'Controlled choice' concept goes before Wake schools committee

Posted July 27, 2010

— An education consultant with 35 years' experience outlined a strategy Tuesday before a Wake County Board of Education committee that he said goes beyond simply drawing lines to meet population and school capacity

Michael Alves presented to the board's student assignment committee a concept called "controlled choice," which divides a school system into zones based on a computer model that distributes the student population so that each area is representative of the entire school system.

The school board committee is working on implementing an assignment policy that tries to place students in schools closer to where they live. It's a reversal of the current policy, in which some students are bused so that no school in the district has more than 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced-priced lunches.

Those in favor of the busing policy fear that eliminating it will create pockets of poverty, increase teacher turnover and segregate schools.

Proponents of the community-based assignment model have said the plan will create stability in students' education and give parents' choices.

Alves said the controlled choice concept can give parents more options in their children's education and give students stability without creating high-poverty schools.

The concept has both opponents and proponents agreeing that the concept could work in Wake County.

"If the committee looks at the task that he's laid out, in terms of fair, equitable representation of the community, that will give us some ground to work on," said board member Kevin Hill, who has opposed the community-schools plan.

Controlled choice, Alves said, has to incorporate both a comprehensive plan to get parents to be involved, and it has to have a school-improvement component so that “under-chosen” schools can borrow from the schools that have established themselves as popular choices.

Is controlled choice Wake schools' solution? Is controlled choice Wake schools' solution?

It is, he said, analogous to trying to figure out why one pizza parlor is more popular than another. What are the successful schools – the highly sought-after schools – doing right?

Equity is essential, Alves told the committee, in having parents accept that the schools have “a universal system of choice, a fair system of choice.” Without that perception, he said, “Your plan will fail.”

Implementing a controlled choice plan also requires that a school system have one strategic plan for explaining the system to parents and getting them to participate and another plan for improving schools that parents do not choose.

Parents choose schools based on the quality of their programs, expectations in the community rise, and schools have to meet them, Alves said.

“It’s like a referendum for the parents,” Alves told the committee, which has three board members and one committee member from each of the nine school board districts.

“If we’re going to be fair to people, we’ve got to put our money where our mouth is” in funding all schools, committee Chairman John Tedesco said. He has led the drive toward community-based assignment and says regularly that resource allocations among the Wake schools are inequitable.

Important, Alves told the group, is that students in schools are guaranteed they can stay there is they want. Choice should not involve forced reassignments, he said.

After Alves’s talk, the committee worked through maps the staff had prepared based on suggestions for ways the county could be divided – ZIP codes, school board districts, school transportation districts and others.

They also had what community member Ann Sherron labeled “lively repartee” about whether the new assignments will consider poverty in seeking diversity. Board Chairman Ron Margiotta promised in a statement at the last board meeting that the new plan will not create high-poverty schools, as many board critics have predicted.

Tedesco said assignment would use choice within attendance zones or larger regions encompassing a few zones to create diversity by attracting students and added that the board has specifically ruled out looking at economic status in school assignment.

“How do you measure it if you don’t have a measuring stick?” Sherron asked him. Tedesco said later that the schools will have easy access to income information about students but will not use it in making assignments.

The new assignment plan is due within a year, but Tedesco said that incorporating Alves’s ideas could be done.

“This is parallel to what we’ve been talking about,” he said.

Meanwhile Tuesday, 19 people protesting the community-based student assignment plan who were arrested at last week's school board meeting spoke out publicly for the first time about why they protested.


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  • ThinkChick Jul 30, 2010

    NC Aries: ever heard of indenture - the means by which many white Europeans were brought here. Seven years (or more) of slavery and service? Ever heard of what happened when the Islamists swept across Asia - slavery of indigenious populations. Happening in Africa as we speak. Enslavement of Asian women in sex trafficking by the graying Chinese who aborted females willy nilly. No whites at the root of those.

    Here is another aspect of educational controlled choice in the realm of education - which is being ignored by WRAL but should concern us all. Two young women in two different universities having their diplomas "controlled" because of their "choice" to remain true to their values.

  • blackdog Jul 28, 2010

    "People also self segregate based on what they have in common. Sometimes it's race, sometimes it's education or success levels."

    Do you mean....socioeconomic segregation ?...

  • Plenty Coups Jul 28, 2010

    NC Aries-"Everything has it's origins in white racism"

    While this was true in the past (actually,I don't really believe that, everything wasn't about racism. In the beginning, slavery wasn't about color.)-it's not so much anymore.
    In my hometown, Italians, Poles, and hispanics were discriminated against when my dad was young. He didn't let it stop him. Racism, while still alive, is not like it used to be. Wouldn't you agree that because of the success of blacks such as Obama, it is more harmful to sit back and blame everything on racism, rather than not let it stop you and go on to make a success of yourself. I don't believe in today's world that racism can truly stop anybody unless they let it.

  • Plenty Coups Jul 28, 2010

    NC Aries-"People tend to want to be around people who accept /welcome /appreciate /understand them"

    True enough, as well as wanting to be around people who have a commonality, but that's my point. Why would you want to bus people away from where they choose to live?

  • Plenty Coups Jul 28, 2010

    Nc Aries-"The deeper I was referring to has to do with teaching styles, learning styles, discipline styles, etc."

    Thats been done over and over for years. (actually decades) Teachers have been told to teach to african american students using more praise, more hands on learning, more black teachers, more cultural sensitivity, higher expectations etc. Still there are achievment gaps. They move minority students to more white schools. They even tried all black charter schools, using rap and cultural learning ideas, with all black teachers.(go to - for an article on how well black charter schools are doing) or go here:

  • NCAries Jul 28, 2010

    Seems like you never let facts get in the way of what you want to believe.
    Plenty Coups

    Not meaning to engage in spear throwing with you but that's your reflection you're seeing, not mine.

  • NCAries Jul 28, 2010

    Your comment fails to address why people tend to clump together. Go to any middle school or high school cafeteria for more obvious self segregation. Or a prison exercise yard. Or a fraternity... etc.
    Plenty Coups

    People tend to want to be around people who accept /welcome /appreciate /understand them.

  • NCAries Jul 28, 2010

    So tell me your "deeper" understanding of how we should address this problem that doesn't include merely blaming it all on white racism.
    Plenty Coups

    Everything has it's origins in white racism since that has been the tone and tenor of this country since it's inception. The non-color minority gaining economic power and oppressing and trying to dominate, discredit and destroy the color majority. The deeper I was referring to has to do with teaching styles, learning styles, discipline styles, etc.

  • Plenty Coups Jul 28, 2010

    "From your comments it's obvious you don't have much knowledge of SE Raleigh's history and...well...never mind."

    Please fill me in. You make a lot of accusations but never back them up. When I give you evidence, you merely claim they don't mean anything. (facts and numbers) Seems like you never let facts get in the way of what you want to believe.

  • Plenty Coups Jul 28, 2010

    blackdog-"Then....why are so many doctors, professors, lawyers, politicians, and buisness owners of color living in gated communities in north Wake County ?..."

    People also self segregate based on what they have in common. Sometimes it's race, sometimes it's education or success levels.