Wake County Schools

Student assignment plan gets online test drive

Posted June 13, 2011 4:10 p.m. EDT
Updated June 13, 2011 10:30 p.m. EDT

— Parents in Wake County can test drive one of two proposed student assignment plans under consideration. 

A test drive of the Community-Based Choice plan, or blue plan, launched Monday on the student assignment website. 

The blue plan allows parents to choose from a variety of four to six elementary schools, each linked with a middle and high school. Students get priority based on whether they have a sibling at the school or live close by, and the district takes into account achievement balance and capacity at any individual school.

Test drive the "blue plan"

The alternative, the Base Schools Achievement, or green plan, is similar to the current assignment model. Under it, the school system assigns students based on student achievement, ensuring that students from low-performing areas end up at high-performing schools.

Superintendent Tony Tata introduced the two plans last month, and parents had through Sunday to read them over and share their comments on the district's website. The pages were visited more then 280,000 times and almost 2,000 visitors left a comment, according to Michael Evans, a spokesman for the Wake County Public School System. Of those who left a message, 682 indicated a preference for the blue plan, Evans said.

On Monday evening, Tata updated school board members about the progress of the two proposed plans. He said the online simulation would allow them to see what a real-world student distribution would look like. After seeing the choices parents would make, adjustments can be made in developing a final student assignment plan. 

“In order to ensure that we can provide adequate options for parents, including calendar, proximity and achievement choices, we need to learn as best we can what real world choices Wake County parents might make," Tata said.

While Tata said he doesn't favor one plan over the other, the majority of parents commenting online last week favored the blue plan. 

"As you read through (the comments,) you see a 2-to-1 preference for choice (plan)," Tata said. 

Tata said he hoped that at least 10,000 families would participate in the online simulation which runs through June 20. 

Survey questions on the website also ask parents to rate the importance of things like a defined feeder pattern, and the importance of having proximity to the school's location to home as possible. It also asks parents whether their choice would be impacted by transportation changes including community express bus stops for those choosing to go to school further from home.

The topic of student assignment is also on the agenda for the June 21 school board meeting. Tata said the feedback given so far, and the information gathered from the trial run this week will be invaluable in determining what he proposes to the board at that meeting.

Tata said his task force has also reached out to community and church groups to ensure the voices of those with limited or no Internet access will also be included in the process. The superintendent said they will closely monitor feedback throughout the trial run, and try to solicit more from any areas where participation appears to be low.

“The more parents that can participate this week, the better, the richer our information will be, and the more precise we can be about any plan moving forward," Tata said. 

State NAACP president Rev. William Barber sent an open letter Monday asking Tata to meet with members of the NAACP before bringing any assignment proposal to the school board. 

When asked about the letter, Tata acknowledged he received it, but said he had not yet had time to read it. Tata said he remains open to talking with anyone adding, “We are welcoming all feedback.”