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Weighing magnet selection changes

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School board members are still considering changes to how students are selected to magnet schools even as they realize that the new board could undo whatever they adopt.

No changes were agreed to on Tuesday. But Asst. Supt. Chuck Dulaney was directed to come back to the Oct. 27 facilities committee meeting with more details about how 143 transfer students were allowed to leave Fox Road Elementary.

During the discussion, school board member Lori Millberg acknowledged that whatever they agree to do could be undone as it "depends on what the next board does if there’s no busing."

Dulaney opened things up by presenting this handout. It builds on the handout he gave in September about the impact of magnet, calendar and transfer applicants on each base school.

This new handout looked at the schools whose base F&R percentages are raised by more than 10 percentage points by people leaving the base.

Fox Road has the highest change with 463 people leaving the base, raising the base F&R percentage from 46 percent to 66 percent. Of the group, 206 leave for year-round schools, 114 for magnet schools and 143 by transfers.

Dulaney said some schools might not be as much of a concern, such as Brentwood and Smith elementary schools because their new magnet programs should lower their F&R totals over time. (Considering how things may change with the new board, that's not a given now.)

But Dulaney said the changes caused by students leaving Carroll Middle School might be worth studying in more detail.

The third sheet in the handout looks at schools which either equalled or exceeded the 17 percent systemwide average for non-priority magnet applicants being accepted. This refers to the seats which are filled randomly from the 10 percent of openings at magnet schools.

For instance, 23 of the 46 non-priority magnet applicants from East Wake High got accepted.

The other 90 percent of seats are filled by applicants with higher priority, such as from schools with heavy crowding and below-average percentages of low-income students. If there aren't enough priority applicants, then more seats are usually filled randomly.

Dulaney said one thing they might want to consider is capping the percentage of non-priority applicants that are accepted from each school to 10 percent.

Board members said they want more data. Dulaney said it would be hard for his team to quickly get the transfer data for many schools but he said they can come back with the info on Fox Road by the next committee meeting.

From there, the committee might look at other schools. But then again, the new board is looming on the horizon.


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I know it's an unpopular

I know it's an unpopular opinion, but this very situation is why I firmly believe we need fewer magnets, not more.

We need to recognize that magnets don't exist independently; they are part of a system. When we set up a system to attract a desired demographic into a magnet school, by necessity we are removing that same demographic from another school. If the base school has a high concentration of that demographic (for example, affluent students in most Cary or North Raleigh schools), then there is no harm to the base school. However, if the desired demographic is in short supply at the base school (affluent students in Eastern or Southeast Wake), then the base school is going to take a big hit by losing the desired demographic to the magnet.

When we recognize that losing students from a base school can potentially be harmful to the base school, though, we are left with an ethical dilemma: If the school system chooses to offer unique and valuable programming only at certain magnet schools, is it then ethical for the school system to categorically deny access to the unique programming to a child because of the neighborhood the child lives in/base school he attends? I have a huge problem with this. Unfortunately, I don't think the current BOE sees a problem with it at all.

I think that in many cases, the problem isn't just that some of the BOE members are wearing blinders that keep them from seeing this as an ethical dilemma; it's also the fact that they are also very bad at math. If you have very low concentrations of a desired demographic in an area, placing a magnet nearby that will only further deplete that demographic. I don't think Lori Millberg ever got that concept. I heard her rail about how Raleigh magnets were negatively affecting Hodge Road, and then in the next breath insist Forestville Road needed to be made a magnet --- ignoring that Hodge Road would be a prime target to lose students to the magnet. Additionally, I think that the BOE has had a tendency to be too Raleigh-centric: quick to put in a magnet to help aid a Raleigh school while ignoring the fact that it was putting additional pressures on the the Southeast Wake and Garner schools that were sending some of their prime students into the magnets. (And then further compounding the problem by exporting high-needs kids from Raleigh into Garner, where there was already a concentration of high needs kids)

Incidentally, I don't agree that affluent students are superior to low income students. However, by definition, magnet applicants can be expected to have a leg up on the average non-magnet applicants for one reason: they have "Give a damn parents." High income or low income, the children of "give a damn parents" will be an asset to their school. The give-a-damn quality isn't as easily measured as the economic indicators, though, so it's hard to report on the proportion of these that each school has. If someone makes the effort to apply to have their child go to a different school, however, it's a strong sign that they give a damn.

bad at math

 Thats funny. It is what I always think. I think part of our problem is that the leaders were all in the low math track when they were in school. This is why they don't see the systemic racism and classism in math tracking as a problem. They don't know why it matters to be in top math tracks... they weren't and they are fine.

