10/17/04 — County works with state to help minority students

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County works with state to help minority students

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 17, 2004 2:03 AM

State consultants are working with Wayne school leadership teams to explore ways to raise achievement for minority students.

Assistant principals, curriculum coordinators and parent facilitators from the public schools attended the all-day workshop Thursday at Goldsboro High School.

Dr. Willette Wooten, county director of federal programs, said the workshop was part of a year-long professional development effort. Teams were formed in July with representatives from each school. The group has been meeting monthly, discussing student achievement and ways to improve education.

Studies of parent surveys and needs assessments prompted the move to bring state consultants to Wayne County.

"One of the areas identified was closing the achievement gap" between white and minority students, Dr. Wooten said. "The Department of Public Instruction sent out teams to all the schools in the state that had high growth. We asked for that team to come down here."

She said having access to information and training from experts at the state level will help improve curriculum.

School board members present supported the training. Board member Thelma Smith said it was a way of going the extra mile for the children.

"I wish all this was happening when I was teaching," she said. "We're proud of what Wayne County has done about closing the achievement gap."

Board Chairman Pete Gurley said, "We're making great strides in it, but still have some strides to go."

Before taking steps to improve curriculum, said one consultant, it's essential to first acknowledge the differences among students and then respond.

Barbara Rush of the state department led the session on multicultural education. She focused on the importance of becoming "culturally competent."

"What matters most in teaching children, in working with people, is that you learn something about them and you learn to respect those things that are important and that people value," she said.

"Curriculum is important but the thing that hasn't been stressed is that in order to work successfully with all children, you have to make those children feel they matter as much as the curriculum."

Ms. Rush said there are three things that will close the achievement gap in North Carolina: the relationship between people working together, having high expectations for the students, and differentiated learning.

"It's really important to know one another, to have high expectations, and to respect the differences as you work with different people," she said.

Dr. Wooten said the information gleaned from the training will be taken back to each school. In April, the findings gathered throughout the year will be published and distributed to educators in the school system.