The potential impact of the feeder patterns on school demographics is one reason members of the Democratic majority on the Wake County school board are raising concerns about the new student assignment plan.
As noted in today's article, Democratic school board member Jim Martin cited his concerns about Carnage Middle School as an example of how the feeders can change a school. Martin said he's familiar with Carnage because his son is a magnet student there.
The particular issue at Carnage is that Walnut Creek Elementary will feed into the school starting in the 2012-13 school year. With Walnut Creek being such a large part of the feeder, he said it could hurt Carnage's Gifted and Talented/AG Basics program.
The four AG/GT magnet schools are the only ones in Wake allowed to have AG students grouped together for reading and math. At the other schools, AG students are only in homogeneous courses for pullout enrichment activities.
“You’re frankly going to change the demographics of the school dramatically," Martin said during Tuesday's board work session. "Not that there aren’t AG/GT kids at Walnut Creek, but the percentage is not high."
Martin said it appeared the new plan didn't include target percentages for the magnet secondary schools like they exist for the magnet elementary schools.
James Overman, head of the student assignment task force, said they decided to start at the magnet elementary schools and phase it in over time with the new kindergarten class into the magnet secondary schools. But he said they're still providing access for magnet and proximity students at the secondary schools.
"It doesn’t resolve the issue that you're drastically changing the demographics at some schools, particularly the middle and high schools,” Martin said.
Carnage came up again during the work session as the board discussed whether it needed to have a rubric in place before the plan goes into effect on what it impact it will have on schools.
"I don’t want us to change a school by unintended consequences," Martin said. "If a school’s demographic, culture, whatever is going to change, I want it to be changed because we decided that’s an important thing — and not just we but the community at the school, everybody — they need to be involved in the decision as to what the school is going to change to.
I don’t think we want to change the nature of a school by oh the feeder pattern happened to cause that. Oops we really didn’t mean it.”
Looking specifically at Carnage, Martin said that if you talk to people there they'll say that you need roughly a 50 percent AG population to have a sufficient AG/GT program. But he said that’s most likely not going to be the case as the feeder pattern stands today.
Martin said that kind of impact on Carnage should be part of any rubric.
“Are we really willing to say that we want Carnage to change the nature of being one of our two AG/GT middle schools?" Martin said. "I’m not willing to go there. So how that rolls out and takes effect I don’t know, but I think we do need to look very carefully at what I’m going to call the unintended consequences of whatever assignment plan moving forward."
Republican school board member John Tedesco said that any change at Carnage would take place over time. But Martin said it's going to begin happening this fall.
Republican school board member Debra Goldman questioned the need to have a percentage of gifted and talented students at a GT magnet. She pointed to how acceptance into GT magnets is not based on scores but is "more of a lottery type system."
Goldman said the premise of GT schools is that all students have gifts and talents.
Martin responded that AG/GT magnet schools are different than the regular GT magnets. He said students need to be AG identified to apply for the AG/GT magnets.
Martin added that a review of the criteria for magnets should be looked at as part of the next magnet review.
Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore said that the magnet review is at the top of the list for things she wants Beth Cochran, the new senior director of magnet programs, to work on.
Martin said he also had to respond to Goldman's comments about all students being gifted.
"As to your point though that all students are gifted and talented, in one respect I will not disagree with you," Martin said. "But we would never tell our football coaches everybody can play varsity. Nobody would do that and I think we have to recognize that we can’t do that in the academic sphere either."