I agree with some of what you say here, but I think you're missing some fundamental hard to see, (like the air we breath is hard to see), points. 

The give-a-damn quality isn't as easily measured as the economic indicators, though, so it's hard to report on the proportion of these that each school has.

You are right about this. We can't measure it. As a teacher I see GAD parents from all social classes, and negligent parents from all social classes, and parents who care but can't be bothered from all classes. But the exact same behavior is interpreted differently when coming from different economic classes. Lower income parents might give the same attention to school, and it is dismissed as not valuable. They are no threat and have no power, so no matter what they do, they are more or less invisible. The PTA is a social club where membership is status. A very good friend of mine tried and tried to become active in the PTA at our school and was never able to get in. (And they are not extremely poor,... just well educated working class.) I don't think we can talk about GAD parents. It gets too mixed up with the parents who have social power and what they give is more valued and they are feared.

I also wanted to comment on harming Hodge Road. Hodge Road was harmed significantly by the bad math of tutoring their Level IV readers with remedial work, not realizing that they were already Level IV--because they received free lunch. I think that damage is quantified in the appendix of the report on that, which is on E&R's website. Did they ever quit doing that, or did the report get filed and no one read it... because it had math in it and the leaders are all so bad at math?

And speaking of math, there will be a big problem if we do away with magnets as far as math placement goes. Right now, as is consistent with the SAS report that was hidden until someone forced it out months later, the top math track starts in middle school and the seats are not given to the most academically able but rather to the kids whose parents have the most power to demand those seats. According to what I had seen my whole career and what is now quantified in the SAS report, many many kids are ready for the top math track but can't get in. This whole system is the fabric of the magnet schools.

We attract people to Ligon as a magnet by giving their kids all top track classes, while the neighborhood kids get less rigorous work in less challenging classes. This starts at least in middle and probably before. In middle school we can identify what is going on because by 7th grade, kids are in different math classes depending on elite-ness of the parents.  By 8th grade, it is set in stone. The kids who got 8th grade algebra get to take Honors and AP math (and science) in high school. The other kids do not.

A by-product of the current magnet system is that top track math has come to be a right and privilege of the social elite. It is what attracted them to the magnet schools and then becomes a way to distinguish the elite from the common folks. It keeps the magnet schools segregated within the school. There is real value besides social value. Only the middle school top math track takes Honors and AP math classes in high school, so no one can compete with them for class rank (very easily).

This system delivers such inequity and gives such an advantage to the GAD parents' kids (oops, I mean powerful ) they are not going to give that up. They just aren't. They may well actually believe the system is currently fair and their kids are just better than other kids and that is why they come out on top. But, if we have to adjust the system and the machine is unassembled and reconstructed people are going to get scared. We need to not be able to see what we are doing.

If the system changes, and that SAS report just came out pointing out how many kids are kept out of 8th grade algebra when they are academically prepared, we might have a hard time reconstructing the system to maintain the inequity that currently just runs like clockwork.

It won't be like the old days when you could just loot the system for all the resources and say low income kids don't need any challenging and rigorous courses. We've moved forward. You can't go back.

But if we allow them to have challenging rigorous courses in their neighborhood schools, then low income and minority kids will be able to take Honors and AP courses in high school. They will be able to compete for class ranks. They'll get accepted to UNC. Their SAT scores will be much higher. The system as we know it will be turned on it's ear. You don't think the people who are currently benefiting from the inequity (which is kind of deniable as long as the SAS report is buried and no one understands enough math to think about this clearly) will let these changes occur?

