Called to Action – By Facts

I know the new school board members are busy with their duties, but I hope their extra-curricular reading has included some studies on the effect year-round schools have on the achievement gap. For all that they seem to find unworthy in the Wake County School System, they’re poised to mess with one thing that might substantially improve our schools. I know they defend their potential meddling by saying they’ll be doing what parents want, but their job is to run the system for the benefit of the county. That doesn’t just include parents of current elementary and middle-schoolers, who are the only ones receiving the year-round surveys. We would all benefit from narrowing, if not closing, the achievement gap.

How, Andrea? I’m glad you asked. We have to look first at what the achievement gap really is. Is it a problem with the way schools educate poor and minority children? No. Is it a problem with their ability to learn, with their inherent IQs? No. The problem is too little school for some, or, more specifically, too much summer. This Johns Hopkins study is a great example of the kind of results others have found when studying the achievement gap. Basically, it – and many others – show that kids gain pretty much equally through the school year. However, low socioeconomic status kids do not gain at anywhere near their peers’ rates over the summer.

It is well established that there are vast differences
across social lines in preschool children’s out-of-school learning environments … [W]e see that summer learning differences after children start school follow a like pattern, but what might not have been expected is the extent to which the continuing press of school-age children’s family and neighborhood environments contributes to the year 9 achievement differential between high and low SES youth: summer shortfall over the five years of elementary school accounts for more than half the difference, a larger component than that built up over the preschool years.8 And too, these learning differences from the early years that present themselves in 9th grade reverberate to constrain later high school curriculum placements, high school dropout, and college attendance. This lasting legacy of early experience typically is hidden from view.”

I know Ron Margiotta and his crew are Called2Action, I just hope they’re called to action by known facts, not just by opinions of the few. We all benefit from an excellent school system, and there is room for improvement in Wake County. But dismantling the magnet system, ending an exemplary commitment to diversity, and moving backwards on year-round schools is not the right direction. The rights of the many must outweigh the desires of the few.


  1. something_clever

    December 15, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    If this is the case (and there is certainly no consensus on that) then why are the majority of the year-round schools located in the areas of the county with the smallest low income population?

  2. gregflynn

    December 15, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Year-round schools are widely distributed in Wake.

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  4. Something Clever

    December 16, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Widely distributed?

    See page 10. If you live in North Raleigh south of 540 you have 17 traditional schools and 2 year round. If you go north of 540, the split is 6 traditional to 11 year round. That isn’t even.

  5. gregflynn

    December 16, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Not exactly a hot-bed of poverty, that area is well served by year-round country clubs.

  6. Something Clever

    December 16, 2009 at 10:48 am

    But you see the uneven distribution no? You want to look at the poorer areas? How many year rounds in South East Raleigh? How many out in Zebulon and Wendell that have among the highest F&R rates in the county? If this is a calendar that benefits the poor then why is are the schools in places “well served by year-round country clubs”?

  7. gregflynn

    December 16, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    The map shows multi-track year-round schools. It does not show single-track year-round schools in those areas – which are also served predominantly by magnet schools. Multi-track year-round schools increase capacity and have secondary benefits associated with single-track year round schools.

  8. Something Clever

    December 16, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    There are no single track year round schools. SE Raleigh magnet is a modified calendar which is close, but otherwise you are inventing something which doesn’t exist. There is multi-track year round and then there is traditional. End of story.,

  9. gregflynn

    December 16, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    It is officially called “Modified (Single Track Year-Round)”. It’s a hybrid, not a true year-round but not traditional either. Most of them are also magnets. They are listed here:
    A comparison of MYR, Modified & Traditional calendars can be found at:

  10. Something Clever

    December 16, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Modified isn’t year round. It may be called year round, but it isn’t. There is an eight week summer break. That is more non-instructional time than the rest of the year combined.

    But even taking modified as year round, you have 5 schools on that calendar. That is 3,438 kids. Half of which are probably application students because, as you said, they are magnet schools. So round numbers 1750. That is not even two multi-track elementary year round elementary schools in the places “well served by year-round country clubs.” That isn’t wide distribution. That is the resources being needed sent some other than where they are needed. It just wasn’t convenient to point that out until the board makeup changed.

  11. gregflynn

    December 16, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    You already knew the answer when you asked the first question: magnets.

  12. Something Clever

    December 17, 2009 at 8:24 am

    You’re right, I did. The belief is that magnet programs provide benefits for the high needs and minority population. There is really no evidence of this, in fact, in WCPSS, the racial achievement gap is, on average, higher at magnet schools than non-magnet schools. Obviously there are lots of factors to consider, but based on the report posted here, it still seems like the devotion to the magnet program is perhaps not the best plan.

    Of course, we all say the parade of the power and politically connected at the school board meeting who truly benefit from those magnet programs, so we know they won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

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