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 In Perswaysion

Note: This piece was penned in response to a column by Laura N., a parent of a kindergartner at Southern Pines Primary.


While we may not agree on the lines drawn by the Board of Education, we can find common ground on the facts that demographics do not equal intelligence. According to NC Public Schools SAS Data/EVAAS, there is not a strong correlation between academic growth and receiving free and reduced lunch. So why are these two data points driving Dr. Bob’s redistricting efforts?

We must ask if we identified the correct problems — and if are we using the right units of measure to address these problems.

From the superintendent’s point of view: Dr. Bob has two problems to address, failing schools and utilization. For those problems Dr. Bob’s unit of measure is the “school.”

Are the schools being utilized? Are the schools receiving passing grades based on the average scores of the students?

The superintendent will numerically solve his problems through redistricting. However, redistricting does not address the issues of the at-risk population, if the unit of measure is the student (Laura referred to this groups as the small minority who do not have access to the middle-class lifestyle). These at-risk students will still face the same problems even with the influx of students from higher performing schools. Why? Because parental education, parental attitude towards education, and attendance are main factors to academic success. Not demographic balancing, as Dr. Bob and the school board are recommending, and as Laura is championing with her emotional appeal and anecdotal stories.

From the Parents point of view, we have three issues: Failing schools, Moving students from a high performing school to an underperforming school, and a population of at-risk students within our classrooms.

Redistricting the schools creates more problems:  Breaking up the neighborhood and splitting the community and destroying social networks, which affects academic progress well into high school, travel time for our children, and possible loss of Title 1 status. Redistricting does not address the needs of the at-risk population; it merely averages them out.

The school board and the superintendent have an analytics company and terabytes of data at rest, yet they choose to redistrict, instead of using the data to develop innovative solutions to address this at-risk population.  Focus the resources the county will use on busing and the expenditures currently used for the redistricting effort to get this at-risk population the assistance they need: Family mentoring, early intervention, adjusted curriculum, and resources for the schools to focus on these students.

Laura N. is very proud of Southern Pines Primary. However, there is no public data available on test scores for SPP, as state testing does not begin until third grade.

Let’s use Southern Pines Elementary. 40.4% of the third grade class is below grade level for reading, yet 93.8% of those students went on to fourth grade.

Why are promoting students who cannot read? Why are we accepting failure from the school board and the superintendent? Why are we empowering them to redistrict and hide their failures?

The question the community should ask: How might the superintendent and the BoE use data analytics and innovated solutions to address this at-risk population and our failing schools, without redistricting?

— Joe. D.

This opinion piece was submitted by a member of the Sway community. Pen your own and submit it to hello@itsthesway.com.

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