Wake school board committee votes for new assignment policy

Posted April 28, 2010

— A Wake County school board committee wrestled with issues as broad as poverty in Wake County and as narrow as single words Wednesday before voting 2-1 for a draft policy to implement the new board majority's goal of making community-based school assignment the district's primary goal.

The policy, which would replace the current one that shoots for having no more than 40 percent of any school's students qualify for federally supported free or reduce-price lunches. That goal, which schools often use as a surrogate measure for income or race, has been part of  Wake's assignment policy for several years.

Committee OKs Wake assignment policy Committee OKs Wake assignment policy

The new policy – "6200" in the school district's system – aims to implement a resolution in which the school board voted 5-4 to say it "commits to establishing Community Assignment Zones." That vote also gives the district staff until June 30 to come up with a transition plan "that will utilize non-discriminatory, objective, data-driven criteria, tools and practices over existing subjective methods."

Frequent school reassignments, partly driven by efforts to balance school utilization as new facilities open every year and the population grows, has been an issue with parents. In November, voters elected four new board members who, joining incumbent Ron Margiotta and electing him chairman, have produced several 5-4 votes on attendance and a statement saying the district remains committee to voluntary desegregation.

Supporters of community assignment say it will keep students closer to their homes, allow for more parental involvement and give parents more options in their children's education.

Opponents, including the other four board incumbents, say they fear that changing the current assignment model would create pockets of poverty in the school system and ultimately re-segregate the schools.

Much of the discussion Wednesday was about whether and how to include "higher needs" among the assignment factors. A draft by Chairwoman Debra Goldman had listed only English as a second language and special education as ways to define the term.

Member Anne McLaurin, who is on the committee and was the sole vote against the new policy, and member Keith Sutton, who was at the meeting, argued for including more specifics, including whether students are not achieving academically. Member Deborah Prickett, a former teacher and school counselor and one of the new majority, said there is no single way to measure that.

Prickett and Chris Malone voted for the policy, which will go the full board next week.

Sutton argued that the policy should set priorities of "community, stability, choice and diversity" that the boards Student Assignment Committee can follow in devising a plan over the next nine to 15 months.

Others, including Margiotta, urged the committee not to draw the policy too narrowly and "tie the hands" of the assignment committee chaired by John Tedesco, who has been the main proponent of the policy change.

The policy, as approved, says assignment "should" be based on:

  • distance
  • choice
  • stability of assignment
  • facility utilization
  • grade structure
  • alignment with the magnet schools program
  • students with higher needs

Having students attend school nearer their homes "is important to ensuring the academic success of all students," the policy states says.

Tedesco and supporters have said that with magnet schools and other ways to encourage parents to make choices other than base-line school assignments, it will be possibly to maintain diversity. They also point out that the district has been unable to meet the 40 percent goal in all schools, even with busing students.

McLaurin referred at the outset to a recent Wake Education Partnership report that looks at creating "stability and balance" in the school system.

That report opens, "For almost three decades, Wake County used a student assignment model driven by efficient use of buildings and the desire to create socio-economic balance in every school."

It says, too, that the recent board action "has also left many people confused about what the school system might look like in the future." It offers some approaches that it says could be used to achieve stability and balance.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • zande Apr 29, 2010

    Takethistoyou said: "are you living in a box? a closet? do they not get enough "diversity" in your own community? give me a break."

    No, they do not get much socioeconomic diversity at all in our own community. Like most neighborhoods, most of the people who live around us are similar to us in many way but mainly economically. By going to the magnet schools they attend they are meeting and befriending kids that they would never meet in our neighborhood. I feel that they will be better prepared to function in a future diverse workplace as a result.

    readme: No holy war here. I am simply stating my case and backing it up with facts and references. Like Harry Truman once said "I don't give heck, I just state the (truth) and they think it's heck." lol

    BTW. What are you "going through" these days?