With neighborhood schools, we will have to put all the advanced math classes in the upper class neighborhoods. Can we get away with that? And if not, what is going to happen? It won't be pretty. 


The system

This is exactly the way we saw the system when our son was in school.  Is anyone or any group in Wake County working to change this?

Change what? We pretend like

Change what?

We pretend like it isn't happening. How can we change something that isn't happening?

This is why the SAS report had to be hidden. It was shining light on what we pretend isn't happening. It was explained away as "a technical disagreement."

Wake uses the Effectiveness Index that adjusts expectations downward for low income kids, and adjusts downward again if the school is high numbers of low income. Then reports only whether or not kids are doing as expected. EVAAS shows whether kids are predicted to succeed, and then with a level playing field, how do they do. That report had to be hidden.

Isn't it funny that it is getting no press. It is a huge thing but getting no press at all. I am getting a little suspicious of the N&O that this got so little press. It is huge. 

SAS report

I go back and forth on this.  My husband believes that people just don't know what is happening and that, if the SAS report received attention, there would be change.  I am more skeptical.  Our son was in a magnet school for one year and the tracking based on race/socioeconomic status became very obvious to us.  I find it hard to believe that people don't know.  I can't believe that the teachers and administrators don't know.  They see it every day.  And I sometimes feel as if the parents know but just don't care.

Without the SAS report, we

Without the SAS report, we could say that the low income and minority kids can't make it in the top track because they don't have parental support, and they aren't ready, and we don't want to set them up for failure.

But, we would love for them to be in the top track. They just aren't ready. We really care about them and want them to succeed so we have programs like AVID, where instead of being in the top track, we give them support so that some day they may be ready for the top track. (but they never get to go in the top track, but we get to look like we are trying to help them so someday they can.)

That SAS report shows that they are ready now and we simply don't let them in. We don't need the AVID programs. The SAS report would bring change because it shows they are ready now and we simply don't let them in. I think a lot of people actually believe they are not ready now.

I think a lot of the people gaining from the current system would be horrified to know that their kids are no better academically than the other kids--the system just favors them in unfair ways. The SAS report shows that. 


I’ve thought about tutoring kids just to feel as if I am doing something. But then I think that even if they learn the material, the system is set up to stop them from taking advanced classes. I wonder whose decision it is to keep them out of these classes. I can only go by our son’s experience where his guidance counselor was the one who tried to talk him into taking a lower level of math. We didn’t have much pull but we were at least able to get him into what was then called something like Compacted Seventh and Eighth grade math. However, his track ended up only covering about half the material that the other tracks covered so it was sort of a farce. I don’t know though if it is usually the guidance counselors making this decision or someone else. If WCPSS required that all prepared students be allowed to enroll in Algebra, would the system intervene to prevent or discourage students from taking or succeeding in the class? EVAAS would tell us who is prepared but the system (whoever that is) can’t be pushing kids in the other direction or it won’t work.

The boss of the guidance

The boss of the guidance counselors is trying to get them to place kids up when possible. He has his work cut out but is leading the charge.

Elite parents want them kept out. Lots of math teachers want them kept out.

For you son, the trick is what did he take in 9th grade? Did he take that Alg 1 Plus that leads to Honors and AP courses? If not he is on the rather dead-end track.

They won't even let anyone use EVAAS to tell us who is prepared. They don't want to know.

The system needs leadership. You see what kind of leadership they have. They hid the SAS report. They make a data system that no one understands, but it gives  lower expectations. 


Very interesting.  I didn't realize that teachers couldn't access the EVAAS results.  I just thought that they weren't used for evaluation purposes.  It seems from the SAS report that some WCPSS data is accessible to the EVAAS system, but I could be wrong about that.  They at least seem to have enough data to predict who could have succeeded in Algebra I in WCPSS.  What concerns me is that even if there is a movement to make Algebra I open to all eighth graders who are ready, the guidance counselors and some teachers could undermine it. 

