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Mixed Results on Wake County's Busing Policy

Protesters in Raleigh, N.C.
Early last year, the Wake County school board, with the support of a newly elected bloc of Republican-backed members, did away with a school assignment policy that tried to promote socioeconomic diversity among all the schools in the 143,000-student system.

Since that time, the struggle has been how to create a new policy that will maintain stability but also avoid creating schools with that are predominantly poor. Both sides have been able to wield statistics as weapons as they argue their points, but a group of articles that ran recently in the Raleigh News & Observer show that results of the diversity policy have been mixed.

The paper attempted to answer "5 big questions" about the school system. For example, supporters of the old diversity busing policy might point to the finding that higher poverty schools do have higher teacher turnover and lower test scores.

However, those who successfully did away with the policy might see justification in the finding that poor Wake County students aren't doing as well academically as other poor students in the state. Diversity busing just spread the problem out among many schools so none of them looked too bad, claimed those who wanted to return to community-based school assignments.

A new plan put forward by the city's business community would allow for more pupil stability but also permit the district to take socioeconomics into account in some school assignments. The plan has received early support; it'll be interesting to see if it can bring an end to what has been months of rancorous debate.

Photo: Katie Byerly, 21, of Chapel Hill; Linda Parker, 9, of Durham; and Deanna Best, 12, of Goldsboro, chant outside the North Carolina State Legislature building on Feb. 12 in Raleigh. Among the issues protested were the Wake County school board's proposal to abandon its diversity policy in favor of neighborhood schools. (Sara Davis for Education Week)

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