  • Garnerwolf1 Apr 29, 2010

    "They are rotten, most from Garner she tells me". Nice, very classy post overall. Maybe they are from Garner, but Garner has no monopoly on rotten kids. If you believe otherwise, well... I've got a bridge to sell you. I'm assuming you don't go to a Garner school. It's interesting because one of the reasons Garner has such high F&R rates is because kids from the more affluent Garner neighborhoods are bused out, while kids from less affluent SE Raleigh areas are bused in. And yes, the Raleigh City Limit and the Garner Town limit are essentially the same line in some areas so next door neighbors can live in two different towns.

  • Remy Apr 29, 2010

    For all the teachers out there....Good Job! I appreciate all you do for our kids!

  • readme Apr 29, 2010

    Hey Zande, I don't want to start a holy war with you or anything, but let me just make a couple points. Are your kids at a magnet school you said? Respectfully, that is a little different than what some of the rest of us are going through. Secondly I applaud you for using your real name, which you seem to think is a big deal. I prefer anonymity. The conservative views I express are not as well-received. Lastly, you said your kid benefits greatly from this diversity, but just like so many people that hype up diversity, you are not giving specifics on how they are benefitting. Are your kids' test scores higher than they otherwise would be? You refer to your kids learning about other cultures and peoples, but I think this can't be quantified, and it happens at neighborhood schools anyway.

  • NoFreakinWay Apr 29, 2010

    "they have had amazing opportunities to learn about all different types of people and to experience society on many levels"

    are you living in a box? a closet? do they not get enough "diversity" in your own community? give me a break.

  • afteradeal Apr 29, 2010

    "They are rotten, most from Garner she tells me."

    Maybe she is the rotten one but is trying to blame the kids "from Garner" who, btw, probably aren't from Garner. You people need to get out a map and see where the Raleigh line stops and Garner begins and you will see that these so called Garner kids actually live in Raleigh.

  • zande Apr 28, 2010

    readme said "If your kid is personally benefitting from this rediculous policy, please man up or woman-up and explain exactly HOW."

    I absolutely have two children who are benefiting greatly from the diversity policy. I use my own name on this board (is your name really readme?) My name is Mike Zande. My kids both go to racially and economically diverse schools. Both of them love their schools and they have had amazing opportunities to learn about all different types of people and to experience society on many levels.

    I do not believe I have "flamed" anyone. Not sure why you think that. I have been able to present relevant data for my assertions. If I wanted to "flame" someone I would perhaps comment on your atrocious spelling.......

  • blackdog Apr 28, 2010

    Social economic conditions cannot be created by the school board. Socio economic conditions already exist for the students. Their parents and the neighborhood determine socio economic conditions. This is where the students are from.

  • mindofreason Apr 28, 2010

    Teachers do not get to pick their students, so they must work with the lot they are given. If a teacher is given a lot of ESL students, students with little home support, or students who have no interest in learning, that will reflect in the scores no matter how wonderful the teacher may be, therefore to simply state that the TEACHERS should be held accountable does not hold the parents, school system, or frankly students accountable for their actions and puts a lot of added pressure on the teachers to perform what MAY BE out of their control. The system needs massive fixes, but I for one, do not think ending a policy which equates to a better education is the way to go.

    Lastly, this plan change will end up costing more money for Wake in long run, all the studies DO show that, and I think in this economic climate is the wrong time to increase our education bill...

  • mindofreason Apr 28, 2010

    In my wife's classroom, I have seen more kids from higher income homes who have worse parental involvement, and sometimes get a kick start from the lower income students they see achieving above all odds. The idea of social engineering is a nice catch phrase that liberals made up to sound smart and conservatives bash (including me) for sounding like socialism. The truth of the matter is, the proof is in the pudding. Wake County has seen a consistent increase in test scores over the last decade plus, and to say that this current policy did not play a role is shortsighted. The truth is graduation rates are down, but they are everywhere, probably due more to a down economy forcing some HS students into the workforce to help their parents make ends meet. Hiring good teachers is not the problem (WCPSS has a ton), the idea of rewarding them based on performance is inherently unfair...More in my next post