While noting it's up to feds to see whether they'll believe the Wake County school system's latest response, Cash Michaels is making it clear he doesn't put stock into the reasons used for justifying ending the diversity policy.
In a blog post today of a piece that will appear in The Carolinian, Michaels writes that "after over forty years of school busing for desegregation across the nation, South and North Carolina, there are no credible independent studies proving the board majority’s point."
"Nothing that confirms, beyond conservative board members own 'feelings,' and the dubious statistics school system staff was directed to produce, that undeniably details how academically debilitating a school bus ride from Southeast Raleigh to Cary can be," Michaels writes.
Michaels goes on to cite the opinion of Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the liberal Century Foundation, on Wake's latest OCR response.
“I know of no research linking bus lengths and academic achievement,” Kahlenberg says in the article.
Michaels questions Wake's decision to only cite test data on black student achievement since 2007-08 in the OCR response.
"But the board’s response interestingly omits the steady growth of black and Hispanic student achievement in Wake Public Schools between 2000-2005 which reached 81 percent at or above grade level," Michaels writes. "It was during that time that the school system’s SES was making national headlines in the NY Times and Forbes Magazine for academic achievement."
Michaels also takes shots at the OCR response having "no reporting of the school system’s 91.5 percent overall student achievement accomplishment or number one status above 114 other North Carolina school districts." That took place in the mid-2000s.
"Clearly, it would be hard for OCR to believe that black and economically disadvantaged students have been always hurt by SES, if it were also told that before growth and lack of resources impeded the system’s progress, those students were, in fact, achieving and graduating at impressive numbers for several years," Michaels writes.
What's not mentioned in the article is that the test scores from Wake's high watermark came before the state began making the end-of-grade exams a lot tougher in 2006.
Scores dropped for all groups statewide but the sharpest declines were among black and Hispanic students. At least in Wake's case before 2006, many black and Hispanic students were low Level 3s so the new standards hit them especially hard.
As for starting with 2007-08 to report data, that's the same challenge the N&O faced with the Five Questions series in February. We made the decision to use the 2007-08 school year as the baseline because that was the first year of the new reading exams. Using an earlier date would have resulted in sharp spikes based on the change in exams.
Back to Michaels' analysis piece, where he brings up a Carolinian article from December alleging that school board member John Tedesco engineered the student assignment committee meeting that saw the citizen members proposing thousands of reassignments of low-income students out of suburban schools.
Michaels also brings up Tedesco's letter from June in which he brought up how he had dated black women.
"Why an elected school board member felt the need to boast about how his past inter-racial dating history enhances his sworn educational duties, is a question that OCR will no doubt ask," Michaels writes.
Michaels also notes the recent gains in academic achievement for black students on state exams. While he acknowledges the boost from counting retests, he also credits the improvement to "recommended strategies from the curriculum management audit."
Click here for a respone to this blog post written by Michaels.