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N.C. Superintendent Proposes Two Student Assignment Plans

Wake County, N.C., which received national attention when the school board dismantled a school assignment policy based on socioeconomic status, has proposed two options for a new policy that attempts to place most students in schools close to their homes, while managing the county's explosive growth.

Superintendent Anthony Tata unveiled the two plans Monday.

The so-called Green plan would make adjustments to the busing system currently in place. Students would be given a base school assignment. But instead of moving some children out of their neighborhoods for socioeconomic reasons, the county would make assignment decisions based on academic achievement. The goal would be to keep any one school from having a high number of low-achieving students.

The Blue plan, which Tata favors, wouldn't assign students to a particular school. Instead, parents would get a choice of four to six elementary schools. Ideally, each family would get its first choice, but if that school is oversubscribed, the county will consider issues such as sibling enrollment, proximity, and student achievement. And students who are in low-achieving areas could end up being bused out of their neighborhoods to achieve academic diversity, as opposed to socioeconomic diversity.

The Blue plan's elimination of a "base school" for students allows the 143,000-student district a chance to adapt to growth, Tata said.

Students will be allowed to stay at their school through the 2011-12 school year, with transportation. Whatever plan is chosen will not go into effect until 2012-13.
The proposed plan does not yet have middle school and high school assignments.

(Check out the Raleigh News and Observer's article on Tata's press conference announcing the proposals.)

Eliminating the old busing policy caused a furor that only recently has started to settle down. The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and the Wake Educational Partnership stepped in to try and cool tempers, and one part of their proposal seems to be reflected in the Blue option—the idea of giving parents a choice of several elementary schools. The district also kept the idea that academic achievement, not socioeconomic status, should be a part of the assignment policy

But the superintendent and his committee decided that the full chamber of commerce proposal, which it dubbed the Purple plan, wasn't a good fit for the district. You can find their assessment of that plan here.

Board members who did away with the old policy said they did so in order to create community school assignments, which the Blue option does not have, so it'll be interesting to see if they rally behind the plan that the superintendent likes or go for something different. The community has until mid-June to digest both plans and offer opinions before the school board takes a final vote.

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