Wake County Schools

Blog: Wake school board talks student assignment

Superintendent Tony Tata met with school board members Monday to discuss two proposed student assignment plans.

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Wake County Public School System
A glimpse of the test drive:

Tata closed the presentation by showing board members what the trial simulation website looks like for the blue plan. The site went live at 5 p.m. Monday. Parents can go on, plug in their address and rank their of schools under that plan.

Earlier in the day, Tata explained the importance of this process in showing what a "real world" student distribution would look like. Basically, they want to see exactly what choices parents will make and why so they can make any needed adjustments in developing a final plan.

The superintendent hopes to get at least 10,000 participants to help get accurate data. Tata told the board he is sending out automated phone calls to parents urging them to get involved. 

Board member Keith Sutton asked the superintendent to clarify for the public why there is no trial run for the Green plan. Tata explained that because the Green plan uses a model similar to the current assignment plan there is no need to test anything, while the blue choice plan is something brand new that needs some additional tests.

The goal of Monday's meeting:

Board member Debra Goldman asked Tata if he wanted the school board to recommend one of the two plans to move forward with at this point. The superintendent said no, and that this is purely an informational meeting. Tata says he believes transparency is extremely important in this process and that he simply wants everyone to be on the same page and understand where things stand, and what the public is saying. Tata also noted that he has no personal preference on either plan, and that he only wants what will be best for Wake County. Of the two, Tata has previously said it appears the blue plan would handle continued growth most effectively.

Pros and Cons of the Blue plan presented by Overton:
  • Manages growth without mandatory reassignments
  • Gives families expanded choices with focus on proximity
  • Efficient facility utilization
  • Stability K-12 for individuals and cohorts
  • No involuntary year-round assignments
  • Research indicates at least 4 of every 5 parents get their first choice.
  • Transition will require changes during implementation
  • Requires focused community outreach
  • Achievement impact depends to some degree on how families choose.
  • Some will not get their #1 choice
Crossing municipalities for community schools?

In talking about proximity and the blue choice plan, Tata pointed out that following school board policy some 6,200 students may be required to leave their hometown to go to school if the driving distance is closer. Specifically, he mentioned Cary where some students could be assigned to a Raleigh school like Athens Drive because it is closer to their home than a Cary school.

Overton explains who would participate in the first assignment changes under the proposed blue plan

All assignments would start with the 2012-2013 School year. Three groups of students would be involved in the first round of choices.

  • About 12,400 students starting kindergarten
  • About 12,100 students starting 6th grade
  • About 12,100 students starting 9th grade.

All other students can choose to remain at their current schools under a grandfather clause or change based on their new options.

Green Plan Pros and Cons presented by Overton:
  • Transition relatively easy
  • Each address guaranteed base assignment
  • Achievement impact managed by district
  • Choices of traditional, year-round and magnet schools
  • Mandatory reassignment as population grows.
  • Schools will be over/under capacity
  • Some base assignments will not be closest schools
  • Some continuation of splintered feerder patterns
Student assignment meeting underway

The special meeting called by superintendent Tony Tata to brief the school board on proposed student assignment plans began shortly after 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Tata says he wanted to update the board after the initial public online comment period ended late Sunday night.

“We have a work plan and we are executing our work plan,” Tata said. “And so I felt the board deserved to know what the public was saying about the two options and about the process in general.”

The topic of student assignment is also on the agenda for the June 21 school board meeting.

Student Assignment Task Force team lead, James Overman, began with a presentation. He told the board the purpose of Monday's meeting is to update them on the student assignment process, highlight points of favor and concerns from online comments, and to discuss issues that require clarification. Overman says he will lay out pros and cons of the proposed green and blue plans gathered from public comment over the past few weeks.

Wake County Public Schools launched an online trail run of the blue, community-based choice plan at 5 p.m. Monday that runs through June 20.

“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. 

He hopes to have at least 10,000 residents participate to get accurate data. Wake County residents will be able to log on to the student assignment website, and rank their choices from a variety of elementary, middle and high schools based on their address.

Survey questions on the website also ask parents to rate the importance of things like a defined feeder pattern, and how important it is to have your child attend school as close 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.


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