Wake School Board Adopts Choice-Based Student Assignment Plan

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In a move anxiously watched by parents, The Wake County Board of Education voted 6-2 Tuesday to approve a new student assignment plan that allows greater choice for children to attend schools closer to home.

The decision moves Wake County public schools away from its long-standing practice of busing students for socio-economic diversity and comes after two years of contentious debate, public hearings and demonstrations by people concerned that the change would create schools with high poverty levels and low academic standards.

The board’s decision to approve the plan means that it will go into effect for the 2012-2013 calendar year. The move toward choice was ushered in after a Republican-backed board majority took office in 2009, but since last week’s elections have put four new faces on the board (one spot has yet to be decided in a run-off), many parents have called for a delay in implementing the plan. But others have pushed for approval, stressing that the plan has been thoroughly debated.

If you’re wondering what your child’s choice of schools will be for the 2012-2013 calendar year, you can access that information at the district website, assignment.wcpss.net, beginning the week of Oct. 24. Parents will be provided a detailed timeline and preliminary student assignment information in mid-November, according to a press release from the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS).

According to WCPSS, the new assignment model lets students in elementary and middle schools within a family advance together to middle and high schools. All schools have aligned feeder patterns keeping students together through their school experience, unless parents wish to opt out of the feeder pattern and participate in the choice process. Parents may choose among at least five proximate elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. Families in areas where magnet seats have been set aside to reduce concentrations of poverty will have access to high-performing “regional choice” schools, according to the release. Currently-enrolled students are “grandfathered” at their schools and may remain there with their current transportation, if they so choose.

The decision to implement the plan fills me with ambivalence. On the one hand, the new-choice model assignment was thoroughly debated and voted in democratically, so why shouldn’t it be implemented? On the other hand, if the newly elected board members do not support this plan, we may have to start the whole process of choosing an assignment system over again. Any parent knows that uncertainty about schools isn’t good for their children, who crave stability, and it isn’t good for the local economy either. But if there’s anything good that can be said about the constant changes, it’s that Wake County citizens are opinionated and seeking what they think is best for their children, even if they can’t agree on it.

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Categories: Early Education, Education, School Kids, Sk Education

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