FROM THE GROUND UP: Achievement Gap, Alternative Programs, and Halifax Schools

April 27, 2009

Greetings, parents and education advocates.

The time that suspended students spend away from school is critical. Young people can either use the time to learn from their mistakes, continue their class work, and address behavioral issues, or they can spend the idle days establishing negative routines and attitudes. Alternative learning schools and programs offer students an important opportunity to continue their school work, but little research has been done regarding whether the programs are successful at helping at-risk students over the long term. House Bill 1394 would mandate that the legislature start looking for answers to that question. The measure would require that the Joint Legislative Commission on Dropout Prevention and High School Graduation study:
- The impact of short- and long-term suspension and expulsion on dropout and graduation rates;
- The feasibility of mandating alternative schools and learning programs for suspended and expelled students and potential impact on dropout and graduation rates;
- The feasibility of and options for incentives for teachers and principals to keep students in the school learning environment;
- The costs of the current alternative school and learning settings and their impact on educational outcomes;
- Best practices and recommendations for parental notification and involvement in the suspension and expulsion process.
Halifax Intervention
Officials from the Department of Public Instruction and Gov. Perdue say they want to act aggressively to help the Halifax County school district improve. In a statement released earlier this week, state officials say they want to coach school principals, train teachers, oversee the hiring of new educators, and help the district seek state and federal funding.
We hope they also plan to collaborate with parents, local businesses, and other concerned community members during the process, because the school district's failings are connected to bigger economic issues in that community. Halifax struggles to attract the kind of industry that draws high-quality teachers and their families into the area. And the school system is losing students as families move to communities with better job potential.  To make matters more complicated, three districts - Halifax County, Roanoke Rapids City, and Weldon City schools - operate in the same county.
The state will present its intervention plan to Wake Superior Court Judge Howard Manning at a hearing on Wed., April 29.
Achievement Gap costs trillions
Performance gaps between poor and minority children and their peers have a negative economic impact on the communities that those struggling students grow up in, according to a study released this week by the management consulting firm Mckinsey & Company. The report's authors concluded that the United States loses a trillion dollars a year in earnings, taxes, and productivety that can be linked to disparities in test scores between black and Hispanic children and white children; between poor and wealthy students; between Americans and students abroad; and between students of similar backgrounds educated in different parts of the country. Read the full study here.
Upcoming Meetings, Trainings, and Advocacy Opportunities
Public Hearing on State Budget
North Carolina House Appropriations Committee
Public Hearing
April 28, 6-9 p.m. 
N.C. History Museum Auditorium, 5 Edenton St.                                                 
Persuade legislators to craft a budget that invests in high-quality public education.
North Carolina State Board of Education committee and full-board meetings
Any parent, advocate, or community member who is interested in attending.   
Monthly board meetings.
May 6-7
Office of the North Carolina State Board of Education. 301 North Wilmington Street, Raleigh.
To monitor and gain insight into the decisions being made by the state's top education officials.
Achieving Educational Excellence in Times of Challenge and Change
WakeUP Wake County, Wake NC Association of Educators, Concerned Citizens for African American Children, Wake League of Women Voters, and Bigger Picture 4 Wake.
Public Forum to discuss how the Wake County Public School System will address growth and economic challenges in the coming years.
May 12 at 7 - 9:30 p.m.
McKimmon Center. 1101 Gorman Street Raleigh
To participate in a discussion about the future of education in Wake County with local officials.
Research & Publications: