The Wake County magnet school application period is opening on Monday amid some questions and changes about how it will be affected by the new student assignment plan.
As noted in today's article, you've got changes in the timing of the application period and the selection criteria. And, perhaps even more importantly, you've got changes involving feeder patterns and no longer being able to "decline" your magnet acceptance like you did in the past.
The application period is opening two months earlier than normal to accommodate the start of the Jan. 17 application period for the non=magnet schools.
Vickie Adamson, PTA president at Ligon Middle School, said she's concerned that having the application period in December could make it hard on families to apply, especially for Christian families, involved in the holiday period.
Another concern is how the new choice plan does away with the old practice of where a family could turn down a magnet seat and stay at their base school.
James Overman, head of the student assignment task force, said that once a student is accepted into a magnet school or any other school they apply to they can no longer "decline" the offer. Once a student is selected for something to which they applied, Overman said that becomes their school assignment and their former seat is released to be assigned to another student.
Overman added they are selected for anything other than their first choice, they remain on the wait list for their first choice until June 30th.
Overman said a student who wants to make another choice, including applying for a school other than their magnet school, will need to participate in either the magnet or proximity choice selection. Since there are no longer "base attendance areas, Overman said students are no longer able to simply request to go back to base.
Now throw in questions about whether parents might not apply if they don't like the magnet school feeder.
For instance, a family who wants to go to Broughton High may not apply to Joyner Elementary because the magnet feeder leads to Millbrook High. Going to Joyner wouldn't lock them into Millbrook, but that family would not get the same guarantee if they had stayed at a non-magnet proximity school that feeds into Broughton.
New school board member Christine Kushner said she wants to look at how many magnet applications come in as one indication of how the new assignment plan is working out.
You've also got the new selection criteria that gives priority to applicants from higher performing nodes. Superintendent Tony Tata recently explained his justification for the change as he tied in the higher priority for high-performing students for magnet schools with the higher priority fro applicants from low-performing nodes to regional choice schools.
“The magnet program is designed to prevent the creation of high-poverty schools, at least for the Group 1 magnets," Tata said. "If you connect economic disadvantage or economic advantage with achievement and performance as the research shows, what you want to do is get higher-achieving students into the magnet schools and then as you displace students that have traditionally lower performance, you want to give them priority as I just talked about in some of the higher-performing schools.
What we don’t want to find ourselves in is a situation where we have the magnet program yet what we do is we invite more poverty into the magnet schools. That would seem to be a little bit counterproductive.”