Three reporters at the Charlotte, North Carolina, “New Observer” obtained seven years of student data and began to analyze it. Joseph Neff, Ann Doss Helms, and David Raynor will be using this database to ask more questions, but they began with a straightforward inquiry about why so many low-income students were not encouraged to enroll in challenging courses.
“About this time every year, roughly 5,000 North Carolina 8-year-olds show they’re ready to shine. Despite the obstacles of poverty that hobble so many of their classmates, these third graders from low-income families take their first state exams and score at the top level in math.
“With a proper push and support at school, these children could become scientists, engineers and innovators. They offer hope for lifting families out of poverty and making the state more competitive in a high-tech world.
“But many of them aren’t getting that opportunity, an investigation by The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer reveals. Thousands of low-income children who get “superior” marks on end-of-grade tests aren’t getting an equal shot at advanced classes designed to challenge gifted students.
“As they start fourth grade, bright children from low-income families are much more likely to be excluded from the more rigorous classes than their peers from families with higher incomes, the analysis shows. The unequal treatment during the six years ending in 2015 resulted in 9,000 low-income children in North Carolina being counted out of classes that could have opened a new academic world to them.”
Students whose families are low-income are far less likely to gain entry to gifted classes than upper-income students with the same scores.
“Every year across North Carolina, thousands of low-income students who have superior math scores are left out of programs that could help them get to college, an investigation by The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer reveals. They are excluded from advanced classes at a far higher rate than their more affluent classmates who don’t qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.”
North Carolina doesn’t have the money to pay for counselors.
“In North Carolina, public schools average almost 400 students per counselor, and the load is much higher at many schools.
“The state pays for counselors based on a district’s enrollment. When the American School Counselor Association tracked state ratios in 2013-14, North Carolina’s level of 391 students per counselor was below the national average of 491 and comparable to the neighboring states of South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. Only three states fell below the recommended 250, and 11 averaged more than 500 students per counselor.
“Wake County has one counselor for every 393 high-school students, one counselor for every 372 middle-schoolers and one for every 630 in elementary school.”
The changes that North Carolina should make to identify the talents and needs of all students requires funding for smaller classes and more counselors.
The state legislature in recent years has been unwilling to fund education adequately. The legislators need to know that they are wasting the talents of the young people who will be voters, leaders, scientists, and professionals.
Hopefully this series will make them think about how shorty-sighted they have been in refusing to pay the cost of good schools, which all children needs.
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