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Questioning when is the right time for Wake County to discard the controlled-choice assignment plan

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Is this the right time for Wake County to scrap the new choice plan and move to a base school assignment plan starting in the 2013-14 school year?

As noted in today's article, critics say problems have developed in the choice plan to warrant directing staff today to begin developing the switch back to an address-based plan. But supporters of the choice plan say it hasn't been given enough time to work.

"It's arrogant of them to do this and to disregard the parents who had problems before," said Republican school board member Chris Malone.

Malone said that some revisions of the choice plan would be understandable for the 2013-14 school year, but not discarding it. He said that most Wake families like the new plan.

A similar argument was raised by GOP board member John Tedesco, who said the choice plan needs more time to be evaluated before going back to a node-based plan in 2013.

“I’m not surprised this is something they are willing to do,” Tedesco said. “We’ve known for a long time they’ve wanted to go back to the failed policy of busing and telling families where they should go to school instead of having them choose.”

Harvey Schmitt, president of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, said it's appropriate for the school board to be reviewing the data from the choice plan. But he said there hasn't been enough time yet to have gathered data to say that the choice plan should be dropped.

Schmitt said that dropping the choice plan so soon could undermine public support for giving more money to the school system for operating needs and for a bond issue.

"The school system is legitimately try to instill confidence and credibility for additional funding," Schmitt said. “The more confusion and instability there is in the system, the more difficult it is to build critical mass for more funding."

But Democratic school board chairman Kevin Hill said that changes such as going to a base school plan shouldn't be a surprise.

“We’ve been saying all along that once we have the data and see where the student assignment plan is taking us, we’d review it and see where we can improve it,” Hill said.

Fellow Democratic school board member Christine Kushner pointed to how they didn't make a decision to stop the plan for this fall.

“We’ve been very deliberative,” Kushner said. “We didn’t rush in and make precipitous decisions. We’ve looked at the data. Now is the time to look at where we are and go forward.”

Kushner said Wake needs to have a "fair plan." She defined it as one that:
* Doesn't create additional high-poverty schools,
* Provides predictability of assignments (i.e. a student who lives three houses from a school should be able to attend it),
* Uses school capacity efficiently.

As for potentially dropping the controlled-choice plan, Kushner said Wake already had a choice plan, pointing to how people could apply to magnet schools and STEM schools.

"We've had choice for a long time," Kushner said. "Wake County has had a lot of choices."

One of the arguments from supporters of the choice plan is that it provides stability and ends reassignment.

"People are being reassigned right now," Hill said. "“When you get your third- or fourth-choice school, don’t tell me that’s not reassignment, We’re just not calling it reassignment.”

Tedesco said there's a difference between a student not getting his top choice and moving a node with hundreds of students.

1340108549 Questioning when is the right time for Wake County to discard the controlled-choice assignment plan The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Your headline--When is the

Your headline--When is the right time to dump the controlled-choice plan????  Not before the first year it has been implemented.  What is the proper timeframe to review such a plan? perhaps 6 years (after the K's that have just chosen their school matriculate to the next school in their feeder pattern--that's a good time to look a the first set of data from that transition) before then would be too early.  That said a school cycle for analysis would be K-12 for the life of one child--yep, 13 years is one cycle to look back and see how the feeder patterns worked, how population growth and construction of schools affected the schools chosen, etc.  You gave the prior plan 30-40 years before you even considered looking at it and Rosa Gill just swore the assignment plan was working.  Small tweaks in the selection of schools available due to capacity is one thing, dumping the plan entirely is an overcorrection.  This plan was pushed by Raleigh COC/WEP the time to dump it was before staff and parents put in umpteen hours trying to implement it. 

A different take


The WRAL story makes it sound like the changes will be minor, but reading the directive, it sounds like wholesale change.  The meeting is going to be . . . interesting.


WRAL is downplaying it...

WRAL is downplaying it... now that's a shocker.

