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?

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Wake County school system dealing with issues related to new choice plan

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Wake County's new choice-based student assignment plan is producing some unusual oddities for the 2012-13 school year that opens today with the return of year-round students.

As noted in today's article, Wake has 151,487 students registered for the new school year, 1,000 more than expected. But staff isn't certain how much of that growth is attributable to phantom students who were gaming the choice plan.

Another quirk of the choice plan is that Richland Creek Elementary School only has 34 students registered so far for its Aug. 27 opening. That's far fewer students than it would have opened with under the old base-school assignment plan.

As of last week, Richland Creek had 11 students in kindergarten, three in first grade, nine in second grade, two in third grade, six in fourth grade and three in fifth grade.

The original plan was to only offer K-3 this fist year at Richland Creek because few older students were expected to apply. But Wake decided to offer fourth and fifth grades to keep the families who have younger and older children.

Chief Transformation Officer Judy Peppler said the school will offer small, multi-age classes until it gets enough enrollment to form a specific grade-level class.

Since the school has fewer than 100 students, the state won't pick up its share of Principal Tammie Sexton's salary.

Peppler said they're still hoping the school will get 150 students this year.

To get an idea of how underenrolled the school is, Richland Creek's modular campus at the DuBois Center can hold 92 students per grade level.

Peppler said they’re opening it in August because of crowding at the schools near Richland Creek.

“We didn’t want to have a situation where we didn’t have the capacity for students in the area,” Peppler said.

Rolesville Middle School is opening with 511 students. Peppler said they’re pleased with the figure because it’s more than what they expected for the school’s first year.

In comparison, the last two new middle schools opened by Wake in 2010 had about 1,000 students assigned to them.

You've also got what happened at Abbotts Creek Elementary School in North Raleigh, which only had six students apply. Its opening is being delayed to next year because staff say there are enough seats at nearby schools to keep up with demand for now.

The other wrinkle of the choice plan is how many of the 151,487 registered students actually intend to go to school in Wake.

Peppler said they’re uncertain how many families who intend to attend a private school, charter school or home school may have registered with Wake to see if they could get a particular school in the choice plan. Under the old plan, they would have gone to their base school.

Wake has asked families who registered but who don’t plan to attend this fall to notify the district. But families aren’t required to give that notification.

Peppler said some families have told them they're not coming. She said they're using that info to move students into seats that have now opened up as a result.


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Thease are only some of the

Thease are only some of the issues.  Wait until traditional schools start.  Transportation has been a nightmare the first 2 days of year-round school with the new bus routes and bell schedules.  We got a letter in the mail Saturday telling us that our new bus stop time had changed form 7:22 to 8:07.  I has already sent the transportation director an e-mail Friday asking what time I needed to have the kids at the bus since I hadn't received that info yet.  She sent me an e-mail telling me it was 8:15 but to have them there 10 minutes early.  We got there at 7:50 and at 8:30 I started making phone calls.  Turns out the bus had already come.  At 7:40!  The kids had been getting out of school at 3:00 and getting home at 3:30.  Yesterday they got out at 3:45 and got home after 5:00, beyond the "maximum" hour and fifteen minutes, and we're only half way through the route.  This is with only a fraction of the kids in school.  I really hope transportation can get in together before August 25th.

This is normal

For the first two weeks of school, and every time there is a substitute driver.

They stop at EVERY bus stop

They stop at EVERY bus stop the first few weeks because they never know if a child is coming on the bus or not. Once they figure all that out it will get better. I don't think that is necessary choice plan issues as much as it is with getting all the kinks out.

Well, that is the

Well, that is the "efficiency" in busing that some people here have been clamoring for.

When I said that people would complain when they were going to a proximate school but riding the bus for an hour plus, I was told I was crazy...or maybe stupid was the word. 

Kids in our neighborhood

Kids in our neighborhood have gone from a 15 minute bus ride to a 35 minute ride. and that is expected to get even worse when traditional starts because these kids who go to Salem - 1.8 miles away - will be forced to remain on the bus while it goes through additional neighborhoods and then makes a dropoff at Baucom in downtown Apex before going back to Salem.

Oh and I'm just so thrilled to report that while we couldn't get in to the fifth grade class at either of the schools that serve our neighborhood because there was "no" capacity - one that is in our walk zone and both under 2 miles away - my neighbors are telling me that there are several new kids in the fifth grade classes at both schools and that some are from areas further away than us. Lovely.

