The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. How will the new student assignment plan balance diversity, stability, proximity and stability? How will Jim Merrill replace Tony Tata as the new superintendent of the state's largest district? How will voters react to a $810 million school construction bond referendum on Oct. 8 ballot? How will this fall's school board elections impact the future of the district?

WakeEd is maintained by The News & Observer's Wake schools reporter, T. Keung Hui. While Keung posts information and analysis on the issues, keep us posted on your suggestions, questions, tips and what you're doing to cope with the changes in Wake's schools.

Choose a blog

Using academic achievement to maintain diversity in student assignment

Bookmark and Share

Is factoring student achievement into the mix for student assignment in Wake County another way by the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and the Wake Education Partnership to at least partially maintain the old diversity policy?

As noted in today's article, there's a strong correlation with lower test scores, poverty and race. Balancing achievement levels in the new plan being developed by Michael Alves would likely result in zones that are more racially and socioeconomic ally diverse than those being considered by the school board.

Alves said Thursday it's his goal to make the new zones reflect the demographics of the county by using student achievement. For instance, he said he wouldn't put all of Southeast Raleigh in one zone.

“You’d want zones to have city schools and suburban schools,” Alves said. “You can reflect the natural diversity of the county.”

You could have Southeast Raleigh split into multiple zones to try to balance out the academic performance levels.

School board member John Tedesco, chairman of the student assignment committee, is skeptical about how you could have roughly similar achievement levels across the zones without gerrymandering the boundaries.

“If you're trying to draw up zones based on maintaining quotas, you won't maintain public support,” Tedesco said.

Tedesco said they're already factoring in student achievement in the planning process. For instance, he said you might set aside half the seats in Southeast Raleigh magnet schools for neighborhood children.

In low-performing schools, Tedesco said Wake can take advantage of the state law that was passed this year as part of the effort to win the federal Race to the Top grant. The law says that low-performing schools can replace staff, be turned into community schools or be converted to charter schools.

Wake's old student assignment policy did have a provision saying that a goal was to limit a school to no more than 25 percent of students not passing state reading exams. But the reality is that it wasn't much of a factor, especially back in the early part of the last decade when passing rates were much higher before the state toughened the exams.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Keung? Time Magazine?

Yesterday, Time Magazine released an issue focused on education.     The Magazine and Oprah's episode yesterday both mention the upcoming release of the movie Superman on Thursday, again focused on improving education.  Topics are focused on helping students achieve.  Would it be possible to consider a thread around the Time Magazine issue?  or the movie?   or even one for each?

It is Vol 176, No. 12 published on Sept 20 if anyone wants to check it out at time.com.

So as not to mislead, the whole issue is not focused on education but there are couple of articles there with links to previous articles, some already brought here like the discussion on the loss of Fenty to DC.

Possibly. I've got some

Possibly. I've got some things to do first before heading out to the board work session.

Slight revision

One slight revision -- the movie's title is "Waiting for Superman".    Note that the website allows you to purchase a ticket to the movie and, in the process, donate $15 to a classroom of your choice.   

How the Media Can Help

How the Media Can Help Schools Posted by Venita Peyton  

Beyond name calling there is a role for everyone who cares about bettering Wake County Public Schools. We can start by using the media.
Wake County is too important to continue falling into tabloid sensationalism. We all want a better educational outcome for our children. We just have to hear each other and listen better.
Just look at how differently many of us interpret the following:
  • Diversity. Some see color. Others see race. Class. Economic conditions. Sexual identity.
  • Cary. White. Rich. Golf course. (I know that Cary is much broader than that).
  • Low achievement. Some translate that to inability. Poor. Black.
We must have a series of broadcasts to reach all segments of Wake County, beginning with a good moderator. Someone with experience in communication differences and gaps. I recommend Dr. James Johnson, Director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center of UNC Chapel Hill.
Next, the setting. The intimacy of a television studio allows a better dialogue than an auditorium. The series must be supplemented with classroom, bus and home interviews. Some people are uncomfortable in certain settings and audiences. Yet their thoughts are powerful. And their persuasive ability to communicate and connect with other parents cannot be ignored.
Who should be included? Obviously, parents, teachers and students.
A local reporter was given the name of a parent to talk with earlier this year about the diversity policy. Later he inferred that she seemed drunk. Maybe she was. Maybe she wasn't. Perhaps his presence made her nervous.
One thing for sure. Wake County is too important to keep falling down. Word is we're the largest county in North Carolina. North Carolina once was said to have the highest collection of PhDs in the country.
All of us are guilty of our inability to include a cross section of affected people. Assumptions have replaced truth.
But if we're serious then we best get busy talking TO each other.  