That's what I think happened to our son.  They "let" him into Compacted Seventh and Eighth grade math, but then did not teach all of the material to his class.  Of course, this affected how much he and his classmates knew at the end of the year.  They could then have pointed out that he wasn't "ready" for Algebra since he hadn't mastered some of the necessary material to prepare for it.  I don't know what would have happened because we took him out of the public schools at that point.  I'm pretty sure he was on the dead-end track.  He still suffers from a belief that he isn't good at math.

I will be interested to hear what happens tomorrow at the BOE meeting when they discuss the SAS report. 


When is that board meeting?

When is that board meeting? I would love to go.

The NC DPI provides all the school system data to SAS so  they can build EVAAS. They have all the data for the state. The general assembly pays for it and has for many years. WCPSS has just not told anyone it was available, and as people found out and tried to get access so they could use it, that is when E&R wrote the report that SAS is answering. Their report is available on E&R's website. It basically says that no one needs EVAAS because they have the Effectiveness Index. (they are so different you can't believe it, but they are banking on everyone being too stupid to realize that.)  SAS's report is a response to their crazy paper that says no one needs EVAAS and it is just like the rather worthless, racially biased, statistically invalid method that wcpss currently uses. SAS's report is answering that report they wrote, posted for the public, and presented to the BOE. Then they hid SAS's response.

As for your son, it sounds like he would have been dead-ended. You still have to advocate even in the private schools. Math teacher are math teachers. They think only a tiny handful of people can learn math. (I'm a math teacher.) It is important that you help him get over thinking he is bad at math. You should read the book Outliers, by Gladwell (I think). It gives examples you can share with him that show that we make successful people by providing opportunities. Your son was robbed of opportunity. But he can make it up.

School Board Meeting

Tuesday, October 20, 2009
1:00 pm Committee of the Whole (open to the public)
3:00pm Board Session (open to the public, public comment at 4pm)
Agenda (Informational Section)
This presentation will provide the Board with information related to the fundamental similarities, differences, and applications between the WCPSS Effectiveness Index and the SAS EVAAS system."

This was posted by someone else yesterday.  I wish I could go and hear what they have to say.  I'm hoping someone from SAS will be available to respond.  I read the original E&R report and the SAS response.  I hope the administration doesn't just focus on the, as they put it, "technical" differences between the two approaches.   I find it unconscionable that EI projects lower scores based on F&R and special education status.  But I'm hoping that the discussion also includes the issue of keeping children out of Algebra when they are qualified to take it.  I'd like to hear how they can justify doing this!

Thanks for the kind words about our son.  He used to love math and, since I've taught math-related subjects like accounting and corporate finance, I think it's really important to understand math.  We did find, as you said, that we had to advocate for him in the private school too, and we weren't very successful there either.  I felt all along, and tried to tell him, that they were not making impartial judgments about his math ability.  Actually, I've shared with him some of what you've said and it helps.  You know, it has a lot more credibility when it isn't just "Mom" saying it!


It is my understanding that

It is my understanding that WCPSS rejected having someone from SAS available at the meeting for discussion of the SAS report.  They are really hoping that this blows over and that they do not have to deal with it!

blow over... they hope it

blow over... they hope it blows over that they are using an invalid statistical method that adjusts scores in biased ways to cover up the fact that they limit opportunities for certain subgroups---and the effects of doing so.

We aren't talking about low income and minority kids doing worse academically. This is about them not having access to rigorous courses when they have demonstrated academic ability.

I am sure they will get away with it, but it is amazing. 

BOE meeting

Can you let us know what they say if you get to go to the meeting?  I've thought of something else about the EVAAS data.  Since they can predict which students have a 70% or better chance of passing Algebra in eighth grade, it seems as if they could then determine what percentage of these students at a given school are subsequently enrolled in Algebra.  It would be interesting to find out if some schools are encouraging their students to take the more challenging math class and whether there are wide disparities between schools. 

I saw some material from

I saw some material from EDSTAR showing this very data.  They looked at 4 or 5 schools within a school district (name withheld)  to figure out placement rates of proficient students for 8th grade Algebra.  The disparities among schools were unbelievable.  One school had approx. 90% placement rate while another was about 10%.