There is obviously no "right

There is obviously no "right time" to do this. It's preposterous... no problem has been identified, no data to show that the proposed changes will do what they say to fix these phantom problems, and nothing at all has been presented to the public or even the full board and staff.

And, here is a question: How is it "good governance" to spend time, money, and effort over two years gaining input from the public, community organizations, and renowned experts to develop a plan that focues on the needs of famlies and academic achievement, and then scrap it one the eve of its' implementation? It is the single most outrageously irresponsible thing I can think of... and this is an elected body so the standard for shock value is very high.

Essentially the changes are designed to limit choice and increase mandates built on the Democrat Party philosophy of "we know better than you what's best." Clearly this nothing but pure politics and the welfare of our children and our schools are not even part of their consideration.

If they wanted to stop this

If they wanted to stop this thing they should have done it right away. All of the problems they are concerned about were predicted a year ago. We knew that newcomers would get shut out of some schools, we knew that some schools would see an increase in poverty rates, we knew that realtors would have trouble explaining the system to their clients, etc.

It is worse to stop this now than it would have been to stop it back in December.

When is the right time?

How about 3-4 weeks before the new plan EVER BEGINS!

School doesn't start for another few weeks and here we have the elitists Martin, Evans and Kush, along with their limp puppet master Hill, ready to abandon ship before it ever begins. And why? Because Yvonne says so and because Sam, and 42 others, are pissed because there are a few H-O-L-E-S in the plan.

Make sure you let the 3 Stooges and their ring leader know this is the end of their failed political careers. Maybe they only wanted to serve one term, maybe they don't care that the bond will now fail miserably, maybe they don't care that they look like total political pawns, but one thing is certain, our children will continue to suffer because of pathetic elitists such as this bunch and because education NEVER COMES FIRST in Wake County, POLITICS and REASSIGNMENT do!

Who will pay for this plan design?  The 2nd in as many years. I bet the Chamber won't support it! I bet Alves is laughing all the way to the bank.

Pack Junior's bags mommy and daddy, Jr. gets YET ANOTHER SCHOOL again next year!!!

And guess who is TOTALLY to blame for this continued mess, YOU, THE VOTERS!

An alternative to the bond

If the district redoes the assignment plan year after year, then eventually they won't need the bond because so many students will leave for charters.


It was going to be hard to get a bond passed, but it looks like the Board will guarantee the bond will fail. People want to know their money is being spent wisely, going back to the past to resurrect a failed assignment plan is not spending money wisely.

Money spent wisely

I don't recall the new assignment plan being touted as a cost reduction. In fact the budget has increased this year. More money spent on high needs schools, the creation of boutique schools and masking of the increased transportation costs. 

I don't recall saying the

I don't recall saying the new assignment plan was touted as a cost reduction either. But is it a wise use of the money spent implementing it then discarding it less than a year after it was put into place? Will the money spent on the new old assignment plan be money wisely spent? Good luck asking the public to give more money to the BOE after this.

Money wisely spent

Other than the $100k or so paid to Alves, what is the incremental cost ?  I haven't seen it disclosed anywhere.  Raises a good question. Just how much money has been spent on this new plan ?  

good question

Since the GOP voted against a financial analysis prior to implementation we don't really know.  This should be a priority for the new majority.  As for what's been spent to date - if the plan is a mistake there is no sense throwing any more money into it if it can be corrected.

Between the mess....

that the previous board created and the new one that will result from this, maybe charter schools are the best option. However, the good ones are all filled up - just like the top choices in schools. It will take years for new ones to prove themselves.

And this is what happens when school boards are politicized.

No, this is what happens

when MORONS are allowed to vote!

Umm...the mess was created

Umm...the mess was created by the 1999-2008 BOEs (and some prior).  There has been a good faith effort to attempt a clean-up but the new BOE is going to insist on returning to the past failure(s) because of their ideology.  There is, of course, ZERO data to even remotely suggest diversity based assignment ever helped anyone...ever.  There is some data, however, that suggest it may have hurt some people, albeit not entirely conclusive.  So....yes, I agree with you that this is what happens when school boards are politicized.