Its gratifying to have the dialog turn so much onto achievement. Even though it was blasphemy to shine a light under that rock before last Fall, the public was made aware of the ED graduation rate and the fact that so many qualified children's are denied the opportunity for eighth grade Algebra because of a determined look at achievement. Discussion of individual student achievement didn't fit with the model of trying to smooth out the data imperfections with the healthy schools model. 

But now, here we are talking about it. And now we have an brand new task force focused on Economically Disadvantaged students and how to help them. That's huge! So, as painful as it all has been and may continue to be, we're moving in the right direction. 

But, so, should achievement be tied to assignment? That makes me a little uncomfortable, and I'm going to try to understand better how that might work. I'd be afraid that if children had a certain GPA level one year they'd be assigned to X school, and a different GPA another year, they'd be assigned to Y school. ("get a lower GPA Johnny, and we can get into that magnet school" - ?) Certainly hope it couldn't possibly work that way. 

Why can't children have a stable assignment model of modified choice, and then all schools will be reviewed for student achievement? Couldn't the achievement audit be used as a guage for types of resource allocation (not quantity)?


Published Sun, Sep 19, 2010 05:41 AM
Modified Sun, Sep 19, 2010 05:41 AM

Excited kindergartners meet their violins

Nearly 50 children marched into the community center's auditorium Saturday, eyeing the shiny instruments that are intended to change their lives.

On a table in the front corner, small violins in various shades of wood, strung and displayed atop their black padded cases, awaited their new owners.

When the children were finally allowed to touch them, they made the first notes in a symphony of hope.

"I think it is beautiful," said Jaria Spears, 5, creating screeching sounds as her grandmother, Annie, beamed.

The day marked the official kickoff of KidZNotes, a program that aims to use classical music to inspire learning and break the cycle of poverty.

The program will provide free music training to 60 Durham children from three elementary schools, Eastway, Y.E. Smith and E.K. Powe.

Sponsored by Durham Public Schools, the Durham Symphony and the East Durham Children's Initiative, the KidZNotes program is based on a model called "El Sistema" that began in Venezuela. That program has established a national system of youth orchestras that promotes positive change for thousands of the country's underprivileged children.

In the Durham program, most of the children are kindergarten age, but about 20 third-graders are also serving as leaders and mentors to the younger participants, said KidZNotes Executive Director Katie Wyatt. She spent a year studying and exploring the curriculum, methods and philosophy of El Sistema.

The youngsters will get four days of after-school music lessons and orchestra practice on Saturdays.

Hattie Hunter sat among the parents, siblings and guardians who gathered Saturday at Holton's Career and Resource Center, the program's home base, as the children practiced singing, dancing and jingling bells.

Hunter kept her eye on her grandson Lawrence Hunt, who moved in with her more than two years ago after his father was incarcerated and his mother abandoned him, Hunter said.

The tall third-grader at Y.E. Smith school loves to play the keyboard and has been inquiring about playing the piano, Hunter said.

"He always asked me, 'How do you get to learn this type of stuff?'" said Hunter, 53. "But we don't have the funds."

The kickoff drew an eager, hopeful crowd. The children, wearing bright red KidZNotes T-shirts, marched into the auditorium, where they were introduced to Durham Symphony Music Director William Henry Curry.

Curry said that while growing up in Pittsburgh, he was always interested in music.

"But in my household there wasn't any money for those frills," he said. "However, in sixth grade, all of a sudden free instruments, free lessons. And that began a whole new chapter in my life. So I can tell you what a wonderful journey you are going to go on."

That journey will include making lifelong friends, discovering the glories of classical music and appreciating past masters, he said.

"Once you discover, 'Oh my gosh, Mozart was just as wonderful as Lady Gaga," he said, "that will be a great moment in your life."

As Lawrence Hunter picked up his violin and played it like a guitar, tears clouded his grandmother's eyes. "It was good," Lawrence said about receiving his new instrument. Later this year he will be allowed to take it home.

Glendy Sanchez, 5, posed and played her violin as her father, Prospero Sanchez, beamed and snapped photos with his phone.

"This is another step for my daughter," Sanchez said in his native Spanish. "She will be confident and develop in the community 

how to choose a school

my suggestion - get your hands on the EVAAS report for a school, a report that shows GROWTH of children in math, reading and science in academic achievement levels I-IV in all grades. A healthy school is one which shows growth in all academic achievement levels - all kids are engaged, all kids are learning, all kids are getting what they need. The principal is clearly a strong leader, the teachers are clearly effective.  Which means your child will be in an environment that is academically diverse and where all children are valued.

