A Google-subsidized effort to place more minority students in advanced classes is getting off to a good start at Carrboro and East Chapel Hill High Schools.
That’s according to the Associate Superintendent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Rodney Trice.
“One of the hurdles is, really, students believing in that, and in themselves, so that’s taking some work,” he said.
At Thursday night’s meeting of The Board of Education, Trice gave board members an update on the school system’s two-year partnership with the non-profit organization Equal Opportunity Schools.
Together, they’re trying to get more minority and low-income students enrolled in advanced placement classes that could better prepare them for college.
The school system and EOS are getting some technical help from both Google and Microsoft.
“You can look at them as, kind of like, ‘Big data,’” says Trice. “They came in, they interviewed every single teacher. They interviewed every single student. They ran focus groups. And all that information, they took back to Microsoft, which has some kind of software package that they’re working on in conjunction with Google, and they began to drill down.”
Out of all that data collection, profiles were created so that schools could identify students that would likely do well in AP courses.
“EOS identified almost 200 kids from Carrboro High School and East Chapel Hill High School,” Trice told WCHL. “So it’s our responsibility to go and recruit those kids. So that’s what we’re doing now. And that’s the exciting part. Some of the kids are just blown away that a principal is asking them to take an AP course. It’s like – ‘Who, me?’” He laughs.
When Superintendent Tom Forcella and Trice were approached by Equal Opportunity Schools two years ago, the cost for implementing such a program was prohibitive: about $50,000 per school.
Since then, EOS has partnered with Google to obtain funding that brings the cost down considerably – just $18,000 per school.
Trice told WCHL that the school system shifted some equity funding and canceled some planned in-house training, in order to afford participation in the program.
In addition to the data-crunching component, EOS has sent representatives to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area to help the school system plan continued support for the students once they’ve enrolled in advanced classes.
According to Trice, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system can definitely learn from examples of success across the nation.
“We’re learning from schools that have been doing this for two or three years,” said Trice. “Columbia, Missouri – their schools come to mind. They’ve been doing it for three years, and they’ve really closed the gap in terms of the number of students of color enrolling in AP courses.”
During the meeting, Forcella said that Carrboro High and East Chapel Hill High were randomly chosen as the first district schools for this project.
Trice said that Chapel Hill High School will come on board for the 2015-2016 school year.