More troubling evidence yesterday that the Wake County public school system fails to adequately serve minority students, despite years of school board rhetoric claiming minority kids are a priority.

The statistics in the SAS report are stark, as presented at yesterday’s county commission meeting. From the News & Observer:

William Sanders, author of the SAS report, told the commissioners Monday that other school districts such as Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Durham and Guilford County have higher rates of students taking Algebra I in middle school than Wake.

The report also found that only 40 percent of black and Hispanic students in Wake who were ready to enroll in Algebra I in eighth grade were taking the course compared to nearly 60 percent of white students.

Sanders said it’s important to complete Algebra I in middle school because it puts students in a position to take the advanced math courses they need in high school for science and engineering related college majors.

Here is more troubling truth about the Wake system, which, to be fair, does a good job for a lot of its students and families. That, however, does not inoculate the system from legitimate criticism about its policies that leave a lot of kids behind.

Digging out of this mess requires a complete change of mindset, in addition to policy. The Wake system must revamp its compensation and move to a pay-for-performance plan that tracks teacher impact — or lack thereof — on student achievement. Those who deliver should be well rewarded. Those who don’t deliver should moved out of the classroom and/or out of the system altogether. The budget pie must be re-cut to infuse more money into the classroom and less money into administration.

And even broader, per-pupil expenditures must flow to the child, not to the school, giving parents the choice of where to send their child based on his/her particular needs and interests. A key step toward choice is for the Wake system — and Wake legislative delegation — to push the General Assembly to lift the cap on public charter schools. Why? Because competition leads to better service, and as the SAS report reveals, Wake’s minority students desperately need better service.