If the assignment zones stay like they are I won't be able to choose our current schools, but I have found a small, underrolled school in my proposed new zone that meets all these criteria - York Elementary.

changing assignment is not going to change academic performance

Perhaps someone can help me understand why assignment matters at all. I get that it does from the perspective of parents who fear ED kids and what damage they think they will do to their school (the Sanderson debate, the magnet parent concern). I get that the business community is worried about the perception of our schools. But the hard truth is that it will not change a thing academically.

What will change our current situation of low academic performance? Teachers in the front of a classroom that 1) Believe that all kids have the capacity to learn 2) Have the training and understanding of how to reach children who did not come to school ready to learn 3) Use data, not demographics, to target low performers 4) That are recognized and rewarded for their skills and talents.

An example - 2 kids that i work with in Washington Terrace in SE Raleigh. One is working well about grade level and has strong reading comprehension. What do i do for him? Put an exciting book in his hand (the Olympian series) and he is instantly reading (easy breezy for me). Another child - in 3rd grade, should be in 4th, and reading at a 1st grade level. Can't put a 1st grade book in his hand, a story about a chicken and a duck is boring. So we choose a 3rd grade level book and he acts out the main character. We use "thoughtful literacy," we talk a lot to make sure he understands the situations and the characters, we find the geographic location of the story on a map, we laugh ("perfect peter is called that because he is a momma's boy"), we build a relationhship with the text. It takes time, energy and effort, and most importantly, an understanding of what must be accomplished - cognitive development. This is easiest to accomplish in pre-K, but can be done with older kids. I have NO training in primary education - I just understand what he needs. All of you can volunteer in a school and make this happen. 30 minutes with a child makes a HUGE difference.

Wake has got to figure out what it values - academic performance or the perception that all is well in our schools. Do we really value ED kids? For those that don't know or value individual kids, at least understand this - our ED kids are the tail that wags the dog - we will rise or fall with their success or failure.  Our Hispanic kids are not a drain on our system - they are the future of our country just as previous immigrant children were 100 years ago. The adults in this county need to do better.

Commendable actions, but I have a question -

  Hi Snordone - Not picking on you here, because you do indeed "get it", which is any child not performing or is at risk of not performing at grade level deserves more to see that he does. BUT -

If  changing student assignment isn't going to improve learning for any students, rich or poor,  then why are these board members reassigning students? Yes, as a county we should all be volunteering and tutoring with children who need help, and it is admirable you do so, but what segregated schools really does is HIDE those children from our everyday environment. Having disadvantaged students in your school drew your attention, and you reacted via volunteerism. I commend you. And, I agree with you. BUT - if segregated schools, economically, racially, academically, whatever,  become the status quo, how is the next generation going to react? The fear of many is "out of sight, out of mind".


these kids are not in my son's school, this was something that started after the Obama campaign. A friend of mine was volunteering in SE Raleigh registering voters and noticed that the kids were in need of somewhere to go. So he got together with a local businessman and they started an afterschool program. The only reason that this is possible is that the kids walk to us and walk home. They are bused to N. Raleigh, their school tried to do afterschool tutoring but could not continue because the bus was dropping the kids off after dark and is was not safe.

I honestly don't care much about assignment, other than stability is critical, and that we need program equity so that we don't have underenrolled or overenrolled schools. I feel like too much attention has been given to this issue for years, at the expense of the things that matter.



Again, thank you for volunteering in the after school program.  I would argue that what happens in the classroom all day prior to that is even more important than a quality after school program.  Much has been made recently about how important high quality teachers are to children's learning.  I think it's hard to attract quality teachers to stay in schools where most of the class is below grade level.  While financial incentives might attract some (and where would that money come from in woefully underfunded WCPSS?), many would grow weary, leading to frequent turnover and probably not being replaced by a corps of experienced, high quality teachers.  That's why school assignment matters.

quality vs effective

replace "quality" with the word EFFECTIVE and I will agree with that statement. Effective teachers are found at all schools, regardless of demographics.

Yes, we are underfunded, but we also don't use our money effectively.

My point is that nothing will change in Wake until we focus on education, effective teachers and effective school leaders. Check out GSIW's "research" section, they have a great article about the cost of failing to educate children.


However, in order to achieve stabilty in assignment, the old assignment plan had to go. The constant pursuit of the mindless 40% goal drove much of the reassignment of low-income children. Either a school had too many or not enough and year after year these children were targeted to adjust the quotas. There was never a concern about stability for these children or any other child for that matter. I watched groups of children come and go every year over the 3 years my child attended our traditional opt-out school.


another thought

Snordone, first of all, thank you for volunteering in our school system!  In your post, you wonder why assignment matters.  In a zone that has fewer than 50% of children grades 3-5 achieving at grade level, what is the effect on the classroom and the teacher to which they are assigned?  It is a lot harder to figure out and attend to what each of those students needs compared to a zone in which 90% of the children are achieving at or above grade level.  That's why assigning students and considering achievement matters. 