"the good ones are filled up"

How hilarious...This is exactly why liberals should not be in charge of anything.  You have no vision!  You can only see things as they are in the moment.  "If we increase taxes, everyone's behavior will stay the same so we'll increase revenue."  If demand for charter schools continues to increase, do you not think more "good ones" will be created?  If a parent believes a charter school is the best place for their child, how do you define it as a "bad one"?  If you want "good" charter schools to increase at a faster pace, increase the state and local portion of the funding for them.


“When you get your third- or fourth-choice school, don’t tell me that’s not reassignment, We’re just not calling it reassignment.”

What a complete and utter idiot. If you've never attended a school before, how can you call it reassignment?


Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/wakeed/questioning-when-is-the-right-time-for-wake-county-to-discard-the-controlled-choice-assignmen#storylink=cpy

deja vu

 Every community engagement meeting on assignment I ever attended always had  parents objecting to the fact that their child(ren) was being "reassigned" even though he/she had never attended the school.  Opponents of the old plan certainly included those children every time they said x thousands were being reassigned under the 3-year plan.  You can't have it both ways

This is True...

and many familes at these meetings also complained that they were being reassigned to a school that wasn't even close to their neighborhood or away from a school their neighborhoods had attended for decades.  Many familes were being reassigned to school 10 - 15 miles away when they had a school within 2 to 4 miles of their house.  I'm really concerned with the return to base assignments.  I think it is going to introduce the same problems that exist with any plan.   Some areas of the county just don't have the schools to handle all the children that are within a proximate distance to that school (within 5 miles for example). The ES level shouldn't be an issue, but it will definitely be an issue for MS and HS.   I wish there was a perfect plan, but in reality a perfect plan will never exist.  If this board moves forward with changes, I sure hope they are ready to address the new problems they will create.  

If this board moves ahead with changes

the new problems created will be the least of their concerns because they'll all be at home after the next election. Not even Perry Woods will be able to save them. They will alienate the largest number of parents/voters with one swipe of stupidity in the history of the wcpss.

This train wreck will be much more entertaining than any Colbert skit, take over at a board meeting by hymnal singers or lawsuit coverage. 

Pop some corn and get comfy.  The Martin/Evans Show is about to begin.


I never considered having your feeder pattern change for a future assignment a "reassignment" -- unless, of course, you already have one child in attendance at that school. I'm not trying to have it both ways. Hill is being disingenuous in his comments. Just like GSIW trying to claim 140,000 reassignments under the new choice plan.

I support stability in assignment. Always have.


I don't think so.  My neighborhood for years has been Leadmine/West Millbrook/Millbrook.  Now we are Leadmine/Carroll/Sanderson. The neighborhood is caught between the two now. If this isn't a reassignment then what is ?   I guess as long as you only move kids at the break  ES/MS and MS/HS it is not considered a reassignment ?


A reassignment has always meant taking students going to Elementary School A and sending them, for the following year, to Elementary School B, or from Middle School C to Middle School D, etc....  That did not happen this year, except by choice -- everybody was grandfathered.

The difference is that, previously, if your family had been switched to a L/C/S pattern, that would have necessarily involved reassigning middle school & high school students in your neighborhood -- there was always a reassignment.  If you want to call the pattern switch a reassignment (call it a "Pattern Reassignment"), fine, but that's not generally what people meant.

In either case, recall that last year was supposed to be the last year that involuntary Pattern Reassignments happened also!  The choice plan would end both traditional and pattern reassignments, once and for all.  


Well, my concern is for the stability of the student -- not the stability of your neighborhood. Call it what you want.

Stability for the student

You missed the point, stability for the neighborhood is stability for the student. How is it stability to the student when their friends are going to a different school ? 


