The spin from both supporters and critics of Wake County's new student assignment plan is well in progress.
As noted in today's article, critics like the Great Schools in Wake Coalition and some parents dispute Superintendent Tony Tata's assertions that the first round of the selection process was a success.
But Michael Alves, who is being paid by Wake to consult on the plan's implementation, and Wake Education Partnership Vice President Tim Simmons say the results are encouraging.
"They used choice to provide stability, didn't create additional high-needs schools and met the academic needs of the students," Simmons said. "It looks good so far."
Simmons points to how so many people got their first choice, how they're not projecting any additional schools will go above 40 percent F&R, how they filled all the requests from displaced magnet proximity students to get into high-performing schools and how many people were placed under the first three selection priorities.
Chief Transformation Officer Judy Peppler said that they accommodated all requests to keep siblings at the same school.
Peppler said that they're still finalizing things but think they'll seat every student who applied for kindergarten, sixth-grade and ninth-grade to a walk-zone school.
As for priority three, Peppler said they'll wind up seating most of the applicants who applied for kindergarten, sixth-grade and ninth-grade who requested their closest school that was more than 1.5 miles from home.
This comes after critics, especially those leaving charter schools and private schools, complained that feeder patterns meant they wouldn't be able to keep siblings together or go to their closest school.
"I’m not being insensitive to the parents who are worried about their child’s situation, but from a systemwide perspective the results are encouraging,” Simmons said.
Simmons said there are things that Wake needs to do better, such as marketing to families why they should apply to attend new schools. Peppler said that if they open Abbotts Creek or Richland Creek elementary schools this year they'll aggressively market them to the families who attend the surrounding schools.
Yevonne Brannon, chairwoman of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, took a far more critical view. She charged that the district overcrowded schools to increase placement rates.
“I think the system is bending over backwards to give people their choices, but I don’t think it’s a sustainable method,” Brannon said.
Brannon said that results of the first round of choices have resulted in underenrollment at some new schools, overenrollment at more high-profile schools, an increase in high-poverty percentages at some schools and fear among parents to request changes for their children because of uncertainty about the results.
Brannon said that parents she’s talked to had reasons other than satisfaction for not registering a choice for their children. The new plan was rushed into place without giving parents enough time to learn about the school options, she said, adding that a more developed plan would have included more magnet schools to spread out demand and maintain diversity.
“A large majority of the folks we are hearing from do not understand this plan, they think it’s too complicated, they’d like to go to school closer to where they live, with vibrant options to move out,” Brannon said.
“Some are not registering their complaints because it does not affect them right now.”
Brannon said the increases in percentages of F&R kids at schools is a leading indicator of trouble with the new plan.
“I don’t think it’s a healthy sign that we are trending to high-poverty schools and underchosen schools,” Brannon said.