I find it ironic that a common argument (by some WakeEd bloggers) against healthy schools is that struggling students get less attention when they are spread somewhat evenly throughout the system.  How in the world will a teacher be able to give more individual attention to struggling students when they are concentrated in higher numbers in the same classroom?  And if you would propose that they all need similar interventions, you'd be wrong.  That's why assignment matters.

If some schools are lower

If some schools are lower performing, or not the "desired school" within a zone, they will be able to address the issue to improve performance and make it more "desirable".  The school that is less desirable will be put to the task of making improvements to make them more desirable (put the onus on the administration of that school).

This makes sense, but it could apply in any assignment model, couldn't it?  It will be interesting to see how the magnets end up being adjusted.  Right now, a school cannot do much to make a school more 'desirable'.  I think some of the lower cost magnet programs could be replicated at other schools but right now those schools aren't allowed to do so.  Leadership/Covey is the one I'm thinking of offhand.  Those principles seem like ones that would be great at any school.  I'd like to see non-magnet schools be able to implement programs like that to meet the needs of their students and to attract families.

I also think that when you get the parents an opportunity to choose and guarantee them stability by allowing them to stay at their school through the years, you will get more parents involved and thereby help achievement.  Regardless of whether the school is across the street or a couple miles away.

I absolutely agree.  That's one reason why magnets have such strong parental involvement.  Parents know their children and their childrens' classmates will be there from year to year.  That makes a big difference.  Our elem school went through this a couple of years ago.  We had a major reassignment at the same time that we served as a traditional opt out.  It was hard. 


Right now, a school cannot do much to make a school more 'desirable'.  

There is a lot that can be accomplished with leadership.

If it could just be

If it could just be accomplished with leadership then we'd have no problems at some of these schools.  We'd also have no need for magnets to bring the middle class base back.  I agree that just giving a special program is not enough, but neither is having effective leadership.

I think the rim schools are especially hard hit because they are so close to the magnets.  We loved Joyner when we were there but it was just too danged far away for our family.  If I lived in midtown (whatever in the heck southern North Raleigh is called these days) I'd definitely be at a magnet.  Even if my base school was excellent. 

You have a child at Ligon, don't you?  I think I remember you saying that you didn't care about the electives, but more about the rigor there.  I care about both.  East Millbrook doesn't have the greatest scores but I know that my son will do well and I want the electives for him.  Now if the teachers were terrible and didn't care about academics or the students themselves then no way would the electives be worth it.  But they've added a lot to his middle school experience.

Good Dialogue

I think we both know that desirable means different things to different people.  Trying to appease all in a district of 140,000 is going to be impossible.  Heck the town  I lived in just outside of Boston, student population of 3,000, the school budget debates on what should be funded and what should not were very spirited - front page of the town newspaper, talk in the grocery store.....ect.   Bottom line for me is that wcpss offers a good education and opportunity for a low cost - when compared to the North. People talk of Knightdale getting short changed on AP classes. Margiotta's old district only offers 8.   If my daughter had not gotten into Ligon, I would not have harbored any animosity towards the school system, we would go to our base school and make the most of it - knowing that what we were getting was as good or better than what we would have gotten in the North, as good or better than Thales or any of the moderate private schools.  What disappoints me is the "if I can't have it - nobody can have it" attitude. 

Good luck at East Millbrook, I hope it works out for you.  

If I can't have it...

"What disappoints me is the 'if I can't have it- nobody can have it' attitude."

Solon, I'm sorry if that's how I sounded. That isn't how I feel. I feel  WCPSS spends lots of time and money supporting and advertising the magnets, but in reality, many people don't have a fair shot at going there, and what the magnets are doing is not representative of what the school system is providing at "regular" schools. I'm looking for greater program parity between magnets and non-magnets, and a lottery admissions process that is fair to all student applicants, no matter their background, address, or home situation.

I don't ever think about it

I don't ever think about it as "north" and "south".  Probably because I'm from the midwest and even though that is the 'north', it seems like North is thought of as New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania around here.  I didn't leave Illinois to escape high taxes--we weren't in Chicago or the suburbs so we didn't have that issue. 

I don't think that if I can't have it, nobody can when it comes to magnets or any other opportunities in the system.  I only advocate for everybody to have equal access to those opportunities.  We all pay for them through our taxes, we're all told that this is a countywide school system and that we share resources.  So let's actually do that.   I've been a vocal proponent for F&R to be taken out of the equation for magnet acceptances, but that actually hurts my family's chances for magnet spots.  Having F&R taken out of the magnet lottery might very well have sealed our fate this year when we got denied for Ligon again. 

