During today's news conference, Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata announced a new online survey on the magnet school program and pointed to an uptick in home sales to dispute allegations that the student assignment plan is driving people away.
Starting with magnet schools, click here to take a survey that will run through June 1. Wake will use the feedback from the survey as part of the review of the magnet school program.
Tata said part of the review is looking at whether the objectives of the magnet school program should be revised, including making student achievement one of the components. He said the achievement gaps in magnet schools are "pretty stark."
At the request of school board vice chairman Keith Sutton, whose Southeast Raleigh district contains many magnet schools, the ongoing review will look at student achievement in the magnet school program.
"A lot of people express interest or surprise that student achievement is nowhere in the magnet discussion with regard to objectives," Tata said. "As we review the objectives going forward, should that be part of the discussion? And that’s part of the review we’re going to have with the board.
When you look at achievement gaps in magnet schools, they’re pretty stark. We’ve got to confront reality head on here and ask what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and where do we need to do it."
Tata also responded to how some Realtors and other critics of the new plan have charged that now that families are no longer guaranteed a specific school based on their address that newcomers are being scared away from moving to Wake. But Tata pointed to this month’s Triangle Area Residential Realty Report that showed that Wake County’s home sales, closings, showings and market share was up for the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same time last year under the old assignment plan.
"You’ve heard some people say that there were people walking away from Wake County and what the data shows is that we’ve increased market share," Tata said. "We’ve increased showings. We’ve increased closings for first quarter sales.
Second quarter sales may show something different, but in January, February and March when you had people saying this assignment plan was causing people to walk away from Wake County, what we saw was exactly the opposite. The data is showing that Wake County is performing very strongly in the real estate market, not only in the first quarter but relative to our neighbors. I think that’s relevant to the discussion that has been ongoing.”
The concerns of real estate agents are noted in the TAAR Report, which says that “for the first time, practitioners are dealing with buyers who are not selecting Wake due to perceived uncertainty about the choice-based plan.” But the report says its goal “is to be a fact-based voice of reason, not an emotional response based upon the experiences of a small sample set.”
Compared to the first quarter of 2011, the report found that for the first three months of 2012 that Wake saw a 24 percent increase in pending home sales, a 21 percent increase in closings and a 12 percent increase in showings. The report also found that Wake accounted for 54.9 percent of the Triangle’s home sales during the first quarter of 2012, up from 52.3 percent the same time in 2011.
"In summary, there is no way to determine a direct effect on the residential market due to the choice-based assignment plan," according to the report. "There are too many variables and it is not appropriate to tie the performance of the overall market to a certain demographic. Indirectly, given the large percentage of parents with schoolage children and the favorable Wake County metrics, it does not appear the market has reacted adversely."
The next stage in the assignment plan will come Tuesday when current students will get notices sent home with them listing their 2012-13 school assignment. Letters will be mailed to newcomers.
Tata said the assignments on the May 15 letters could still change because they’re planning to place people on waitlists through at least June 29.
Starting Tuesday and running through June 1, families who don’t like their assignment for this fall can file a transfer request. Transfers that are rejected by staff can be appealed to the school board.
“Transfers will be granted on a limited basis related to hardship,” Tata said.