How worried should the Wake County school system be about how the new student assignment plan is impacting the magnet schools?
As noted in today's article, the Democratic board members expressed concern Tuesday about the sharp decline in magnet applications. They also raised concerns that not enough academically identified students got accepted into Carnage and Ligon middle schools, which operate the AG Basics magnet theme.
“It seems to me that demand for magnets has gone down by half,” said new Democratic school board member Christine Kushner in remarks to staff members. “I’m concerned about that decline. I hope it’s something you are paying attention to.”
If you haven't noticed it yet, Wake includes info on school-by-school results, where the placed students came from and magnet applications by school over the time. Click here for the info.
It's hard to compare with past years though. For instance, Wake doesn't list the rejections by grade. Also, Wake doesn't list what elementary school the kindergarten students would have come from now that they've eliminated base schools.
Staff gave a variety of reasons for why the number of applications fell from 8,469 for the 2011-12 school year to 4,296 for the 2012-13 school year.
* More than 80 percent of magnet families have said they picked the program for stability. Now families can get that stability with the feeder patterns for the proximity choices.
* More than 1,800 current magnet students were pre-assigned to magnet schools for sixth- and ninth-grades without having to apply, as they would have in the past if they wanted to stay in the program.
* Under the new plan, families who live near a magnet school are no longer able to submit a magnet application for that school. Instead, they’ll apply via the application process that started this month for the proximity round.
* Families may have been discouraged from applying because for the first time the number of available seats were listed and some schools had few openings.
* Families may have taken a “wait and see” approach because of the new plan.
One reason staff didn't give is that families may not have liked the feeder patterns for the magnets. For instance, it seems that magnets that feed into Southeast Raleigh High saw a bigger drop in applicants than those feeding into Enloe High.
Staff told board members they're monitoring the application process as part of their ongoing review of the assignment plan.
Democratic board members Jim Martin and Susan Evans also raised questions about preliminary data that would indicate a drop in the number of AG students at Carnage and Ligon. They said they're concerned that AG students aren't getting into the program.
“What are we doing to address the high-end students, to make the sure the high-end students don’t get disadvantaged?” Martin asked.
Staff said part of the reason at Ligon is the school is too overcrowded so they're cutting back on new applicants.
As for Carnage, Martin again brought up his concern that the Walnut Creek students feeding into his son's magnet schools are taking away magnet spots. He said that it also appeared that the Walnut Creek students could lower Carnage's performance composite.
Republican board member John Tedesco said Martin was presuming that Walnut Creek students will lower Carnage’s overall academic performance. He said that the scores are based off what the students did at their old schools and that he expects they'll do better at Walnut Creek.
“It shows bias towards the students themselves, which I think is unfair,” Tedesco said to Martin.
Staff said they're monitoring the situation and are developing contingency plan. One plan is giving AG students on the magnet wait list priority for any openings that emerge at Carnage and Ligon after families opt out of the feeder.
But Martin and staff got into it over his perception that they weren't being proactive enough.
“I’m equally concerned about the high numbers of AG Basics students that won’t get into a program,” Martin said.
When Martin persisted, Superintendent Tony Tata said: “We are talking past each other. I am not saying, ‘Let’s wait and see.’"