Thanks for the good wishes about E Millbrook.  We just started our 2nd year there and it really is a great school.  My son could just use the kick in the pants at Ligon and he would LOVE the electives like Flash, robotics and the like.  But I'm thrilled and thankful every day that he got into East Millbrook.  I have a friend here in my neighborhood whose son goes to Durant MS (base).  He had to take some "exploring careers" elective 2 years in a row because there just aren't very many electives there and he couldn't get his other choices.  So like I said, I'm thrilled that we are at East Millbrook.  I encourage everybody to give E Mill a second look. 

Kick in the pants

My son could just use the kick in the pants

I am not sure any school could do this, except maybe military. Anyway, my son use to drive my wife crazy - being so different from our girls.  I kept telling her not to worry it is how they are, having been one myself many many many years ago.  Eventually, (or most anyway) they come out of it.  My son and others that I know - happened around Sophomore year in HS, so don't expect any instant miracles. 

As far as "if I cannot have it, nobody can " - this was not directed towards you. My apology if it came across that way.


"Right now, a school cannot

"Right now, a school cannot do much to make a school more 'desirable'.  

There is a lot that can be accomplished with leadership."

Don't forget that the previous boards deliberately created a system of "Haves" and "Forbidden to Haves."  Following Caroline Massengill's recommendations, non-magnet elementary schools are forbidden to offer "electives, or anything that resembles an elective."  The non-magnet middle schools were limited to a day with 6 academic periods per day.  Since the required core classes take up 4 of those periods, and health/PE takes up the 5th, this leaves only one period per day for electives in non-magnet middle schools.  And don't forget that one of the 6 semesters available for electives during a non-magnet middle schooler's education is required for a keyboarding class, so this leaves a grand total of 5 semester-long electives during their middle school time.

Leadership makes a difference --- but it is difficult for it to overcome intentionally applied impediments.



I guess this highlights a difference in views.  To me a desirable ES school is one that does a good job in the basics or reading, writing and math. I could really care less about  gymnastics and other fluffy electives.  As I have mentioned before, I believe Leadmine is a desirable school, they do a good job with a diverse student body and they are not a magnet.   

It appears your vision of a desirable school is just one that offers electives, over academic performance.


You are talking about

You are talking about elementary schools, but I believe Apexter is talking about middle schools, where electives are not only desirable, but essential, as students begin to discover who they are and where their interests lie.

Deprived non magnet base schools

Please show me where our base school offering is substaintially less than base schools in other parts of the country.

All right, you lost me

All right, you lost me there. Here's how I understand the conversation unfolded:

  1. Apexter states that previous boards purposely made base middle schools less desirable by forbidding them to offer some electives (a valid point).
  2. You respond by saying that a school's desirability has nothing to do with electives, citing some fluffy elective offerings in elementary school (also a valid point).
  3. I note that Apexter is talking about middle schools, while you are talking about elementary schools. I agree that for some parents (like you and I) that ES electives don't really affect a school's desirability, but I also agree that for some parents (like Apexter and I) that MS electives can have a big effect on a school's desirability, because those electives can help begin to shape the interest and future paths of students.
  4. And this is where you lost me -- you challenge me to show me where our base MS offer substantially less electives than other schools in the country? Apexter has already noted that they offer substantially less electives than other schools is the county. Why is it necessary to look any further?


Apexter referred to both ES and MS - I responded with reference to ES. 

With regards to the wcpss base MS offerings being less than other in the county - this is comparing magnet vs non magnet.  Compare wcpss base (non magnet) to other (non magnet) schools in the state or other parts of the country and you will find the wcpss base schools are competitive.  

My point is - while many complain about the lack of offerings at our non magnet ES and MS - they are competitive with other parts of the country.  If you don't believe this - then show me districts that offer more as their base education offering. 


The most glaring discrepency is in foreign language offerings.  You wanted districts that have more -- here are a few:

Fairfax, VA: http://www.fcps.edu/DIS/OHSICS/forlang/schools.htm

Albany, NY: http://www.albanyschools.org/academics/foreignlang.html  (scroll down to the description of district programs)

Also, it appears that most Pennsylvania districts require foreign language in middle school -- see http://www.northallegheny.org/195620116111238290/lib/195620116111238290/2010-2011_CMS_Handbook_Final_2.PDF (p. 11),  http://www.uscsd.k12.pa.us/4665308111111/blank/browse.asp?A=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&C=48837  or http://www.pbsd.k12.pa.us/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/oblock-program-of-studies.pdf  for examples.  (The second of those requires students to take a language starting in 6th grade)


Achievement is good. Non-discrimination is better.

