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Area schools reflect 'racial disproportionality' trends

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A new report by a Durham-based advocacy group finds area school districts reflect statewide trends of “significant racial disproportionality” when it comes to student achievement and discipline and the racial makeup of teachers and administrators.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, February 21, 2019

A new report by a Durham-based advocacy group finds area school districts reflect statewide trends of “significant racial disproportionality” when it comes to student achievement and discipline and the racial makeup of teachers and administrators.

In the school districts in Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, black students are at least twice as likely as white students to receive short-term suspensions. And white students are more likely than black students to score “Career and College Ready” on end-of-grade exams — from 1.7 times more likely in the Camden County Schools to 2.2 times more likely in the Currituck County Schools.

The findings are part of the 2019 Annual Racial Equity Report Cards released by the Youth Justice Project of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a progressive advocacy organization founded in 2007.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which according to a self-description on the organization’s website “promotes justice by empowering minority and low-income communities to defend and advance their political, social and economic rights,” reports racial disproportionality in public schools in three main categories: racial makeup of teachers and administrators; student achievement on end-of-grade tests; and short-term suspensions of students.

Peggy Nicholson, director of the Youth Justice Project, said in statement that the coalition hopes the Racial Equity Report Cards “can serve as a launching point for community education and discussion.”

“(The report cards) are not meant as an attack on the critically important public institutions that serve our youth, but rather, as a call-to-action ... to collectively examine the causes of racial inequity... and to develop solutions that will help young people, especially youth of color, avoid and escape the school-to-prison pipeline,” Nicholson said.

Statewide, the report found:

* In 2017-18, 79 percent of the state’s teachers were white, even though only 48 percent of the state’s student population was white.

* In the 2016-17 school year, black students were 4.3 times more likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension.

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools

The Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools, according to the Racial Equity Report Cards, had 5,536 total students in 2017-18. Of that number, 44.9 percent were black, 40.9 were white, 8.2 percent were Hispanic, and 4.9 percent were multi-racial. The remainder were Asian (.9 percent), American Indian (.2 percent) and Pacific Islander (.1 percent).

White students in grades 3-8 were 1.9 times more likely than black students to score Career and College Ready on end-of-grade exams. Black students, meanwhile, were 2.4 times more likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension, and black youth were three times more likely than white youth to be referred to juvenile delinquency court.

In ECPPS, 64 percent of teachers were white in 2017-18, and 33 percent were black. Among principals, 54 percent were white and 46 percent were black.

Asked about the Racial Equity Report Cards, district spokeswoman Tammy Sawyer said ECPPS looks at “various academic, social and emotional data to improve our efforts and better reach all students.”

Sawyer said the district uses services offered by Trillium Health Resources, PRIDE and Albemarle Regional Health Department to help students and their families. Trillium is the region’s leading specialty care manager for persons with substance use, mental illness or intellectual/​developmental disabilities. PRIDE is a private organization that provides community-based services to persons with mental illness, mental retardation and behavioral disorders.

ECPPS also has two schools participating in training through the Adverse Childhood Experiences/​Trauma Sensitive program, she said, “to better understand adverse childhood experiences and how those experiences affect students.”

Grant funding through the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council also helps fund two student advocates for ECPPS. The district is also implementing the Multi-tiered System of Support program, or MTSS.

“Additionally, ECPPS has provided professional development to administration and staff focused on alternatives to suspension, restorative practices, behavioral strategies/​interventions, and social-emotional curriculum options,” Sawyer said. “We will continue working with community agencies, reviewing our past and current data as well as providing professional development opportunities to our staff to help meet the needs of our students and families.”

Edenton-Chowan Schools

The Edenton-Chowan Schools, according to the Racial Equity Report Cards, had a student population in 2017-18 that was 45.1 percent black, 44.4 percent white, 3.4 percent multi-racial and .3 percent Asian. Eight-six percent of teachers were white and 100 percent of principals were white.

White students in grades 3-8 in Edenton-Chowan were 2.1 times more likely than black students in 2017-18 to score Career and College Ready on end-of-grade exams. Black students were 3.5 times more likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension in 2016-17. Black youth were also 2.8 times more likely than white youth to be referred to juvenile delinquency court in 2017.

