Wake County Schools

Superintendent shoots for' maximum satisfaction' with assignment plans

Posted May 20, 2011
Updated May 23, 2011

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— Wake County schools Superintendent Tony Tata said Friday that the student assignment options he plans to unveil Monday will allow for parental choice, but that doesn't mean every family will be satisfied.

"It is not going to make everyone happy, and there is just no way to do that," he said. "We are trying to find that middle ground, that balance."

Since his January hire, Tata has been working on a formula to assign the approximately 143,000 students in the Wake County Public School System to schools close to their homes. The Wake County Board of Education voted last year to favor proximity over a long-standing policy of assigning students based on socio-economic factors. Supporters of the board's action said the old policy resulted in long bus rides for some students and did not deliver on promised gains in student achievement.

On Monday, Tata will present two plans – labeled "blue" and "green" – and kick off a public comment period that he hopes will end in some consensus. 

"We know there is a good deal of tension out there," he said. "We know a lot of people want community-based schools, a good deal of people want diversity driven in in our school system, and a good deal of people want efficient use of resources. But most of all, we all want student achievement."

Tata: Student achievment is priority Tata: Student achievement is priority

The "blue" plan incorporates elements of a community-based choice plan backed by the Wake Education Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. It would allow parents to enter their address and then choose from a list of available schools.

The "green" plan puts more of an emphasis on balancing student achievement across the county to prevent pockets of good or bad schools. It uses the nodes familiar to Wake families. 

Tata acknowledged that no plan would be perfect. He expects 80 to 90 percent of parents would be pleased with the options and would get to send their child to the school of their choice. Both plans would cap enrollment so that students can't cluster in schools where the demand is greatest. 

The superintendent previewed the plans for members of the school board last month and, despite a year of divisive battles over how to implement a new student assignment model, was met with cautious approval from both sides.

The public will get its first chance to see and comment on the plans – and seven other options Tata and his team considered and rejected – on Monday. He'll consider the public feedback before making a recommendation to the school board.

School leaders plan to implement the new plan for the 2012-13 school year.


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