If the Alves plan adds student achievement into the mix for assignment, my fear is that the students who achieve more will be "held" to a school that may need "better" students when there may be other schools in the area that have classes that would be a better academic fit for those students. This sounds to me much like how many WCPSS students who live in certain areas have a very small chance of ever getting into a magnet school under the old policy (for diversity) or under the new policy (because rim schools are under-capacity). 

If we're going to build a plan of controlled choice, we have to actually GIVE A CHOICE. WCPSS has a long history of saying "hey, sure, you're worried about AYP? We understand, no problem. We'll give you an opt out school 25 minutes away with no traffic, in the opposite direction of where both parents work, but that's ok as you really don't need to be involved in that school since it is not really part of YOUR community. And hey, there are no grandfather rights, so your younger kid will be at the school you're leaving anyway."  The choice really becomes a punishment. That attitude is what got us into the current state, and this feels a little too familiar to me for comfort.

I'm ok with controlled choice, and I'm ok with student achievement in the mix, as long as the focus of the decision making stays on what is best for the STUDENT, not the SCHOOL. I feel the schools serve the students, not the other way around, whether that student is F/R or wealthy, or any color under the rainbow. 

Dan Coleman had it right- we all need to access the excellent education that can be found in Wake County, and I don't want that sacrificed on the altar of student achievement any more than it should be sacrificed for diversity.

But if Alve's plan adds

But if Alve's plan adds student achievement into the mix, it would be for the definition of the zones (not each individual school), correct?  So the choice is still there.  If a zone is full of low-performing schools, what choices do those families really have?  If the zones are drawn with achievement as a consideration, a family who closest school, for example, is poor performing can request an opt-out that is not so far away (given that the zones will limit the distance).  I don't think he is suggesting restricting an individual student from a specific school because they need that "better" student at a lower performing school to help bring its scores up.  However, if a school within a zone is lower performing it would be evaluated to see what can be done to make improvements to that school.  And the higher performing schools will be looked at to see "what is that school doing right that we can replicate to the lower performing schools to help them out".   It is really just levelling the playing field.

Yes, but isn't he also

Yes, but isn't he also coming up with an assignment model?  He's not just doing the zones, is he?  I could be wroing, but that's my understanding.  Let's say he draws the zones in a way that can make them roughly equal in overall achievement.  It's still a controlled choice model, meaning that parents apply to certain schools and their choice is controlled.  How is he going to keep schools within a zone from becoming 'unbalanced'?  A family can request an opt-out from a school, but is there are guarantee they will get that opt out?  Or could they be told "no, we need you here" like they are now?

If achievement is only used

If achievement is only used to draw up the zones, then I can't imagine the old guard busing supporters would be pleased with Dr. Alves' proposal because there could still be "high poverty" schools or "low achievement" schools within a zone.

I'm wondering what happens when a particular school is high ED/minority and high-achieving.  Today, Dr. Barber and friends would call that a "segregated" school and step back to the Jim Crow days, and they would demand that the ED/minority imbalance be addressed through reassignment.  So when the accuse WCPSS of "warehousing the poor" in that school and petition for reassignment, is that doing the right thing by the students?

Showing you don't get it

Your last paragraph shows you don't get it at all.  Rev. Barber has stated over and over of his concern that if a school is forced high poverty, the resources to help it also be high achieving will not follow - hence separate and unequal.  He has said this all along. What's missing here, from this board, is the plan to address the academics of a forced high poverty school they will allow parents to create with their choices. Unintentional, of course.

I think I understand.  As

I think I understand.  As far as Mr. Barbar is concerned "separate and unequal" is bad, but "together and unequal" is good.  This must be the case, since we have had a huge achievement gap in Wake County for so long, including an abysmal ED graduation rate that was below state average.  But Barbar/Brannin/FIST/etc. and the rest were ok with this because the kids were all "together."

I think what you don't understand is that an assignment plan is not an academic improvement plan, and can never be.  We need a plan, school by school, that maps out what resources are required to give every student the best chance for success.  Every student is different, and a tops-down plan that assumes every ED student needs x and every ESL student needs y is doomed to failure.  We already have a system today which requires principals to low-performing schools to submit improvement plans, but the system doesn't work.  It may be because students have gotten shuffled too quickly to allow plans to work, or maybe we didn't provide the resources that were needed, or maybe we just had some principals that couldn't get the job done.  We can't fix an achievement gap with an assignment plan or with a sweeping set of policies.

IMHO, Barber & company will blow holes in ANY zone plan that gets adopted, because they don't understand the difference between an assignment plan and an improvement plan (and because they like getting their pictures in the paper).  The longer we spend trying to create the Mona Lisa of all zone assignment plans, the more it takes away from the really important work of implementing a system focused on improving student performance -- one kid at a time.

Yes, that is my fear.