EDSTAR claims that with a data-driven approach to math class placement, the number of minority students enrolled in advanced classes goes up an average of 400%.

I want to know how the Effectiveness Index can be used for similar analysis and if not, why are we using it?

How could it be used for

How could it be used for this purpose? Why would you put a low income kid in a top track when the model predicts him to learn less than other kids. That sounds like a low track kid to me. And besides, you can't use Effectiveness Index for individual kids. It is not valid at the individual level. It says that right on their report explaining it. But then they provide individual student level EI data to the teachers. They give nothing else to use, and say here you go, but don't use it. And then they say that EVAAS is the same as EI even though one is good at the student level and one is not; one predicts who will be successful while the other predicts failure for certain groups because they belong to those groups.


That's amazing.  What's EDSTAR?

Check out their web

Check out their web site:


They helped with the data collection and evaluation for the Hodge Road report that klanders65 refers to.



There are huge disparities

There are huge disparities between schools. Huge. They already looked.

Completely agree

When we recognize that losing students from a base school can potentially be harmful to the base school, though, we are left with an ethical dilemma: If the school system chooses to offer unique and valuable programming only at certain magnet schools, is it then ethical for the school system to categorically deny access to the unique programming to a child because of the neighborhood the child lives in/base school he attends? I have a huge problem with this. Unfortunately, I don't think the current BOE sees a problem with it at all.

I completely agree with your statement on the selection discrimination of applicants of magnet schools.  If magnet schools are only available to certain privileged groups (namely the affluent) don't expect us to be applaud and pat your backs and say "good job".

I love that one - "Give a

I love that one - "Give a Damn" GAD Parents ... you are right though ... if a school is in trouble and parents are the solution than attracting GAD to certain schools could pull them out of a hole .... Some families might even enjoy that role like a CEO who swoops in and turns companies around ...

As a GAD, the thing that would draw me back to base would

be better base schools.  Foreign language, art, and music in elementary school would be a start.

Don't you just love ole

Don't you just love ole Chuckie!!! He can get up and flap those lips about every issue that will/or will not impact each and every child and family. I was under the assumption...I guess I'm wrong, that he has all the reports and data that can be created in front of him and in his hands to make all those changes he thrives on. With him saying, it would be difficult...oh please give me a break! YOU have and are continuing to run things the way you see fit. Del and the board (er) are doing nothing about it. WHICH IS WHY...the elections turned out the way they did!

And yet another biased

And yet another biased reporting: with the new school board "looming"! What school of journalism is this? No wonder newspapers are waning.

he he he...

That's kind of ironic, considering that this is a blog post that will likely never make it into the paper.

From TheFreeDictionary.com:

3. To seem imminent; impend: Revolution loomed but the aristocrats paid no heed.

 That's about what's happening here, isn't it?

N.C. fourth-, eighth-graders

N.C. fourth-, eighth-graders outperform nation in math

North Carolina's performance at fourth grade was not significantly different from that of 18 other states and was higher than 29 other states or jurisdictions.
North Carolina's eighth grade performance was higher than 19 other states or jurisdictions, not significantly different from 18 and lower than 14 states or jurisdictions.


It is going to be

It is going to be difficult... Quite frankly, I don't see other way rather than offering some kind of incentives for students to come back.

Question - am I reading the handout correctly?

Does the Base Tot mean the total number of students who have that school as their base? In other words if every Dillard Drive MS base student attended DDMS, it would have 1808 students (at a school with capacity of 1136 per 2009-12 assignment plan)? If that is what Base Tot means, then they have to get/let a fair amount of students out of DDMS into YR or magnet to avoid overcrowding.

That's what base total

That's what base total means. Allowing some schools, such as magnets, to have very small base enrollments helps allow other schools to have larger base populations. It in theory should work out as some will leave for magnets and year-round schools.


