Wake group holds forum on student assignment

Posted March 20, 2010 2:05 p.m. EDT
Updated March 20, 2010 9:37 p.m. EDT

— Education researchers at a forum in Raleigh Saturday said that a community-based student assignment plan favored by a majority on the Wake County school board would create high-poverty schools.

About 400 people attended the forum, which featured Syracuse University professor Gerald Grant, who wrote a book about Raleigh schools. Bill McNeal, former superintendent of Wake County schools, and Benita Jones, a UNC law professor, also spoke.

The forum at North Carolina State University was hosted by the Great Schools in Wake County coalition. Capitol Broadcasting, the parent company of WRAL, was among several sponsors.

The majority of the Wake County Board of Education is expected to vote Tuesday in favor of an assignment model in which students go to schools within a certain community zone. The plan in place now buses students across the school district to help achieve socio-economic diversity, where no school has more than 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

Researchers said scrapping the current plan could create low-performing, high-poverty schools.

"We think it's really critical that before any decisions are made by this school board that they stop, listen and learn," said Yevonne Brannon, chairwoman of Great Schools in Wake County.

Supporters of the community-based plan said they didn't hear anything new at the forum.

"It's a rehash of what we've heard about the diversity policy and academic benefits of it which we don't see," Joey Stansbury said.

If the school board gives it approval, a student-assignment committee would spend the next nine to 15 months developing an implementation plan based on input from the community, school system staff and other government planning and zoning officials.