The factors themselves are all admirable- stability, proximity, curriculum, calendar, capacity, student achievement, and diversity are all good. It's not whether or not it should be considered, but HOW it is implemented.

MagnetParent, I see your point, but you still don't see mine. So far, you have experienced the best of what our system has to offer, and we don't. And likely won't. That's because given all the factors above, the Growth and Planning thinks your kid is OK to be in the magnet system, and after four tries, mine is not. Furthermore, the WCPSS leadership is NOT ALLOWED to compete with the magnets, so no matter how we try, we are not going to be able to do at my school the kind of Spanish program they have at Joyner.  Take all that together, and my fear is that the new plan will use the new factors to simply limit my choices and options to such undesirable options that no real consideration should be given to alternatives.


Do you agree there should be some level of differentiation between magnets and the other schools ? 

There should be differentiation, but the devil is in the details

Yes, I see the need to draw people to certain schools, and therefore to create differentiation. Again, my beef is with our process, not our intent.

1) Lottery: To fill those seats, have a fair lottery. A lottery that is more than a 10% chance that you'll get in if you don't come from a "favored" place. Or are of the "wrong" status to leave your base school. A real lottery where the only guaranteed people are siblings, and that everyone else is drawn out of the same hat, with the same chance, regardless of base.

2) Who gets to be a magnet, and for how long? I also think that a school's magnet status should be withdrawn when it is not needed. There are magnets with a much much lower percentage of F/R than my base. Why?  Why not review magnet status every three to five years, and if the school is thriving, remove some of the pull- perhaps we have a "Magnet Lite"- tastes like a magnet, with 50% fewer electives? Would Enloe cease to be Enloe if it offered half the electives and two fewer AP classes so that Knightdale could have them?

3) Calendar: And I know I'm beating a drum here, but I still can't get over how it was easy as pie to convert 22 schools with very little notice just a few years ago, but making magnets YR, where people could opt out of them and go to a traditional calendar school nearby, is "not easily done."  Well, duh. I bet the people at the 22 other schools didn't find it to be a walk in the park. At least the magnet parents have that choice. Right now, the differentiation is so tremendous that I am sure even the bad tracks would fill up.

4) Do we need that DEGREE of differentiation?  Yes, I buy the need for magnets to draw people to certain schools, not just for diversity reasons but to maximize capacity in our already constructed and paid for schools. Instead of giving all of the eggs to the magnet basket, could we try and raise the tide at all our school boats? (I'm on a metaphor roll. Sorry.)  Really, hearing about the semi-private piano lessons and first grade orchestra and dance lessons and Spanish immersion just makes me crazy when we can't get one Spanish teacher one day a week for the whole year. A little more parity- not full on magnet scheduling- but just plain old common sense equality- is needed. Badly.


2. AP classes - reducing Enloe by 2 is not the end of the world. Allowing Knightdale to add 2 or 8 to get back to somewhat equal footing as to the other schools sure.  I am not sure what the determining factor is, but Knightdale  has low usage of AP classes as it is. 

3. Calendar - the conversion was the result of the pact in order to get the bond passed. As many have pointed out - we are growing and need schools.  However, it seems members of our community believe there are millions upon millions of $ of waste in our school system and have no problem to hold bond $ hostage.  The school system was between a rock and a hard place. The failed bond issue in 1999 and the begging that had to be done in 2005/2006 were the causes.  Thanks to the conversion to TR and reassigning of nodes to the 'neighborhood" school - many of my wife's classes have 40 kids.  With regards to the magnets - not all kids can opt out. 

4. Raise the tide - Sure, where is the money going to come from ?  The community-  led by our friends at AFP (Margiotta included), Locke, Civitas....ect.  are not willing to support funding for the school system.  Find the money for all schools to offer more. Personally I believe a foreign language should be mandatory starting in 7th grade. 






Only if there is an audition

Only if there is an audition process (as in a performing arts magnet), or some type of qualification (grades, a test, etc). I don't understand why extra resources should be available by lottery. Right now magnets are the 'bait and switch' of The Raleigh school system.

I agree that it seems odd

I agree that it seems odd that extra resources are available by lottery. But I do not think an audition process makes sense. Once a kid gets in to a magnet, they get a richer, more rigorous education. Then they know more, can do more and score higher on tests than the kids who did not get that. This will be true of the kids who get in and get that superior education. What would the audition be? Would you audition to show that you are most likely to benefit from a superior education? The kids are superior coming out, but going in they are not. So, would the audition be that you are more deserving than other kids?


OK, so it appears you agree there should be an offering differentiation between magnets and others. Your contention appears to be with the acceptance process and not the differentiation. 