That's the thing about theories, they rarely work out in practice as well as they do "in theory", especially when human behaviour is a key element (i.e. the appeal of certain options, like YR, is not equally distributed among different demographics).

the whole damn system is based on "in theory"

" in theory should work out as some will leave for magnets and year-round schools."

the whole "diversity policy" is "in theory" and that's why it isn't working, ...now if we could get to "in teaching" perhaps we'd see a difference.

WHY so hard?

"Dulaney said it would be hard for his team to quickly get the transfer data for many schools but he said they can come back with the info on Fox Road by the next committee meeting."


Why do I get the feeling that when the new board comes in Dec 1, everything will be hard.

That is exacly why they

That is exacly why they will (unfortunately) need to make some adjustments in the administration.  You cannot succeed in implementing new policies if you do not have buy in from the administration, especially if the administration is such a huge proponent of the "old" policies.

With the current administrators, everything the new board tries to change will be "impossible", "take too long", "be too expensive", etc.

In the private sector,

In the private sector, people who say the task is "too hard" get fired.

The current administration

The current administration put themselves into a box and the current BOE kept them there by blindly allowing them to make AND implement policy.  Del and Dulany are do not just implement policy they make it. 

You don't hire a new coach (i.e. BOE) that runs the West Coast Offense and not allow him to hire a new quaterback if the current quarterback (i.e. Del Burns) runs the option.  No matter whether or not Del can implement the new policies is not the question.  The question(s) is(are) will he do it to the best of his abilities and/or is he the best person to do?  Given his background, I think the answer to both question is absolutley no.  Therefore, it would be absolutely worth the money to buy-out (in necessary) his contract. What would that cost, 1 to 1.3 million?  How much money will be wasted by keeping him in place and not effectively implementing the new policies?  Probably a lot more than 1.3 million.


Exactly - it's his job, how can it be too hard....   or maybe he sees the writing on the wall.

If he cannot read the

If he cannot read the writing on the wall, he needs new glasses. I can see it from here.

I think they really need to

I think they really need to look at why people are leaving base. At the Middle School level it appears that almost 60% are leaving for YR, not regular magnet programs while only about 25% are being placed in traditional magnet programs (and I expect a good portion of the remainder is due to grandfathering). Is that primarily because younger siblings are at YR schools & people are trying to keep their kids on the same schedule? If so, placing further restrictions on those applicants will cause more demand for traditional seats at the elementary school level. We are now VYR, but if my oldest child is not accepted to YR middle school because more restrictions are placed on Dillard Drive applicants, all three of her younger siblings will return to our traditional base, which is already overcrowded.

What do the Acronyms stand for?

Page 3 has a series of acronyms listed as headers. What do they represent?

AC is accepted magnet seat.

AC is accepted magnet seat. DC is parent got magnet seat but declined placement. DN is denied a magnet seat. TC means the magnet applicant was from a year-round school and got a seat at a  traditional-calendar school. YR means the magnet applicant was from a traditional-calendar school and was got a seat at a year-round school.

Impact of Opt-Outs?

Thank you for the magnet data. Was there any mention of the impact opt-outs had on F&R population at these schools?

My understanding is the majority of families that choose to Opt Out of Mandatory YR Calendar are F&R families that prefer traditional calendar over year round.

If that is the case, the Board should evaluate a better way to evenly distribute opt-out students amongst all traditional calendar schools instead of dumping on just a select few.

Note: all the schools on Dulaney's hand-out are traditional calendar schools. This is a problem the CURRENT BOARD created when they converted so many schools to MYR calendar and are now trying to resolve it through selective regulation of magnet applications WITHOUT PUBLIC INPUT before the new board comes in.

It is apparent magnet applications from base traditional calendar schools is not the only reason the F&R populations have increased at those schools. For instance, Reedy Creek Elem. is the Opt-Out school for 6 YR schools. Odd but true.

I would strongly encourage the Board to evaluate all factors contributing to this issue and to present the NEW BOARD with a full report so they can make an intelligent and informed decision in December.

No discussion about the

No discussion about the impact of the opt out students yesterday.

I would think that some of

I would think that some of the Fox Road transfer numbers include current 5th graders who were allowed to stay at Wildwood Forest because of grandfathering.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.