Education

Wake group warns of ending school diversity policy

Posted March 17, 2010

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— A local group of parents and business leaders said Wednesday that the consequences of ending the Wake County Public School System's longstanding student assignment policy could be dangerous.

The Great Schools in Wake Coalition held a news conference in Raleigh in which education researchers from Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill presented their opinions based on years of research.

Schools with students from lower-income families would not be able to attract or retain high-quality, experienced teachers, because the schools would not be able to compensate with higher salaries, the researchers said.

"What we found in North Carolina is that the differences between high poverty and more affluent schools had been growing over time," said Helen Ladd, a professor of public policy and economics at Duke.

The majority of the Wake County Board of Education wants to implement an assignment model in which students go to schools within a certain community zone.

The plan in place now buses students across the school district to help achieve socio-economic diversity, where no school has more than 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

Kathleen Brown, an associate professor at UNC's School of Education, said it's still too soon to say what the school board's concept would do – a plan isn't even in the developmental stages – but that re-segregation is a danger.

"If we can somehow figure out neighborhood schools that work with an integration policy, that's fine," she said. "Let's keep talking. Let's keep the conversation going and figure this out. Let's just not go one way or another."

The school board voted this month to begin planning for the phase-out of the diversity policy. A second and final vote, expected next Tuesday, will give permission to proceed developing an implementation plan. That's expected to take about nine to 15 months.

But Patty Williams, with Great Schools, said it's inevitable that schools will become segregated again.

"We have taken our eyes off the prize, which is student achievement, and we're looking at student assignment" she said. "There's a problem with that."

Supporters of the school board's plan disagree.

"It has nothing to do with diversity," said Kristen Stocking, co-founder of Wake Schools Community Alliance. "It's about strengthening communities."

Stocking says busing students far from home has created instability. Under the current plan, students' schools can potentially change each year. Supporters have also said that, by moving students, their individual needs might not be met.

"The children who are most in need of specialty resources are being uprooted from their communities and put into communities where they don't have stability," Stocking said.

Supporters have also pointed to the school system's declining graduation rate as an example that the current system doesn't work.

Wake County's graduation rate dropped from 82.6 percent in 2006 to 78.4 percent last year, and the decline has been especially pronounced among minority and low-income students.

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  • hardwork919 Mar 18, 2010

    ". The results of public education system have deteriorated for 30 years. So no one can say that forced assignment has solved education problems. Let us get back to rational thought- all programs and especially government programs need to be assessed periodically to see that they have performed, failed, or outlived their usefulness. It is time to do that with the diversity effort in Wake County as we remember Raleigh and Wake County were sleepy little southern communities when these programs were implemented. We are that no more." mikea1949

    Of all these anti-busing arguments, this has been the best and most clear. I wholeheartedly agree. Are neighborhood schools the way to get education back on track? Who knows? I guess we'll find out in about 18 months.

  • mikea1949 Mar 18, 2010

    I think the emotion of the issue must be eliminated and the facts and results studied.
    1. All studies I have seen say that parental involvement is one of the most important facets of successful education. "seaturtlesrule" probably would affirm that in the past the parents whether black or white made the difference. That cannot happen when it is a 30-45 minute drive from home to the school.
    2. Schools cannot substitute for parental involvement.
    3. The results of public education system have deteriorated for 30 years. So no one can say that forced assignment has solved education problems.
    Let us get back to rational thought- all programs and especially government programs need to be assessed periodically to see that they have performed, failed, or outlived their usefulness. It is time to do that with the diversity effort in Wake County as we remember Raleigh and Wake County were sleepy little southern communities when these programs were implemented. We are that no more.

  • Nikka Mar 18, 2010

    When we stop worrying about race, we all win.

  • TheBellTollsForThee Mar 18, 2010

    Hopefully, everyone can understand this....NC - the state - sets teacher salary levels. If you are a first-year teacher, you make X amount of money, if you are a 20-year teacher you make Y amount of money. Most counties in NC also offer supplements to attract teachers to their specific county. Wake County currently has the highest supplement. So Wake County only sets the salary as far as what they add to the state salary in the form of a supplement. Teachers salaries come from the taxpayers of everyone in NC. Supplements comes from the taxpayers of the county.

  • seaturtlesrule Mar 18, 2010

    I was a part of the "lost generation" the US gov't experimented on. We basically lost 3-4 years of any type of "learning"...instead, we (black & white) were schooled in the basics of rioting, fear and anarchy in Wilson Co. The wealthy jerked their kids out of middle school and into private schools. The rest of us just wasted our time (teachers included) and tried to stay out of "it"...

    Finally, Fike High School...hallelujah! Somehow, with great teachers and white & black kids getting along fine....with a common goal of graduating and most going to college! Also great athletics....Learning was actually fun! What happened at that time and place?! We didn't wear uniforms or have police anywhere near the school. We had the SAT. Most passed it because they studied hard and it wasn't "ideological"; it was math, science, history, reading, writing, thinking...etc.

    Maybe our hippie generation was onto something. Peace and communication. Not tests and more tests and rules and threats

  • Dixiecrat Mar 18, 2010

    Forcing people to do anything is wrong. Bet it "forced un-segregation" or "forced segregation". So much for the freedom of choice.

  • time4real Mar 18, 2010

    and the fact that only about a dozen people even bothered to respond to this "non" story, tells you 99% of people simply no longer care. Gather those kids up and let's get 'em in those neighborhood schools NOW!

  • time4real Mar 18, 2010

    "– a plan isn't even in the developmental stages – ...but...let's go ahead and condemn it in the press."

    that's because you're getting the condemnation from the same station who is currently running "diversity" ads that they paid for and created. Tell me you aren't surprised!

  • ConcernedNCC Mar 18, 2010

    – a plan isn't even in the developmental stages – ...but...let's go ahead and condemn it in the press.

  • p51d78th Mar 17, 2010

    Right on colliedave, Wake County sets the wage that a teacher makes, as is evidenced on their website. All of these "neighborhood" schools will still be Wake County Schools.

    http://www.wcpss.net/salary-schedules/teachers/a.html

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