Tata Finishes Student Assignment Blitz

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It’s been a busy week for Wake County Schools Superintendent Tony Tata, who has been out with his staff holding information sessions about new student assignment proposals.

Tata and his staff presented the Blue and Green assignment plans at 10 high schools in three days. At each session, they demonstrated the district website, where residents can enter their addresses and see possible school options under each plan.

That website has seen more than 206,000 page views and more than 1,100 comments since it went live almost two weeks ago.

Hundreds of parents showed up at the information sessions. At a press briefing Friday, Tata answered some of the most common questions raised by parents.

He reassured parents that students would automatically remain in their current schools unless the parents desired a change. Only students entering the system in the 2012-13 school year would go through a selection process under either plan.

The Blue Plan is a community-based choice plan in which each address in the county has no base school but rather several nearby school options.

The Green Plan, also called the base school achievement plan, is much closer to the current assignment system. Both plans maintain the $13 million magnet school system as it is.

While Tata says the district has no “bias” toward the Blue Plan, his student assignment task force ranked that option higher than the Green Plan on several criteria.

Tata continues to vouch for the Blue Plan, arguing it fosters more stability and choice of closer schools than the Green Plan.

“I’ve had over 100 parents around Wake County tell me, ‘I’ve had my child in two, three, or four schools in a five-year period,’” Tata said at Panther Creek High School Wednesday. “The Green Plan would not solve that. The Blue Plan solves that holistically.”

Much like the current assignment system, the Green Plan would require breaking nodes as certain areas of the district continue to grow. This process would likely involve the same forced reassignment that has drawn criticism from some parents.

Tata also claims that research conducted by his student assignment task force suggests the Blue Plan would likely result in students attending schools closer to their homes.

It is unclear whether students in low-performing areas of the district would travel farther than their average and high-performing peers under either plan.

In its final version, the Blue Plan might automatically assign students in low-performing areas to “achievement choice” schools — schools with high achievement. Parents of these children would then have to opt for a school closer to home.

Tata and his team have not yet determined whether to automatically place students from low-performing areas in achievement schools or just give them priority when their parents choose the achievement school.

Under the Green Plan, the district could also reassign low-performing students to high-achieving schools.

Because “low-performing” and “low-income” often go hand in hand, it is possible that the Blue or Green Plan would affect the same students impacted by the old socioeconomic diversity policy.

Students from more affluent — usually higher-achieving — areas might have the luxury of remaining in their neighborhoods.

Tata will attempt to answer these and many other questions when the district conducts a mock assignment process June 13 through June 20. Parents will have the opportunity to choose schools under either plan as though their children would attend them.

Tata and his team will use information from the trial to refine the plans before offering a framework to the school board on June 21.

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