There have been a couple of new developments today in the ongoing saga of Wake County student assignment and school diversity.
One, the school system made public today documents it turned over to the U.S. Education Department that says there is no evidence that any of their decisions about student assignment policies or procedures were "motivated by racial animus." I'll go more into the documents, part of the ongoing federal civil rights probe, in a later post.
Two, the Great Schools in Wake Coalition and the N.C. Justice Center released a new report today that's critical of the Wake School Choice Plan. They say the plan, developed by Michael Alves, doesn't promote student achievement highly enough and lacks clear policies to ensure all schools are high-performing.
The report is concerned that the focus on proximity in the feeder patterns under the Alves plan means it will be hard to maintain high performance in every school unless Wake were to break those feeder patterns in some cases.
"In order to avoid the proliferation of low performing schools, achievement for all students must become a much higher priority in student assignment," according to the report.
"To support high achievement, a choice system whose rules strongly encourage parents to favor their neighborhood school, like the Wake School Choice plan, must also find a way to ensure that those rules do not result in the creation of new low performing schools." the report later says.
The report also questions the need to abandon the current node-based model in favor of a controlled-choice plan. They point to how 94.5 percent of parents in the calendar survey said they were satisfied with their child's school assignment.
"Why would we jettison our current system to placate just 5 percent of parents?" the report asks. "We believe that the Wake County Public Schools’ Student Assignment staff has the knowledge, talent and good judgment needed to fine tune our current node-based system and create greater stability in assignment. And by augmenting our magnet program, we can extend choice to more students. In sum, we already have a modified choice plan with great potential to be enhanced for the benefit of all.”
GSIW and the Justice Center push for the school board to maintain a commitment to balanced schools.
"If the Wake School Choice plan or similar controlled choice plan is ultimately accepted as the only politically palatable compromise for our current situation, then strict guidelines must be in place in order for such a plan to succeed," the report says. "Foremost among these is a bedrock commitment to having no schools with high concentrations of low achieving students. Whatever student assignment plan the Board adopts, it must consciously and aggressively balance schools so that countywide resources are not drained by high poverty, low performing schools.
If the Board of Education bows to the loud voices of the privileged few and builds extra capacity in the highly desired, low poverty areas of the county, there will be no way to balance poverty or achievement levels across all schools. We will follow Charlotte’s fate, even though we have the opportunity not to repeat their mistakes."
Click here to read Wake's response letter to OCR.