Wake County Schools

Wake school board answers federal civil rights probe

Posted March 29, 2011

Wake County Public School System

— The Wake County Board of Education defended its actions Tuesday as part of a federal civil rights investigation. In a response to an inquiry from the Office for Civil Rights, the board wrote that decisions about how to assign students to the 163 schools across the county were not "motivated by racial animus."

The state NAACP has expressed concerns that changing Wake County's student assignment policy from one that emphasizes economic diversity to one that prioritizes putting students in schools closer to home will concentrate poor students into schools in poor communities. As part of its ongoing protest against that change, initiated by the board in February 2009, the state NAACP filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights.

The OCR asked the school system to provide data in response to the complaint allegations and issue a detailed narrative response. In Tuesday's 42-page response, the board wrote that although Wake schools have been praised in the media and from some national education leaders, including U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, opinions within the county have been "decidedly mixed."

The board cited long bus rides, frequent reassignments, "the absence of evidence that diversity busing helps low-income students," and "a culture of low expectations resulting from labeling low-income children as 'at risk'" as reasons the diversity policy was abandoned.

Federal investigators visited Wake County earlier this month to interview school leaders and staff. They are scheduled to return for meetings with school board members next week, according to district spokesman Michael Evans.

A Department of Education spokesman characterized the visits as "neutral fact-finding" and doesn’t imply the OCR believes the complaint has merit. OCR's investigative process generally includes on-site meetings, interviews and gathering data, said Jim Bradshaw of the Department of Education press office.

After the February 2009 vote to change the student assignment policy, the school board endured months of heated debate about the change, including a meeting that was disrupted by the arrests of 19 people in July.

The board made little progress in implementing a new assignment policy and, after hiring a new superintendent in January, deferred to him to develop a plan.

Superintendent Tony Tata has temporarily reassigned six members of his staff to devote themselves entirely to implementing the school system’s new student assignment policy.

"I asked for, and was given, the responsibility of developing a student assignment plan," he said. "Our team is creating a long-term, comprehensive proposal that includes the input that we have received from all segments of this community representing all points of view."

Tata's plan is expected sometime later this spring. It is widely expected to draw on the suggestions of the Wake Education Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. 

Those groups hired Boston-based consultant Michael Alves to craft a plan that would give Wake County families a choice of schools while focusing on the academic achievement mix of students attending each school.

"It is possible to have choice and stability and proximity and student achievement and have it all in one student assignment plan," said Tim Simmons of the Wake Education Partnership. "You do not have to trade off one for another."

On Tuesday, another advocacy group, Great Schools in Wake, issued a joint report with the NC Justice Center questioning whether the so-called "Alves plan" would do enough to assure student performance.

"If proximity is the most important variable in how you assign students, I think we know that does not lead to schools or teaching environments that are the most successful," said Yevonne Brannon of Great Schools in Wake.

The group, which has historically supported the "diversity" policy of student assignment, suggested again Tuesday that the current model be revised rather than abandoned. “We believe that the Wake County public schools’ student assignment staff has the knowledge, talent and good judgment needed to fine tune our current node-based system and create greater stability in assignment," they wrote.

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  • milesnicole Mar 30, 12:50 p.m.

    Artist--reading is essential. I do advocate for my children and by the grace of God they have not been affected by this MESS. obviously struck a nerve.. so sorry! Entitlement LOL, free lunch LOl.. the problem with you is that u really believe that all black people are looking for this. I am an educated woman and I work 8-5 and I pay tuition and for lunch so dont just lump all Minorities in one category. Everyone who receives assistance are not all slackers.. have u seen the state of the economy. Granted some do and I will be the first to admit that. this issue is not about diversity.. its about not wanting our kids to have the same FREE advantages that you have so who has the entitlement issue, I pray nothing ever happens to you that you will be in a position to need assistance for all of the time you payed your precious tax dollars. Thats probably the only time you will have any sympathy for anyone other than yourself. Praying for negative mind sets, thoughts, and people such

  • musthavecoffee Mar 30, 8:40 a.m.

    "Education performance and achievement begin in the home and the community.

    Parents in higher socio-economic levels are more likely to be actively involved in their child's education than parents in lower socio-economic levels.

    There is a direct correlation between parental involvment and student performance and achievement.

    This correlation explains why schools in wealthy areas produce better performing and achieving students than schools in poor areas.

    Until parents and the community in poor areas start to value education, things will not change."

    Seriously, the conversation should stop right here.

    BTW, what classroom has only 20 kids in a classroom?

    There is no union for teachers in NC. There's NCAE, but I'd hardly call them a union. I think you're confusing your northern hometown with the state in which you currently reside because it's cheaper. I don't blame you, though; I wouldn't want to live up there, either.

  • RM24 Mar 30, 8:30 a.m.

    UNTIL the name calling stops, whether it be poor/rich/racist or whatever, nothing will change. And those who say "I love it" when they hear others calling names and pointing blame, are just keeping it going. When did the amount of money someone has make them smart. Or help them learn. PEOPLE get out into the schools and see for yourself what is going on. DO NOT Listen to one person and say "oh I see". I would like for someone to provide facts for what they are saying. WHICH school has only POOR kids in it? One with no RICH kids. From what I see the RICH kids are the ones with parents who do not blame society for their misfortune and try to better themselves. THE POOR kids are the ones who parents feel they are entitled to what everyone else has. TEACH your children HOW TO BETTER themselves. NOT BLAME SOCIETY. And in $$$ terms I am poor. But I will not let the amount of MONEY I have or those around me have determine INTELLIGENCE NOR INTEGRITY.

  • dws Mar 29, 7:19 p.m.

    naacp should be NAAAP: National Association for the Advancement of All People

  • Gr8FunMan Mar 29, 6:51 p.m.

    It is SO sad that it's necessary to acknowledge worthless groups like the NAACP. Yes, it was a noble organization and served a purpose, but now it serves only to elevate blacks at the expense of the health of our country. If we want to stand for equality, then let's BE equal.

  • alshomes Mar 29, 6:42 p.m.

    NAACP get a life.

  • Alex25 Mar 29, 6:13 p.m.

    Parents and Family Culture = # 1 Indicator to academic success.

    Not another Govt hand-out...or more whining........let's be adults.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Mar 29, 6:03 p.m.

    Anybody who disagrees with the failed busing plan of socio-economic diversity is considered a racist.

    Even though the failed busing plan of socio-economic diversity plan was essentially race based busing which the United States Supreme Court rule was illegal in the case against Charlotte / Mecklinburg County a few years ago.

    The USDA also said that the failed plan of socio-economic diversity busing was making illegal use of free and reduced lunch student information.

  • dws Mar 29, 6:03 p.m.

    hmmmm, I'm a bit confused.....what has the naacp done from a proactive standpoint to work toward a solution?.....I seen many disruptive and counterproductive activities by them, but WHAT have they done in a positive manner for all children?

  • CharismaticEdge Mar 29, 5:51 p.m.

    Ok, to be clear, if you want your child to go to a school that's only a few miles away, that makes you a racist?

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