Getting back to the transportation issue, you now have parents that stayed out of the debate (because they were already at the school they wanted and didn't have to go through the lottery, I mean, choice plan) pretty angry at what the plan has done to their children.

I imagine that it will get

I imagine that it will get better. Our buses have always been off the first week or two of each school year.


Wake has 151,487 students registered for the new school year, 1,000 more than expected.

What?! I thought the new plan was hurting the housing market in Wake County, scaring buyers away, confusing agents. And yet we have 1,000 more than expected?


Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/wakeed/wake-county-school-system-dealing-with-issues-related-to-new-choice-plan#storylink=cpy

OT: An excoriation of income-based diversity schemes


A couple of quotes:

The few experiments in income integration that have been voluntarily adopted -- most notably, in Wake County, North Carolina -- have ultimately foundered on the constant upheavals and reassignments needed to keep the schools in balance.

and . .

Parents may lose their voice in the din of multicultural orthodoxy, but they always have exit. When it comes to their children, they will exercise it if they can. Although residential choice has been relentlessly tarred as “white flight,” it also is an enforcer of standards and the last bastion of freedom. And there’s always private school. Whatever ill-conceived schemes educrats devise, determined parents will find a way around them. They will find a way to vote with their feet.

North Carolina has opened up a brand new way for parents to vote with their feet that really didn't substantially exist in 2009.  It will be interesting to watch how the pre-'09 assignment scheme fares in light of that new exit opportunity.

Straight face?

How can you keep a straight face quoting a far right organization like this?  They call residential choice the "last bastion of freedom"!?  How can you consider this a credible source of any information when they are telling you that the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association are no longer part of our nation and that the last - the final brick of our great nation - is "residential choice"?! 

Seriously?!  And, by the way, the old assignment plan had more parental choice than most school districts in our country can offer.   Try finding a district in the northeast where you can choose more than one high school for each district.  "Last bastion of freedom"!  

Far right propaganda is the most insidious threat to our freedoms and our nation, and I'm surprised that you are helping to spread it.

Awesome policy review,

Awesome policy review, thanks for sharing it with us Bob.  It really touchs on many of the problems we have expereinced here in WCPSS.  I got a good chuckle on her remarks regarding his referencing the James Coleman study of 1966 because Richard Kahlenberg always refers to the same report like its social engineering gospel.  Kevin Hill should take particular note of this sentence "..If there is one thing they staunchly resist, it is their children being moved around like pieces on a chess board in the service of some grand scheme.  They know that constant mobility erodes the stable bonds, enduring ties, and continuity that are essential to quality schools.  And they reserve the right to judge their own children's individual needs, and to give those needs priority over societal imperatives."  

Funny, the chess board is just was I was reminded of...

...when I read this. I was looking up numbers of kids reassigned out of my school and ran across this gem, thinking, these poor kids are just pieces on a board to the administrators, who will move them around as they wish when one color is on one side too often-

Here is a little taste of what we have to look forward to going back to a node based plan with annual reassignments for "comparability", lifted from the 1/8/08 Board Meeting Minutes:

Staff made the following recommendations to increase comparability across schools:

103 students reassigned from Penny Road Elementary to Davis Drive Elementary,

54 students reassigned from Penny Road Elementary to Salem Elementary,

44 students reassigned from Briarcliff Elementary to Salem Elementary,

63 students reassigned from Swift Creek Elementary to Laurel Park Elementary,

67 students reassigned from Smith Elementary to Penny Road Elementary,

66 students reassigned from Stough Elementary to Hunter Elementary,

76 students reassigned from Brooks Elementary to Leesville Road Elementary,

110 students reassigned from Powell Elementary to Leesville Road Elementary,

91 students reassigned from Vandora Springs Elementary to Vance Elementary,

84 students reassigned from Brentwood Elementary to Baileywick Elementary,

38 students reassigned from Baileywick Elementary to Jeffreys Grove Elementary,

182 students reassigned from Dillard Drive Elementary to Oak Grove Elementary, and

118 students reassigned from Oak Grove to Adams Elementary.


Of those 38 kids going from Baileywick to JG, 14 were in one node and their parents were our ENTIRE PTA.
That was a complete nightmare and we lost 60 kids to private and charter that year.
Policy 6200 was completely mismanaged, what makes them think they can do better when they can't even see what a mess it was the first time?


The following year the initial reassignment plan had those families moved from Baileywick to JG the year before being moved back to Baileywick! The families raised such a ruckus they backed away from that move. It was crazy!