Edenton-Chowan Schools spokeswoman Michelle Maddox said the school district looks closely at the Racial Equity Report Cards and similar reports to help identify needs in both the school district and the community.

“The school system relies on data such as that in the RERC and from other sources such as the Roadmap of Need published by the Public School Forum of North Carolina and the NC Center for After School Programs to exam a variety of issues that face both our community and schools,” Maddox said. “We use this data to examine current practices and to help our students academically, socially, and emotionally.”

Like ECPPS, Edenton-Chowan has developed partnerships with Trillium and PRIDE, Maddox said, that provide students and their families with counseling and mental health services

The Edenton-Chowan Schools also received a state grant to hire a school social worker and a behavior specialist. Those employees “are working to assist with positive behavioral support, and academic and classroom support through consultation with teachers, parents and administrators,” Maddox said.

The school district also has provided training for teachers and staff on understanding trauma and its effects on children, Maddox said. The district also uses the MTSS program.

“The school system’s goal is to reach every single (student),” Maddox said. “We will continue to rely on working closely with the community and other local agencies to help meet the needs of our students and families.”

Camden County Schools

The makeup of the student population in the Camden County Schools, according to the RERC, is 79.7 percent white, 10 percent black, 5.8 percent multi-racial and 3.1 percent Hispanic. The remainder are Asian (.9 percent), American Indian (.2 percent) and Pacific Islander (.2 percent). Ninety percent of Camden teachers are white and 80 percent of Camden principals are white.

White students in grades 3-8 were 1.7 times more likely than their black peers to score Career and College Ready on end-of-grade exams.

Black students were 3.7 times more likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension in 2016-2017 and black youth were 8.1 times more likely than white youth to be referred to juvenile delinquency court in 2017.

Camden County Schools Superintendent Joe Ferrell noted that Camden seems to have a higher incidence of minority students being referred to the courts than surrounding districts.

“I would point out that, overall, we have a much smaller number of students charged and therefore the percentage seems to be higher because we are working with a much smaller number,” he said.

Ferrell said he “wanted to type the word ‘ditto’ when he read Maddox’s response to the RERC report.

Currituck County Schools

The makeup of the student population in the Currituck County Schools, according to the Racial Equity Report Cards, is 80.4 percent white, 4.7 percent black, 8.5 percent multi-racial and 5.9 percent Hispanic. The remainder are Asian (.4 percent), American Indian (.1 percent) and Pacific Islander (.1 percent). Ninety-two percent of Currituck’s teachers are white and 80 percent of principals are white.

White students in Currituck in grades 3-8 were two times more likely than black students in 2017-18 to score “Career and College Ready” on end-of-grade exams. Black students were 2.1 times more likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension in 2016-17 and black youth were 1.8 times more likely than white youth to be referred to juvenile delinquency court in 2017.

Currituck County Schools Superintendent Mark Stefanik said data in reports like the RERC help school officials better serve all students.

“Although we work daily to provide support for all of our students, when we review data like the RERC, we can identify areas in need of improvement,” he said.

Stefanik noted Currituck also makes use of partnerships with Trillium and PRIDE.

“We also employ the MTSS process to ensure each child has the most successful experience possible,” Stefanik said. “In addition, we also took advantage of state grant opportunities last summer and accessed an additional social worker for our school district. Our social worker works with students and their families to address academic and non-academic needs.”

Currituck makes use of school-based and community-based resources “to provide the best educational experience possible for all of our students,” Stefanik said.

Perquimans County Schools

The makeup of the student population in the Perquimans County Schools is 65.7 percent white, 27 percent black, 3.8 percent multi-racial and 3.3 percent Hispanic. The remainder are Asian (.1 percent), American Indian (.1 percent) and Pacific Islander (.1 percent). Seventy-nine percent of teachers in the district are white and 100 percent of principals are white.

White students in grades 3-8 were 2.2 times more likely than their black peers to score Career and College Ready on end-of-grade exams. Black students were 2.8 times more likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension in 2016-2017.

Perquimans school officials could not be reached for comment on the Racial Equity Report Cards.

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