSS is changing course.
"We have data that helps us predict, with 94 percent accuracy, those students who will succeed in Algebra I," said Superintendent Tony Tata. "We have found that we have not been placing all of our qualified students, many of whom are minority or low-income, in the advanced middle school math courses that they are capable of passing. This is not acceptable and we are making changes."
WCPSS now uses EVAAS data from SAS Institute as a basis for placing students in Algebra I. Under board policies and guidelines under development, every student predicted to succeed in advanced math classes would be placed in them. Central Services staff are now working with principals to ensure that this year's students are placed in these math courses.
In 2009-10, 3,024 eighth-graders took Algebra I. In 2010-11, 4,480 eighth-graders took it -- an increase of 1,456 students. The total percentage of WCPSS students proficient in Algebra I in 2010-11 remained stable, declining by 2.1 percentage points to 97.0 percent.
Parents may opt their children out of taking these higher-level courses in consultation with their principal.
Last year, WCPSS schools placed only 72 percent of the students that were projected for success in Algebra I based on EVAAS data from SAS Institute. WCPSS's evaluation and research department is now updating rosters of qualified students and notifying principals. Area superintendents will track their schools and monitor placement.
Students who did not have the pre-algebra prerequisite for Algebra I took the course this summer. All 80 students in the first summer class passed the course; 77 of 78 students passed the second summer class.
"This is about building a culture of high expectations for every student, and continuous improvement for our school system," said Superintendent Tata.