Yes, it is nuts! But I think that is the future.

How else will our schools stay "balanced" and "healthy"?

I want to remind all of the people who are unhappy with the choice plan that the old plan had its share of bitter pills (and long bus rides and mandatory year round) as well.

I think Hill is keenly aware

I think Hill is keenly aware of that....he just chooses to call it "selfish parents".

In Hill land, if parent's would stop being "selfish", he could create a utopian school system where the end result for every child is the same.  Even if this "utopian school system" were possible to create, the "result" he is able to acheive would be at best mediocre with no high acheivers.  Perhaps this is, however, what he seeks to accomplish.

I don't see how you can say this?!

You know that some parents who would like their Wake graduates to go to Chapel Hill actually consider buying land in a neighboring county so that they can declare their applicant from a different county than Wake because of how highly competetive Wake is?  How you can say that a man who has dedicated himself to education in Wake for over 30 years is aiming for mediocrity is ludicrous.  The negativity behind your prediction of failure for a school system that has done extremely well at educating a large number of students for many years points to the problem here.  It is a perception problem.

It's a quota system, so it would be competitive no matter where

...where the bar was set. They only want a certain percentage of the student body from one County.
The bigger argument isn't mediocrity, but equity. Do you think the bright kids at Enloe with 7 or 10 AP classes under their belts have a better chance of getting into UNC than an equally bright kid at Knightdale with 3 AP classes on his transcript?
The inequities among offerings in our public schools is staggering. I wish Hill would worry more about access and program equity and less about bussing kids of the classroom reflect his ideal SEO balance.

Perception Problem

Yes it is a perception problem. People like Hill, Evans and Martin perceive they are helping when in fact they are not.

I've brought this up before,

I've brought this up before, but WCPSS loses an average 2,000 students between 9th and 10th.  ALL 9th graders received their pre-assignment based on where they were currently enrolled. But 2,000 of them will leave WCPSS before 10th grade (NC allows you to drop out when you are 16).  I am certain that the 151,487 enrollment figure has not factored in the ~2,000 students that will not be showing up in August, as they cannot know 'who' is going to drop out. So, 151,487 is overstated, 'if' they have assumed all 9th graders are returning next year, it simply (sadly) won't happen.

nobody chose track 2

Another quirk of the choice plan is increased class size for tracks 1, 3, and 4.  My child's class expects 29 children today.  Know why? They collapsed track 2 for that grade because it had fewer than the minimum to pay a teacher for a track 2 class.

Yet kids got turned away from our school because of "lack of capacity".

Gosh nobody chose track 2?

Gosh nobody chose track 2? Now there is a big surprise no one saw coming. Year-round schools are a waste of money and resources. They are only economical if they are at capacity and that only happens when students are forced into them... including track 2.

No kidding, a real shocker

This board, with Mr. Hill at the wheel, continues to prove to the tax payers why their truly is no need for a bond now or anytime in the near future.

Apparently we have such a surplus that we have no need to fill year round schools.

However, if your traditional school is overcrowded you have options, complain to Mr. Hill, like that will get you anywhere, change to a lovely year round campus where tracks 2 and 3 have plenty of room for your kids or live with it and be thankful you only have a few more years until you're finished with the mess known as the wcpss.

Richland Creek...

The lesson there is that families only go to a modular school when they're forced to.  This is the same school that housed Forest Pines Elementary its first two years of operations, when families really pushed back against the school district, with many opting for private school instead.

I dare Wake to put an orchestra program there!

I am sure that if they put an elementary orchestra program or a foreign language program there, it would be full. Parents want to feel like they are getting something extra if they are going to put their kid into a bad (like a long bus ride or a crummy facility) situation. It is easier to attract flies with honey and parents with programs, and some of those programs cost few dollars. Look at the Covey Leadership magnet. How expensive can the Seven Habits be? Theme the school, put in an excellent music or art program, and watch parents jockey for position to be there. I think this opening was plain poor planning on the System's part. They know good and well what makes a school attractive, but they didn't put together a good website, hire the principal early enough to get the school traction, so of course it was bound to fail to open in a full state. This was a marketing problem, not an assignment problem.

Richland Creek

Richland Creek is a disgusting waste of taxpayer dollars. No one WANTS to go to that school. I can't believe they are really going to open it. Sanford Creek/Rolesville/Forest Pines all have the capacity to hold those kids and are on the choice list for this area.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.