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Jim Martin asking how staff is explaining the choice plan to parents

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Here's a taste of the kind of questioning that the student assignment plan could get from the new Wake County school board majority.

During last week's ED task force meeting, new Wake school board member Jim Martin grilled staff during a Q&A on how the new plan is being presented to parents. He was concerned that the choice process isn't being adequately explained to parents, especially those who are less educated.

After hearing the staff presentation about the community outreach efforts, Martin, who has been a citizen member of the ED task force, said they were "getting a lot of the 10,000 ft. story."

Martin gave an example of an African-American dad who is working three jobs, has a third-grade reading level and had school discipline problems so he's scared to talked to school officials but knows he needs to because of the choice plan. He asked how staff would talk about the choice plan to that kind of person.

Chief Transformation Officer Judy Peppier said staff won't tell the parents where to go. But she said staff will show the parent the list of school choices, explain what the test results mean, explain the distances from home, talk about transportation and before and after-school options.

Martin asked what about if the person can barely read. Peppler responded that staff will be reading along with the parent the information.

"At the end of the day, the parents will make the decision, but they (staff) know to emphasize the high-performing schools and the regional-choice schools," Peppler said.

Martin asked how staff would emphasize the high-performing schools. Peppler responded they'd explain it has very good test scores and growth as shown by state exams.

Peppler added that it would be a very one-on-one individualized process with parents.

“It communicates to me the Ph.d. professor," Martin said. "For someone with a third-grade reading level, they will find it a challenge.”

Peppler said that person might be challenged if he was doing it by himself.  She cited how they walked through the choices with a lot of parents. She said they will reach out to people who haven't made a choice yet.

Toward the end of the discussion, ED task force member Marvin Pittman said staff needs to send another message that the choice plan "isn't easy." He said it needs to be communicated to parents that it's a new system, "but it's not the best thing since sliced bread."

Pittman said they shouldn't try to sell it a a bill of goods or say it's easy to understand. Pittman said "intelligent educated people" are telling him that it's not an easy plan.


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And implementing this plan doesn't involve reassignment?   I'm interested in seeing how the new plan works but it too involves reassignment as has been noted by maining posting oddities in the assignments they've received.

No, actually...

By 'reassignment,' I meant, approximately, "You're going to ES 1 this year, but we're going to move you to ES 2 next year."  You're right that some students did not advance to the middle- or high- school that they were expecting to advance to.  But, that's certainly better than the big reassignments we've had in the past.  

There have certainly been a number of anecdotes, and it's possible that some mistakes were made which need to be corrected.  But, that would have been true even if the district had planned for a full additional year.  In the end, I think the number of people negatively affected will be an order of magnitude less than what it would have been under an old-style reassignment.

Don't get me wrong -- there are still a number of questions that need to be answered.  The priorities, for example, aren't really priorities -- they're effectively just reasons to weight certain applications higher than others, but the weights given to the priorities aren't public.  Also, the entire process needs to be made much more transparent -- the district needs to publish: (1) for each school, the nodes that students came from and how they got to that school, and (2) for each node, where the students from that node go to school, and how they got to that school.   There's a lot of room for behind-the-scenes monkey business.


"...I think the number of people negatively affected will be an order of magnitude less than what it would have been under an old-style reassignment."

That remains to be seem doesn't it?  I think the people predicting the opposite are more likely to be right.  There are likely to be far more upset parents under this scheme.  Give people the belief that they have a choice and when they don't get their first or even second choice and they will be upset.  It appears that many long-established feeder patterns are changing and people are unhapy about that.  In some areas families are finding their chances of getting into a year-round or traditional calender school for middle school diminished.  Just the large number of unknowns has many people upset. 

How can you say that some students not advancing to the MS or HS they were expecting is  better than the past reassignments when it is for all practical purposes a reassignment?  That's what people called it in the past when their feeder pattern or node got changed to another school.  That's what parents called it when they saw that in year 3 of the 3-year plan their node was being moved.  It remains to be seen how many children will be afftected by the loss of transportation that will result in their switching schools.


How can you say that some students not advancing to the MS or HS they were expecting is  better than the past reassignments . . . ?

Because we all expect upheaval when switching to a new school level -- we don't expect it in the middle of a school.   There's a difference between changing where somebody expects to go to school for 4th grade, and for 6th grade.  

I agree that the jury is still out on the number of upset parents -- recognize, though, that 3,000 additional students would probably mean reassigning 8,000 students as everybody shifts right one school.  And, also recognize that the number of upset parents will decrease in successive years.  That didn't happen with annual reassignments.

And then...

Martin asked "What would happen if the person had multiple personalities who disagreed with each other?  Which personality would staff talk to?"

Frankly, if the person is a single parent, working three jobs, has a 3rd grade reading level and has had school discipline problems, we ought to be thankful that his kids are in school at all.   (What's more, we ought to find out how on earth he managed to get THREE jobs in this economy.)

Is The African American Dad....

just an example or a real person?  If he is just an example, I would ask Dr. Martin why would you have to throw in race in this example?  Does it really make a difference between an African American, White, Asian person that have a 3rd grade education?  

I had the exact same thought

He could have just asked what about parents that have a third grade reading level or what about parents who feel uncomfortable or don't feel welcome at a school, but why the demographic portion of the description? What does being African-American, a single dad or working multiple jobs have to do with whether or not a parent can figure out the choice plan? It struck me as the wind-up to the having a third-grade reading level and having had discipline problems pitch.

I Hate To Think, but

I believe it's based on a type of bias.  I had a minister once that said prayers for a teenager that was killed in a car accident.  His exact words were, "He was a nice African American teenager who was a great kid".   Was he surprised that an African America teenager could be a great kid?  This was a large church and with a  diverse congregation.   His statement rubbed me the wrong way as well as a lot of other people who were there. 


A little insight into how Dr. Jim Martin, Ph.D. views the world.

Give him some time to phrase

Give him some time to phrase ideas in a politically correct manner.

I'm so glad you and your

I'm so glad you and your friends gave Ron M and JT the same leeway and opportunity with regard to the way they "phrased" their ideas...

"Oh this man is just so intelligent....he's just not used to speaking to us meager, lowly uneducated masses.  We must just give him some time to phrase is wonderful ideas in such a way that us regular folk can understand without being offended."

Meanwhile....Ron M and JT were just "stupid" and "unprofessional"...

Is that not the way you think?


It has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with his ego. He thinks he is so much smarter than everyone else - especially those 3 job holding, illiterate AA fathers. It's been just over 24 hours and I'm sick of his arrogance already.

I am sure he is smart as are

I am sure he is smart as are you and me. In some areas. I doubt he implies he is smarter all the time in all areas.


It's never just an implication. He has a PhD, you know.

So how are things at Enloe?


His views will become very enlightening

over the next few weeks and people are going to be aghast.

I hope Wake County is ready for the Jim Martin Show. 

With sidekick Angry Sue and her lil' calculator.

This is the begining of the

This is the begining of the "this plan is too complicated for people to understand" campaign. Which will lead into the "we will choose for you because we don't want you to be confused" campaign.

and then they will wonder

and then they will wonder why people don't just go 'where they are supposed to go'.

If people would just "go

If people would just "go where they are supposed to go" and staff would just do what they are told to do, this would be a smooth running system.  It's creative and different ideas that cause the problems. (sarcasm).

Re: communication with parents who have not had good experience when they attended school, at the risk of complicating matters,.......it's not only what you say to parents but how you say it.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.