Wake County Schools

Business leaders unveil their assignment plan for Wake schools

Posted February 11, 2011

— Wake County business leaders unveiled Friday their version of a school choice student assignment plan that they hope will please people on both sides of the ongoing debate of how and where students should go to school.

Two local nonprofit groups – the Wake Education Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce – released the report in response to a controversial policy approved last February by the Wake County Board of Education.

The groups hired Boston-based consultant Michael Alves to craft a plan that would give Wake County families options about where their children should go to school while focusing on the academic achievement mix of students attending each school.

The plan includes the following:

  • Gives parents more control over where their children attend school.
  • Provides more school choices.
  • Emphasizes proximity without the use of mandatory attendance zones.
  • Allows families to remain in their chosen schools unless they decide otherwise.
  • Promotes diversity of all types, but does not pursue diversity as a goal in and of itself.
  • Redefines school assignment in a way that clearly makes student achievement the top priority for every child.

The plan also focuses on four pillars – stability, choice, proximity and student achievement. Read the entire report.


"The promise of stability begins the first year by allowing families to remain in the schools where they are currently enrolled," according to the report.

Transportation would be provided and siblings would be automatically enrolled in the same school. Parents who are unhappy with their current school assignments can choose another school close to home where seats are available. They may also apply to a magnet school.


The proposal assumes most parents will choose a school close to home, but they can select from a list that also includes schools outside their immediate neighborhood. In every case, the list would include at least two magnet schools and two year-round calendar choices. The node-based assignments currently used by the school district will no longer be necessary.

"We can say with confidence that the school system should be able to provide every family in Wake County with a choice of 10 elementary schools, five middle schools and five high schools while increasing transportation efficiency," according to the report.


As Wake County reshapes its assignment process for the future, the plan recommends families living within 1.5 miles of a school – based upon driving distances – be given assignment priority to that school.

"About 31 percent of Wake County’s elementary students currently attend a school within 1.5 miles of their homes. Under this proposal, that number could be expected to increase to nearly 50 percent," according to the report.

Many students, especially in middle school and high school, will not have a choice within 1.5 miles of home. In those cases, enrollment priorities would be granted for the closest available school.

Student achievement

The plan does not recommend the school system use a fixed percentage in determining the appropriate achievement mix.

"We believe a range is more flexible, particularly if that range is tied to the results of statewide mandatory testing," according to the report.

A recent proposal by the school board’s Student Assignment Committee suggested at least 70 percent of the students in every school perform at or above grade level.

"We believe that is educationally sound. The school system in past years set a goal suggesting 95 percent of all students perform at or above grade level – a laudable target," according to the report.

The school board’s move last year to do away with a decade-old practice of busing students to help keep schools diverse sparked an outcry from many fearful that implementing a neighborhood-based assignment policy will segregate schools and keep economically disadvantaged students from receiving the same quality of education as their counterparts.

Under the old policy, which is in place until the end of the 2012-13 school year, students are bused across district lines so that no schools have a student population of more than 40 percent receiving free or reduced lunch.

How that new policy will be implemented is still unclear.

In October, the board voted 5-3 to start over with how to do so after concerns that parents and other board members weren’t being given enough input.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Shamrock Feb 11, 2011

    "So maybe this Alves guy, WEP and the Chamber Meddlers should be sued for stealing something that didn't belong to them!" Peace love

    Cry Baby.

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Feb 11, 2011

    The good news is by this time next week no one will remember an Alve Plan or these so called education meddlers.

  • Awake in Wake Feb 11, 2011

    geosol, You hit the nail on the head. It would take a tremendous amount of new schools to have a true neighborhood school policy. Also, a true neighborhood school policy would leave some schools with heavy concentrations of students in lower socioeconomic groups. These students would have a hard time passing the federally required exams, and some of these schools would fail. After they failed over serveral years, the federal government under "New Child Left Behind" law would require that these schools be closed. It is already happening in Charlotte. Once the schools closed, we would end up having to bus these students to other schools. I agree that that right wing activists did not give this much thought. But, in general, do right wing or left wing activists actually think?

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Feb 11, 2011

    come on golo, try for heaven's sake to keep up. or fire those who can't!

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Feb 11, 2011

    "Tedesco failed because the supporters of the failed socio-economic diversity policy were resistant to change."

    And because Debra Goldman did yet another about face since getting elected!

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Feb 11, 2011

    "I am thankful this plan was commissioned and I hope it is implemented."

    I read it too and it will never fly. Debra Goldman will not support it, and we all know what Debra Goldman does not support is the new rule for our school board, because it does not include base assignments. That's why she junked Tedesco's plan. His plan was 80-90% the exact same. So maybe this Alves guy, WEP and the Chamber Meddlers should be sued for stealing something that didn't belong to them!

  • geosol Feb 11, 2011

    "I think the real question here is how long can the taxpayers of Wake County afford to bus children across the county?" Good question! Now here's one for you - - how much is it going to cost to build all of these new schools instead of a few buses? That's something the little right wing activists didn't feel like thinking about in their zeal to try to dismantle the Wake Co. Public School system and get the kids into their private schools.

  • Buddy1 Feb 11, 2011

    So because you provide a one time payment from the 08-09 budget where the City of Raleigh funded economic development initiatives conducted on behalf of the city by the Chamber that all of a sudden makes anything presented by the Chamber tainted and not worthy of consideration? Kind of reaching there aren't you?

  • Soundguy Feb 11, 2011

    I think the real question here is how long can the taxpayers of Wake County afford to bus children across the county? Fuel prices are climbing and it doesn't look like that will be changing anytime soon. Someone has to pay these cost and I assure you it will become the burden of the taxpayer to recover the added expenses. On a side not I feel sorry for the children being forced to cross the county to go to school. I went to neighborhood schools when I was a child and no, I did not live in a wealthy neighboorhood. I got home at a reasonable hour where I actually got to go outside and play. Now, I actually see children getting off the buses at 5:45pm on my way home from work. Maybe someone should ask the children how they feel about it!

  • iworkandpaytaxes Feb 11, 2011

    "So the party of no, the obstructionist right wing extremists gained the majority and began dismantling everything."

    Wrong, the party of NO that was in Charge and were violating the law were put out of control in the last election. Their racist surrogates have used every method they can to try to stop the progress of the duly elected school board. By the way that same party of no at the State LEVEL kept caps on Charters firmly in place despite the fact people want real choices.

    Try to wake up to who is really the party of NO.
    GOLO member since October 18, 2007
    February 11, 2011 4:28 p.m.

    GOP is more worried about gays and fake pot in NC. Just MORE gov. You love it you leach.