Don't look for a thick stack of studies explaining why the Wake County school board majority made the decision to scrap the diversity policy in favor of community-based schools.
As noted in today's article, the response Wake sent this week to AdvancED about the information used for making the policy switch consisted of a four-paragraph response. No studies accompanied the letter.
Wake was meeting a Friday deadline to to turn over a wide range of documents or risk immediate loss of accreditation of the high schools.
Back in July, AdvancED had requested, among other things:
"A copy of any and all information and studies considered along with a list of any and all sources consulted with by the Board and Board members in reaching the decision to adopt the policy enacting a Community Based Assignment Plan. Please include any and all student performance data, transition plan impact studies, financial impact studies and specific case studies supporting the conclusion that the Community Based Assignment Plan will create improve the schools in Wake County that are accredited by AdvancEd."
Wake's initial response was to question why they wanted the documentation.
"The Board’s overriding concern is that your request seems to have little, if anything, to do with the accreditation status of individual high schools in Wake County,” school board attorney Ann Majestic wrote in a Sept. 8 letter to AdvancED. “Instead, they strongly suggest that AdvancED wishes to second guess the merits of the Board’s decision to transition to a community-based school assignment plan."
Amid grumbling, Wake responded with this letter this week by interim Superintendent Donna Hargens:
“There is no one set of information considered by board members in deciding to shift to a community-based assignment plan – the information varies by the members who voted in favor of this change. Four of the members who approved the change had just been elected by large margins in campaigns where changing the student assignment plan was a core issue. Thus, it is fair to say that information coming from “stakeholders” who were dissatisfied with the prior student assignment plan was a factor for some board members. Certainly personal experience was also a factor for many board members who are parents or grandparents of students in the school system. Student performance and financial information were also considered by board members.
The core beliefs underlying the change to a community-based student assignment plan are reflected in the enclosed “Resolution Establishing Board Directive for Community Based School Assignments” adopted by the Board on March 1, 2010. The resolution outlines the Board’s beliefs and commitments, including a commitment to the highest educational results for all children regardless of race, creed, economic status or nationality and the use of objective, data-driven decision making; and a belief that all stakeholders benefit from a strong sense of community and that stability and continuity play a critical role in the positive development and support of children, families and communities.
The Board’s resolution recognizes that a new plan will require 9-15 months to develop and will require input from stakeholders, staff and planning and zoning officials. The resolution also identifies key features to be included in the plan, including a multi-year transition; respect for the community and institutional history while being innovative and mindful of future growth; a commitment to a high quality education for all children; logical feeder patterns for schools and school and calendar options for families; effective and efficient use of facilities and other resources; and better alignment of internal management systems.
The Student Assignment Committee is undertaking the task of developing a proposed plan within the parameters established by the Board. The Committee is reviewing and will consider a wide range of information and data pertaining to student performance, resource utilization, transition options and other relevant matters. The Committee is also seeking and reviewing ongoing input from stakeholders and will schedule seven public hearings across the district in January and February 2011 to receive feedback from the public."
Most of Wake's responses to the other questions consisted of a thick packet of attachments. The four paragraphs above was the sum total of Wake's response about the data used for the switch.
School board member John Tedesco said they didn't have enough time to include stuff such as student performance data in the package that was sent overnight Thursday to AdvancED. He said they just don't have some of the other data such as financial impact studies.
But Tedesco said it was "too premature" to have financial data when they're still setting up how they'll operate the new model.
Supporters of the old diversity policy have often contended that the board majority didn't have the data and studies to back the change in assignment policy. But Tedesco says there are no studies showing that Wake's diversity policy helped the low-income students who were being bused.