Wake County Schools

Wake school board to OCR: Diversity policy was unfair

Posted April 3, 2011

Wake County Public School System

— The Wake County Board of Education released data last week that calls the school system's former busing for diversity practice into question, alleging it failed to close the achievement gap between white and minority students and placed "unfair burdens" on poor students.

The data was made public as part of an inquiry from the federal Office for Civil Rights, which launched an investigation into Wake's student assignment policy after the state NAACP expressed concerns that a neighborhood schools model would concentrate poor students into schools in poor communities.

In a response to the OCR inquiry, the school board argued that poor and minority students were subjected to "disproportionately long bus rides" under the district's former student assignment policy, which bused students to balance socioeconomic status levels in schools.

Data included in the school board's response shows that among students who were assigned to schools 10 to 15 miles from their homes last year, nearly 56 percent were black and just four percent were white.

On the other hand, among students who were assigned within five miles of their home, nearly 54 percent were white, 11 percent Hispanic and 21 percent black.

School leaders also found "a strong correlation between long bus rides and low academic performance" in black students.

Black students who attended school within 7 miles of their home last year had an academic proficiency rate between 49 and 57 percent. But those numbers dropped sharply as the distance between a student's school and home increased.

Students who attended school 10 to 11 miles from home had a 32.5 percent academic proficiency rate and those 15 to 16 miles from home were rated just under 24 percent.

As a result of this data, the board concluded that the use of socioeconomic status in student assignment "has not resulted in marked educational benefits but has imposed unfair burdens on poor and minority students," the response stated.

The response also compared academic achievement data in Wake schools with similar-sized school districts that do not use socioeconomic status as a student assignment factor. 

Over the last three years, graduation rates for black males were 15 to 23 percent higher in Guilford County schools than in Wake, which also falls below the state average.

Last year, 53.4 percent of black males graduated in Wake County, 59.6 percent graduated statewide and 69 percent graduated in Guilford County schools.

End-of-grade proficiency tests showed similar trends among black and low-income students.

Black students in Wake schools had a 48.4 percent end-of-grade test proficiency rate last year, compared to 49 percent in Guilford County and 51.6 percent in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.

Among poor students, end-of-grade proficiency rates were 47.2 percent in Wake, 48.8 percent in Guilford and 51.3 percent in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Supporters of the school system's former busing for diversity policy have often pointed to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district as an example of a system that suffered from low academic achievement and became re-segregated after abandoning its diversity policy a decade ago.

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

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.

In light of heated debate amongst board members and within the community, the board has deferred to new Superintendent Tony Tata to develop a student assignment plan.

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


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  • myowngrandpaw Apr 6, 2011

    Ever since busing started, the poor kids were bused out of their neighborhoods, the affluent kids stayed in their neighborhoods. NEVER the other way around. The magnet program was an attempt to alleviate that issue a little bit, but not near enough. Also, when school scores dropped at a particular school from the low performing bused kids, the board would redistrict those kids to another school known as "sharing the wealth". Trying to assure parents there are no low performing schools. It was a constant shell game.

    Until all you busing advocates successfully force bus kids from the affluent neighborhoods to the minority neighborhoods, your busing argumnents are bogus. As a matter of fact, the current method of busing only minority students out of their neighborhoods is racist in its own right!

  • ecualumni1982 Apr 5, 2011

    Yep, standard cliche arguements, but what alternative is there to busing? NC reguardless of racial perception changes is primarily still grouped by race, so if you stop busing this will equal more minorities packed into one district. Education is a moral investiment, few kids will excel, but we should provide them an opportunity at the very least. If you look at stats alone, less than 7% of kids go to college, so why send any of the kids to Junior High or High School? Also, performance in the schools in the US is low because the administration is incompetent, why can't we simply set up our schools like the 37 other countries rated higher than the US? You mean we are too dumb to copy another persons work!

  • superman Apr 5, 2011

    Did Nifong help them come up with these numbers? The board should be ashamed to publish these numbers that show just how poorly they did in the past. The neighborhood schools plan in no way does anything that would increase achievement. Changing the location where a student goes to school just pleases the parents. Achievement is closely related to parents and the students home environment. Schools cannot fix that!

  • superman Apr 5, 2011

    And now years and years later the board says the diversity policy didnt work. Surely took them long enough to figure that one out. When you refer to the length of time on a bus-- you have to be aware of both the mileage and the number of stops the bus makes. If the bus stops 25 times and stops a minute or two for each stop that accounts for 25 minutes or so just for the stops. The bus ride of say 45 minutes is certainly not excessive given that at least half the time the bus is not even moving. Dont forget the previous bond issue failed and that has caused most of the overcrowding we have now. Takes 3 to 5 years to build a school. Developers do not build schools on speculation like they do houses.

  • rand321 Apr 4, 2011

    Several things have to be taken into account when looking at the data. one is the cost per pupil in Wake versus CLT. We spend less per pupil. (perhaps we need tax increases so we can spend at the CLT levels).

    the length of bus rides in an article in the N&O would appear to suggest that the longer the bus rides for the kids, the lower the performance. However, in busing some for diversity, the diversity policy would appear to be very sucessful.

    The numbers are telling, but must be analyzed in context with the entire system.

    We need a long term strategic plan for student assignment, teacher development, facilities management and student performance. We must look at all the items in conjunction with each other as well as Wake growth numbers. Otherwise we will be right back to where we started...year round, higher taxes and frequent reassignments.

  • westernwake1 Apr 4, 2011

    @me2you "It's about time we see this kind of data. Why hasn't it come out before now!"

    These statistics are the same statistics that came out in the SAS report before the school board election. However the opponents of the current school board majority decided that ignoring the facts to push a political agenda was more important than educating our children.

  • westernwake1 Apr 4, 2011

    Kudos for AWakeMom !!!

    The single most important external factor in a child's education is parental involvement. It is more critical than race, income, or any other outside factor.

    It is good to hear about a success story and this single mom who posted has my great respect.

  • whatusay Apr 4, 2011

    Forced integration does not work. It only creates more friction between the races. Affirmative action was a failure, hiring less qualified employees to balance race numbers. Everything government gets involved in turns out worse.

  • 1 of the original Americans Apr 4, 2011

    It's about time we see this kind of data. Why hasn't it come out before now!

    because it took WCSB time to make up the numbers!

  • nboblitz Apr 4, 2011

    mwgrad excellent points! I think if both sides spent more time actually trying to help out in the community with tutors, educating parents, meeting specific needs on a per child basis, instead of all the money wasted on lawyers, advertising, boycotts and campainging, then we help solve the issues instead of just making them worse. Of course you don't get on TV for doing that. You get on TV by claiming everything is racist and shirking personal responsibility.