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Orange County Schools works to diversify student enrollment in advanced courses


The Orange County Board of Education building sits on East King Street in Hillsborough on Monday, March 28, 2022.

Members of Orange County Schools provided the Board of Education with updates on their partnership with Equal Opportunity Schools in a meeting Monday. EOS is an organization that provides school districts with data and support to diversify enrollment in advanced courses and close the opportunity gap.

What's new? 

  • Cedar Ridge and Orange High Schools first partnered with EOS in the 2021-2022 school year with the mission to help educators break down barriers.
  • This was in order to help low-income students and students of color increase access, belonging and success in college and career-prep courses. 
    • The program is composed of four phases that will take place over multiple years. They will gather context about each school, examine critical data from student and staff perspectives, create a set of strategies for engagement and enroll diverse students in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, honors and college courses.
  • Laurie Carr, chief officer of schools and achievement for Orange County Schools, said that while the EOS partnership is only a year old, the schools have seen tremendous growth in various categories.
    • There was a projected growth in enrollment of targeted students from 26 percent in the fall of 2021 to 34 percent in the fall of 2022 in AP and IB courses.
    • Carr said that working with Stephanie Sherer, the partnership director for EOS, has been important.
    • “But in addition to that partnership and that human capital that is brought to us, we receive an abundance of resources that help us to identify those gaps, those barriers and the obstacles that we can then strategically work to overcome,” Carr said.
  • Sherer said a big part of moving into the second phase of the EOS partnership is to focus on giving students in advanced classes an increased sense of belonging. 
    • She said there are five conditions of belonging in the classroom: a culturally relevant curriculum, culturally relevant teaching, classroom community, assessment of expectations and conversations about race.
    • Tenisha Williamson, assistant principal at Orange High School, said the work of promoting equity cannot be done by one person, and that it takes the whole school to make this work happen.
  • One of the ways EOS is promoting equity is through the use of student insight cards. 
    • Orange High School teacher Xavier Adams said students fill out surveys regarding challenges they’ve faced in the classroom, which teachers are then able to use to gain further insight into their needs.
    • Adams said the survey allows students to speak up for themselves about the support they need and allows adults to encourage students to take more rigorous courses.
    • “Being able to utilize Equal Opportunity Schools really garners this information for us to then be very intentional about having conversations with our students,” Adams said.
  • Samiya Baldwin, a junior at Orange High School, said she’s taken two AP courses, and that it feels awkward to be the only minority student in one of them.
    • Baldwin said that for students, the survey shows that the Board and EOS care about minority students in AP courses. She said she was part of a student panel that met with underclassmen to discuss and encourage taking these classes.
    • “It’s hard, yes, but we deserve to be in that class just as much as anyone else,” Baldwin said. 
    • She said taking AP classes has improved her work ethic and that supportive teachers have helped her. She said she hopes to see more minority students sign up because they are needed in these classrooms.

What's next? 

  • The Orange County Board of Education will meet again on March 16, 2023. 

@DTHCityState | 

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