Wake County Schools

Blog: Board talks student assignment and achievement

The Wake County school board will take up student assignment, student achievement and budget issues at Tuesday's meeting.

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School day could get longer:

The school board voted unanimously Tuesday night in favor of changing the bell schedule to add ten minutes to the end of the school day starting with the 2011-2012 school year. This will authorize Tata to request a waiver from DPI to do so if necessary, it does not mean this is a done deal. The final state budget includes adding five days to the school calendar. In Wake County that would mean an extra $500 thousand in transportation costs and could cause scheduling issues with year-round school tracks overlapping. Staff told the board that superintendent Tony Tata will ask the State Department of Public Instruction for a waiver to increase the school day by ten minutes ( at first they wanted five at the start and five at the end) instead of adding the extra days. Deborah Prickett made a motion asking that all ten minutes be added to the end of the school day, citing concerns about the already early start time for high school students. John Tedesco adding the extra time would not have the same learning benefit to students as adding the extra days.

Wake County will rejoin the NC School Board Association:

The board voted unanimously to rejoin the the NC School Board Association Tuesday night. In 2010 the board voted to separate from the association in part to save money on annual dues.

Budget Adopted:

The board approved superintendent Tony Tata's proposed budget in May and asked the county for $313.5 million. The county added an additional $908 thousand. On Tuesday night Chief Business Officer David Neter asked the board to officially adopt the final budget resolution. Neter said he will come back in July to ask the board to make some additional changes based on the final state budget. Last week Neter said they will have to lay off hundreds of additional Wake County school employees, mostly custodians, to make up the state budget gap. The board adopted the budget with a 7-1 vote. Dr. Anne McLaurin voted against it, expressing concerns about the reduction in per pupil spending.

New school board officers elected:
On vote number 56 the board elected John Tedesco as the school board's new vice-chairman in a 5-4 vote. Debra Goldman changed her vote to make it a tie, 4 in favor of Tedesco, 4 in favor of Keith Sutton. Chairman Ron Margiotta broke the tie.

As the school board moved from the afternoon work session into their full annual meeting their first order of business was to elect new officers. In a 5-4 vote the board re-elected Ron Margiotta as board chairman. It took significantly longer to elect a new vice-chair. After 32 votes they still did not have the majority necessary to pick someone. The board took a break after vote number 50. They came back and voted twice more, still no majority, still no vice-chair.

NAACP open letter on student assignment meeting:

On the same day superintendent Tony Tata updated the school board on the student assignment plan progress, state NAACP president Rev. William Barber sent a follow up letter about meeting with Tata.

Last week Barber wrote the superintendent, raising concerns about the new proposed assignment plans, and requesting he meet with the NAACP before finalizing a plan. Tata responded last Thursday agreeing to meet with the group and asking that the conversation also include how to improve community outreach. Barber responded with the following letter on Tuesday:

Dear Superintendent Tata:
We have received your letter dated June 16, 2011. We look forward to meeting with you and your team in private and continuing our dialogue around the questions we raised and the additional agenda items you provided. We have studied both of the assignment plans and our questions are a result of that review.
As you know, for more than 102 years, the NAACP has engaged in local, state and national efforts to enact policies to improve public education and ensure equality. We will have our scheduler call and communicate with your scheduler to facilitate a date as soon as possible.
Yours in the Spirit of Truth and Justice,
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
Building new schools:

School staff laid out some of the long-term new school needs to accommodate growth. They propose building ten new schools between 2014 and 2016. The proposal is based on existing funds from the 2006 capital improvement program and having a bond referendum in the fall of 2012 or spring of 2013.

Student assignment plan presentation:

Superintendent Tony Tata says they will take the Blue choice model forward in developing a new student assignment plan, but will also incorporate elements of the Green plan.

Tata says if parents do not pick schools for their children under the choice plan Wake County would likely put children in achievement schools.

Student Assignment Task Force team leader James Overman began by presenting some updated information and numbers related to developing an assignment plan, and specifically about the test drive of the proposed Blue choice plan.

As of Tuesday morning more than 18 thousand people have participated, and a total of 11, 595 unique addresses (some families log on several times to enter choices for each child) So far there are still 131 nodes from which they have no feedback at all. Southeast Raleigh and Eastern Wake County continue to be the most underrepresented, despite two days of additional community outreach. On Sunday task force members with computers went to a Raleigh church to ask people to participate after services. They did the same at seven schools and a Boys and Girls Club on Monday.

Some preliminary data includes:

73% of parents would not change their rankings even if it meant only having express transportation (Community bus stops instead of neighborhood)

91% say its somewhat or very important to have multiple school choices.

89% say its somewhat or very important to have a guaranteed K-12 feeder pattern.

88% says its somewhat or very important to have schools closest to home.

Student assignment plan changes: 

Superintendent Tony Tata will update the board shortly the student assignment process.

According to presentation outline Tata will give the board an update on the test drive, outreach, and next steps.

He will talk about merging the "best" of the Green and Blue plans.

Tata's work plan schedule includes presenting a final student assignment plan to the board in September or October.

Student discipline policy changes:

Next up for the board Tuesday was talk of changing some discipline changes.

The big issue up for discussion was who would oversee student appearing hearings to determine if recommended suspensions are necessary for a student's actions. Under the change a student has the right to an appeal hearing within ten days of being suspended. At the last meeting the board raised concern about having one hearing officer making all the decisions. Instead board attorney Ann Majestic revised the proposed policy to include a hearing board made up of retired educators.

The goal is to scale back Wake County schools zero tolerance policy, requiring long-term suspensions for some offenses. The board hopes changes will help reduce the number of suspensions and find other ways to punish students without taking them out of the classroom unless it is necessary.  

Board member Keith Sutton brought up the issue of school resource officers and their role and asked whether SROs should also be a part of the hearings.

Concerns about the student achievement gap:

Tuesday's Wake County School Board meeting opened with a presentation from Dr. Lindsay Page on the results of a student achievement audit. Page said Wake County students score higher than the state average and continue to grow, but the gap between Wake County and the state average is shrinking.

The audit also found that on average students who do not qualify for free and reduced lunch out perform students who do. While overall scores improved for both groups from the 2006-2007 school year to the 2008-2009 school year, the overall achievement gap stayed the same. So while overall scores are improving moderately, the achievement gap is not improving.

The audit also looked the the gap by race. Page said the overall scores of all racial groups appear to be improving each year, but again, the achievement gap among black, white, Hispanic and Asian groups is not changing.


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