With regards to the differentiation - how is this to be achieved when there are no resources in the district ?  One way is to add to the magnets while maintaining the other - oh but there is a budget constraint and there is no $. So the option is to take away from the base to create the differential.  If there is a beef with the take away from the base schools - look no farther than John Locke, AFP, Civitas and the other conservative anti public funding groups. 

On the assignment issue - there are a number of models in place in other districts - Lottery, Auditions for performing arts, academic achievement.....ect.  There are no guarantees in these districts and in most of them there is more demand than there are seats - so yes people will be denied. 

It will be interesting to see how the new assignment policy addresses magnets, given that there will be even fewer seats available when the neighborhood kids return. 

Magnet purpose?

I think our whole magnet system should be re-examined for exactly what it's trying to accomplish. Keeping high income ITB folks from leaving their base school is not a valid purpose to me.

Yes - some would be denied, but if the acceptance process is based on qualifications, and not income or who you know, then I believe magnet schools could have a place in wake county.

So let's suppose he draws

So let's suppose he draws the zones in a way that make them equal (or close) in achievement AND he comes up with an assignment model on how to assign students to schools.  It would be a good starting point for the BOE to fashion to their liking.  Alves suggestions are guidelines for how it should be managed (coming from years of experience at doing this).  And perhaps he could advise on what the effects will be if changes are made - so as to help the BOE understand what problems they may encounter in the future.  Suppose the BOE accepts the zone lines drawn by Alves but refuses to abide by any achievement restriction on assigning individual students.  I still think it would be better than the current proposal.  When Alves came earlier this year, he stressed the importance of making each zone as similar as possible - to not do so will cause problems including loss of parental trust in the system.  Another item he stressed is the importance of designing these zones for growth so that stability is not impacted.  Another thing I do not see in the current proposal.

If some schools are lower performing, or not the "desired school" within a zone, they will be able to address the issue to improve performance and make it more "desirable".  The school that is less desirable will be put to the task of making improvements to make them more desirable (put the onus on the administration of that school).

I also think that when you get the parents an opportunity to choose and guarantee them stability by allowing them to stay at their school through the years, you will get more parents involved and thereby help achievement.  Regardless of whether the school is across the street or a couple miles away.

If some schools are lower

If some schools are lower performing, or not the "desired school" within a zone, they will be able to address the issue to improve performance
So why do we need a controlled choice plan, or any plan for that matter, before we can address issues to improve performance?

If you read some of my other

If you read some of my other posts on this thread, I said: "That way, if there are low performing schools in a zone, they can learn from the high performing schools to fix the low performers. (They have the same student make-up potential at all schools - that characteristic is not a factor in why one school is performing better than another.  So they can concentrate on what is really causing a school to be a low performer and fix that)"

The student makeup of a

The student makeup of a school is NEVER a factor in why one school is performing better than another. Researchers have never succeeded in showing that SES status of a school is a factor in the performance of individual students in that school. WCPSS' own research was inconclusive. Is there a correlation? Yes, but correlation does not equal causation.

Even if you disagree with this, there are hundreds of high performing, low income schools across the nation. Why can't low performing schools learn from them?

How many of those

How many of those "hundreds":

1) have more than 300 students?

2) aren't charter schools?

3) have a model that is realistically repeatable in WCPSS?

How many of those

How many of those "hundreds":

1) have more than 300 students?

2) aren't charter schools?

3) have a model that is realistically repeatable in WCPSS?

It's not too hard to find:    http://tinyurl.com/29azn2u

First, I'd like to point out

First, I'd like to point out that it's kind of sad that you were up at 3 in the morning telling someone you'd google something for them.  Twice.

Second, I actually looked at a few of the links that popped up from the google search you were so kind to provide.

Lincoln Elementary School, in Louisville, Kentucky is mentioned for its 2004 scores.  In 2004-05, LES had 290 students and spent over $11,000 per student.  In 2007-08, it had 294 students, declining test scores, and spent over $11,600 (almost $3k above the state average) per student (with a 14:1 student/teacher ratio).  It has since been made a Performing Arts Magnet School.

That was in the third link that popped up.  The first was a 90-90-90 report that has been talked about here before, and the 2nd was a powerpoint presentation.

Last year, WCPSS has 67,748 ES students.  33.7% of them were F&R.  That's 22,831 students.  To replicate LES' model (which even Louisville has stopped using now) we'd need 76 ES just for those kids (I even rounded up to 300 students per school).  We had 102 ES, so that would leave 26 schools for the other 44917 students.  1727 students per school.  Wow.  The F&R schools would also need a total of 1630 teachers to reach the 14:1 ratio.

Get out your checkbook.

Cars View All
Find a Car
Jobs View All
Find a Job
Homes View All
Find a Home

Want to post a comment?

In order to join the conversation, you must be a member of newsobserver.com. Click here to register or to log in.

About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.