Wake County Schools

Despite concerns, Wake school board to vote on assignment plan

Posted October 17, 2011
Updated October 18, 2011

— Wake County's school board is expected to vote Tuesday on a new student assignment plan, even though there are calls within the community to wait.

The plan, which is based on four key elements – proximity, choice, stability and student achievement – replaces the district's longstanding practice of busing students for socio-economic diversity and aims at giving parents choices for their children's education while keeping students closer to their homes.

School Superintendent Tony Tata, along with a team of district staff, spent several months developing it, testing it and gathering community feedback before presenting the proposal two weeks ago to the school board.

Tata has called it "a very strong plan" with broad community support, but some, including the state chapter of the NAACP, say there are still many unanswered questions for it to be adopted now.

One of the most vocal opponents of last year's controversial policy changes, the group worries the new plan could segregate schools and create what it calls "pockets of poverty" in the school district.

It wants Tata to hold more public hearings and says that, despite meeting with Tata about its concerns in July, they have not yet been fully addressed.

"There are still many unanswered questions including: How will the new plan prevent creating additional high-poverty, racially identifiable schools?" state NAACP President Rev. William Barber said Monday. “Also, what evidence is there to show the new plan will work better than the current gold standard, nationally recognized plan to provide the right balance of diversity and resources necessary for student achievement?"

Barber said that any plan must measure up to the law, and he pointed out that an investigation into a civil rights complaint and a review of the school system's accreditation by a national organization are still pending.

The NAACP isn't alone in its opposition.

school bus Vote on assignment plan expected

Great Schools in Wake County says it also wants the board to hold off on voting, citing lingering concerns about how the plan will affect feeder patterns and about cost and whether the Wake County Board of Commissioners will support them. The plan is initially expected to take more buses, drivers and gas.

"This is more of a concept brief than a full-fledged plan. Let's take this great concept brief and lets make sure we take our time to get it right," Great Schools in Wake co-founder Yvonne Brannon said. "There is not a dime to waste in this economy. Next year we are losing over $26 million in federal funds."

Brannon said her group would like the board to wait until at least December, when newly elected members – who also have expressed concerns about the plan – will take their seats.

"We need to let them have an input into this plan," she said. "They are going to have four years to implement it and to live with it."

Tata wasn't available for a comment Monday, but has said that it is important to move forward now so that parents can begin ranking school choices in January in preparation for the next school year.

Student assignment software needs to be written, he said, people need to be trained on it and the community needs further education about the plan.

It includes constant monitoring and evaluation, he has said, and any changes will be made as needed.

In contrast to the current plan, in which a student could potentially be reassigned every school year, Tata's plan assigns students based on proximity to their homes and gives parents more options about their children's schooling.

Parents would choose among at least five elementary schools and two middle and high schools – including traditional, year-round, magnet and high-performing schools – and would have priority at schools closest to their home and where children have a sibling attending.

Students already enrolled in the district could also stay at their current school. Students in schools considered to be low-performing would also be able to choose to attend a school that's considered high-performing, based on test scores and teacher qualifications.

Tata has said that keeping magnet schools in place and giving students higher-performing schools on their choice list will help balance diversity and achievement in the new plan.



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  • SomeRandomGuy Oct 18, 2011

    "Unfortunately, the reassignments are because WCPSS has to open a lot of new schools (5/year, iirc) to keep up with our growth."

    Well, at the rate WRAL publishes stories about how bad our schools are, maybe people will stop moving in to the county ;)

  • SomeRandomGuy Oct 18, 2011

    "To give you some perspective on how far that is - the corner of Tryon & Garner Rds in Garner is 7.2 miles from the corner of Dillard Dr & Walnut St in Cary."

    Just a little more perspective on my situation-my daughter is now bussed from Hwy50/70 area past Dillard & Tryon to Yates Mill Elementary.

  • babbleon Oct 18, 2011

    Maybe they should just put the teachers on the busses and teach while riding around all day! RM24

    in 2008, 86% of assigned students were sent to schools within 5 miles of their home. 99% were within 10 miles.

    To give you some perspective on how far that is - the corner of Tryon & Garner Rds in Garner is 7.2 miles from the corner of Dillard Dr & Walnut St in Cary.

    If I remember my school days correctly, distance doesn't make much difference in the length of your ride - it's all about the route. It was about 40 minutes to school, whether that was 2mi to high school or 5mi to middle school.

    I think reassignments are a much more valid concern than long bus rides.

  • Krimson Oct 18, 2011

    If the plan is so good, it will still be so next week, next month or next year... Why not work out some of the details before going to vote???

  • Realthoughts Oct 18, 2011

    This whole busing things is just a way for lower performing schools to boost their test scores. The real issue with a lower performing school is the school itself and no amount of busing is going to correct that. The school needs to address the issue with the schools that no one wants to attend. Otherwise you take kids who really work hard and bus them to drug invested, gang invested schools and you just kill that child's chance to be successful. To fix the problem you need to treat the real issue.

  • babbleon Oct 18, 2011

    SomeRandomGuy: Of all the issues brought up, your concern about annual reassignments is the one that sounds most valid to me.

    Unfortunately, the reassignments are because WCPSS has to open a lot of new schools (5/year, iirc) to keep up with our growth. We're going to have to pay more to keep assignments stable. As I have noted before, some things may be worth paying for. I'd love to get a feel for what level of stability people want, as my son is too young for me to know the impact of reassignments yet.

    Would 3 years in the same school have been ok, or do you want to be certain of the feeder path from elementary -> middle -> high?

  • RM24 Oct 18, 2011

    Maybe they should just put the teachers on the busses and teach while riding around all day!

  • babbleon Oct 18, 2011

    babbleon seems to think that opening a new school under capacity is a bad thing. IndependantAmerican

    I'm not saying it's bad or good, I'm saying it will cost more per capita.

    The plan is going to use Proximity, Stability, Choice and Achievement. I am hoping that people will notice that 'Low Cost' is not in that list. Tata has not been able to provide a cost estimate, netting out reduced busing, because he isn't sure how many parents will make choices outside their current schools.

    I would like to see a comparison of cost in 5 & 10 years between:

    1) Current process of reassigning to maximize school capacity

    2) All students in the same schools, no reassigning for 10 years

    3) 5% of parents (random throughout county) change to the school closest to them, no reassigning for 10 years.

    The board will have to work hard to contain costs under the new plan. It may be worth it, but it will be more expensive.

  • SomeRandomGuy Oct 18, 2011

    "i am sorry but all that moving wasnt necessary just because you dont like the school. sounds like you're throwing away your money. if your child is doing good in school why keep house hopping for the school you want them to go to?"

    I am not "house-hopping" just because of schools. The first time maybe it was, this time was out of necessity. When the "new" plan is implemented, I won't have to worry about it anymore as my daughter will be BACK in the closest school to my residence, not one 2 towns away.

  • wakemom Oct 18, 2011

    "Give them two choices: stay in your own school district or move to another part of town to go to the school that you want."

    You might think thats how it works, but it isn't. I lived in Cary and I DID move after my kids were FORCED into year-round 2 towns away and bussed right by SEVERAL schools to get there. I moved to Garner right across the street from a (traditional) elementary school. Well, I moved last weekend to another house about a mile from where I was (in Garner)-now my daughter is being bused to CARY!!!
    SomeRandomGuy

    i am sorry but all that moving wasnt necessary just because you dont like the school. sounds like you're throwing away your money. if your child is doing good in school why keep house hopping for the school you want them to go to?

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