Since when does stability mean that you go to school with kids from your neighborhood?  It may mean going to school with the same set of kids from Elementary through High School.  And the choice plan does that.  It may also mean not having your school change underneath you -- the choice plan does that also.  But, it's an odd definition if it means that everybody from a given neighborhood goes to school together.  

New Flash...

Did you ever consider that not everyone in the neighborhood would want the same base? If there are two good base schools with proximity of a neighborhood, you will not get consensus from the neighborhood on what the base should be. I use to think splitting a neighborhood was a bad thing, but realized after talking to many parents that they all wanted or needed something different for their family!

Same base

I would add that the schools would not have to be proximate.  I am wondering what happened to the Ron and John argument on neighborhood schools, building a sense of community around the school, the achievement improvement that would result in shorter bus rides, more parental support and on and on.  Don't hear to much of that anymore. 

I Would Agree..

But in the Leesville area there is only one high school that is proximate for a large portion of the Leesville township area. This school has been crowded in the past. The next closest HS to many homes in this area is over 10-12 miles away. The critics of the choice plan has said that is too far. Are these same critics going to be OK with this distance as long as it's because it's their base. I don't believe so! The same issue exists that existed with the choice plan so please tell me what problem are we eliminating! I don't see this issue at the ES level....my child goes to the 5th closest ES school to us today and it is not a problem for us. It will become a problem at MS and HS....guaranteed!

isn't it a question of expectations

The point has been made many times here that there is a different set of expectations under a so-called choice plan than an address-based plan.  You might not like the school your node is assigned to but if you decide to stay in WCPSS you accept that as part of the deal.   On the other hand being told it's a choice plan and you have a whole long list of schools to pick from creates a whole other set of expectations. 

Of Course It Is About Expectations.

but with base assignments do you honestly think there are parents that will not have 'expectations'.  Parents that have a base assignment have a whole new set of 'expectations' and reassignment isn't one of them.   People that haven't dealt with the reassignment of their node in the past doesn't believe it will ever happen to them until it does.  A base is no guarantee and based on the turmoil of the past the one main issue families want is stability.  You can't say the new plan wouldn't given stability because it has never been given a chance to mature and prove it one way or the other.  You can speculate all you want.  This will be not better and in mosts cases it will be worse. 

It was pitched as Neighborhood School Plan

How quickly they forget.  This choice plan was originally pitched as a neighborhood school plan, thus entire neighborhoods would stay together.  Now there arguing that it's not a neighborhood plan and there's no need to keep neighborhoods together.  Keep the plan but create base assignments instead of this arbitrary feeder pattern scheme and it should work. 

"Keep the plan but create

"Keep the plan but create base assignments instead of this arbitrary feeder pattern scheme and it should work"

It is impossible to keep a choice plan with base assignment.  Have you read the doc that Sutton presented?  The only choice is the magnet choice in their proposed plan--that's a joke.  I hope all your neighbors in Apex love the MYR and reassignments...because that is sure to follow if/when they vote this new node-based reassignment plan back into play.


Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/comment/reply/49071/263953#storylink=cpy

Not so fast...

Looks to me that staff is being directed to use student achievement in a base assignment plan, and being given the latitude to offer even more choice, creating room in the crowded areas, if done right.  


What happens when the base becomes crowded? Do you just keep cramming kids into the school until the next reassignment? Do you tell base families don't really have said base because a school is capped! In my area of the county there is only one MS and HS school option for many families and it's already overcrowded. I really see this has the potential to kill a future bond issue. I hope it doesn't, but it is a real possibility!

