Here's a very quick recap of today's Wake County school board policy committee discussion on changing the student assignment policy.
Debra Goldman, chairwoman of the committee, asked the members present to lay out what they considered to be the keys to student assignment. A big gap was apparent between new and old board members.
All the board members agreed that academic success for students is important. But they differed on what role socioeconomic diversity plays in it all.
For instance, school board member Deborah Prickett argued that there's no proof that the diversity policy works. She questioned whether dispersing low-income students around is an ineffective way of using federal Title I dollars because some kids won't be at schools with those programs.
Goldman said the current policy leads to lack of stability.
But board member Kevin Hill said keeping schools comparable helps keep good teachers at schools, which in turn helps academics.
Board member Carolyn Morrison said being around kids of different backgrounds helps students. She said it also helps with college admission because universities like kids to come from diverse schools.
Goldman said they'll next meet again Feb. 24 to begin the actual discussion of changes to Policy 6200.
Based on the level of interest, here's an expanded look at the discussion on Policy 6200.
Kevin Hill was the first member to share his perspective on the policy after Goldman made the request.
Hill said he looks at Policy 6220 from the perspective of an educator. He said the key to the policy is comparability between schools, which is tied into the quality of teachers schools have.
“I don’t want teachers picking and choosing different schools because of the perception, real or imagined, that one school is good and another is bad,” Hill said.
Hill said comparability is the "crux of studenta assignment policy."
Next came Carolyn Morrison, who said the key to Policy 6200 is creating and maintaining a diverse student body.
Morrison said research shows that the single best predictor of how a student does is who they go to school with. She said if students attend schools with students just like them, they’re not as likely to learn new things.
Morrison said colleges are looking for students coming from divere schools because it will help them be prepared to deal with the global economy. She said Wake's students "automatically get a leg up now" from the diversity policy.
Next came Deborah Prickett, who said her key is creating stable school environments.
Prickett said research shows that parental involvement is one of the key factors involved in student success. But she said right now with students getting shuffled all around, parents can't get as involved.
Prickett said achieving academic success for all students may be different based on students needs. She said they need to look not just for good teachers, but more effective teachers. She said some teachers are more effective with certain kids than other teachers.
Prickett then pointed to the 54.2 percent graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students to question the effectiveness of the current policy.
“This policy has been used but I don’t see the data that goes with it to see if it works," Prickett said.
Prickett said she understands why the goal is to keep the percentage of F&R kids at each school under 40 percent. But she said Wake is leaving a lot of Title I money on the table
Prickett said the Title I money could be really helping students in this area. She talks about how she was in Charlotte last week as part of her state job and while the schools looked different, "a lot of those schools are doing very well even though their F&R populations are higher."
Prickett also disputed the school district's distance analysis for using "as the crow flies" for determining how far students are from school. She said Wake should use a program like Mapquest that uses driving distance.
Supt. Del Burns stepped in to say he needed to clarify what Prickett said. He said Wake isn't losing any Title I money because funding is based on the districtwide F&R total.
Prickett responded that she meant that the current policy spreads F&R kids around so that they might not be in a school where they’re getting Title I help.
Prickett then asked Burns if he agreed with that statement. Burns said he agrees, but he said that money is not being left on the table. Prickett fired back that Title I resources are not being used as effectively
Keith Sutton said he doesn't just want to pick out one point from the policy. He said was concerned about the "Dec. 1 hijacking" that removed all references to diversity from Policy 6200.
Sutton said the revised policy needs to keep many of the important parts of the current policy.
Goldman responded with an indirect dig at Sutton, saying how groups have changed it from being called the assignment policy to the diversity policy. She noted the "maneuvering the day before the election to make it the diversity policy."
Goldman was referring to the Friends of Diversity press conference on the day before the October elections that had been organized by Sutton. Her remark got snorts from the audience, which consisted largely of supporters of the current policy.
After Sutton came Anne McLaurin, who said the most important thing from the current policy is achieving academic success for all students. She agreed with Prickett that academic success is different for some students.
McLaurin also said the teaching component is important. She said "schools with challenges tend to do less well with higher teacher turnover."
But McLaurin also added that she thinks "stability is important" and "that addressing distances as part of the solution is important."
Last up was Goldman, who said it's really hard to rank in order the priorities from the current policy.
Goldman said everything can be summed up by achieving academic success for all students. She said part of success is about not worrying where you’ll have to go to school next year.
“It’s really hard to build a connection when you don’t know if you’ll be moving," Goldman said.
Goldman said some student movement is a logical consequence of growth. But she said Wake needs to find a way to move students less and find proximity to residence.
Goldman wrapped things up by asking the board members present to do a "homework assignment." She asked them to look at the policy in more detail and make notes on things that need to be addressed.
Goldman said that in two weeks they'll get into a discussion on how to move forward with making changes and best encompass their goals. She joked that she'll give the assignments to Hill, a former Wake teacher and principal, to grade.
Chris Malone is a member of the policy committee but had to leave before the policy 6200 discussion because of a conflict with another meeting.
John Tedesco was not at the meeting.
Ron Margiotta had been there before the policy committee started to confer with Goldman and Burns about next week's board agenda. But he left before the meeting started.