What happens when the achievement of a school goes down? Do you start reassigning the 'dumb' nodes out..and all of a sudden it becomes an achievement school again! What about those kids that were removed...you need to put them in an achievement school so you are going to need to remove other not so dumb nodes from another school to make room! Is that how you envision achievement working?

everything you described is happening now

What happens when the most proximate school (or the school you want or feel entitled to) becomes crowded? Keep cramming kids in, or as tata called it "find additional capacity" is happeneing right now under the new plan.  What does the new plan do in your part of the county except turn kids away from their most proximate schools because they are new to the area, opted out to YR for ES or MS, or are returning to WCPSS?  How is telling families the school is at capacity and not taking anymore  different from saying it's capped?  Just sounds better?  Doesn't it mean the same thing?  Think those families that are being shipped to a HS farther away are going to be eager to support this plan, or a bond? 

All the new plan did was create a new set of problems while addressing a few of the old ones.  It swapped the group that was unhappy for a new set of parents that are unhappy.


I would agree and have stated so in other areas on the blog, we are swapping one set of problems for another.  We will still have upset parents and I would assume that the parents that are upset with the choice plan may be even more so with the new plan if they don't get what they are wanting.  There will be upset parents somewhere!  This is a very honest question....why do you feel that we should be spending more time, money and resources to create a new plan when the results would be the same?   What is the benefit here.   Isn't that a waste of precious resources?  Would the time, money and resource be better spent on addressing the achievement issues? 

what choice is available

what choice is available with node-base assignments?  Sorry you cannot have it both ways it is not possible.  When they have to review it AT LEAST every 3 years (according to the directive) and consider demographic changes, parent income, etc.  give me a break...

The very people that said no to adding student achievement to magnet schools is wanting it now?

People Can Have

A choice for other options, but what if those options are crowded with base kids. Oh wait...that is a complaint we heard with this new plan same issue just not because of base kids. Old problems solved...new ones created or never really solved to begin with!


Are you saying that you will no longer support your new feeder pattern schools because parents in your neighborhood may have made a different choice than you or because not everyonen in that neighborhood goes to the same school?

The sense of community, improved achievement and increase parental involvement comes with the promise of long-term stability -- you know, like the choice plan offered -- and knowing your child won't get reassigned as soon as you get settled in.

Sense of community

So are you telling me that you did not support your assigned school because you thought you might be reassigned ?


I hesistated -- and then, as expected, her opt-out changed the following year.

I hesitated

I'll take that as a yes.  Sad indeed.


I'm glad you recognize how impactful constant reassignment can be. But I'm talking about actually changing schools mid-stream. Not having some decades-old feeder pattern change.


I didn't miss your point. Going to school with your friends has nothing to do with assignment stability.

Is my child's assignment unstable because I chose a different middle school than the rest of her friends?

Your choice

That is your choice and should be respected. On the other hand the choice of others has been taken away by the redesigned feeder patterns that has resulted in a massive reassignment. You want to go your own way, fine. But don't create a mess for the majority of others that value neighborhood stability, direct involvement in supporting the school and creating community.  And I thought this is what Ron really stood for. 


Well, she was in a opt-out school so her feeder pattern was completely different than her friends -- regardless of our choice of a tradt'l calendar school. However, I don't consider it a reassignment just because she's not attending school with her friends.

I didn't go my own way. We followed the dictated feeder pattern given to our node.


Massive reassignment by Your

Massive reassignment by Your choice is better than constant forced massive reassignment. I guess the difference is lost on you.

Your choice

Where do you get that from ?  There is no choice in the feeder patterns.  So it would seem you lucked out and the feeder pattern was what you were looking for. The rest of us were not so lucky.  


How will this new base assignment give you a choice of feeder patterns? What if the feeder pattern assigned to your neighborhood is not what the neighborhood as a whole wants? Are you lucky then because it is you base and in theory everyone from you neighborhood will be going?

Choice is the act of

Choice is the act of choosing. Looking at the options and deciding which is best for your family. When you choose a school you also choose a feeder pattern is this hard for you to understand?

PS I did not luck out and get the feeder pattern I wanted. My youngest is a rising Junior. What I did get was years of reassignment prior to the 2009 elections and I would not wish a repeat of that on anyone.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.