The Wake County Public School System has started a two-week trial of its Blue Plan student assignment proposal.
With a wide variety of school choices for families, the Blue Plan offers much less predictability than the Green Plan, which is closer to the current student assignment plan.
For this reason, Superintendent Tony Tata decided to conduct a test of the Blue Plan from 5 p.m. June 13 through June 20 to determine patterns in parent choice.
The trial will take place on the same Web site the school system uses for public comment on the student assignment proposals.
On that site, parents can rank about five schools closest to their home in order of preference or select from calendar and magnet options.
Parents whose children are not of school age but will enter the system in the 2012-13 school year can still participate.
“The information that we get back is going to be invaluable in understanding the process,” Tata said. “Would you choose the closest school or would you choose the school with the highest achievement? We need to see what Wake County parents will want for their children.”
Tata said that in other districts where community-based choice plans like the Blue Plan have been implemented, parents sometimes select lower-performing schools in their neighborhoods even when high-performing schools are available to them farther away.
In recent months Tata has advanced the possibility of automatically assigning students in low-performing areas to high-performing schools elsewhere in the county. Parents would then have to initiate a transfer process if they still were to prefer the closer, low-achieving school.
Tata wants as many parents as possible to take part in the trial, but hopes to get at least 10,000 families involved.
“That would give us the data and generate enough information to predict based on these patterns,” he said.
During the past three weeks, as parents have reviewed the assignment plans online, the district has had trouble getting eastern portions of the county to view the Web site and make comments.
Tata and his team are trying to forestall low participation among certain segments of the population by working with community groups and about 300 faith-based organizations to get the word out.
The online comment period ended at midnight Sunday with more than 287,000 page views, almost 9,000 PDF downloads and almost 2,000 comments. Of the comments, 682 favored the Blue Plan, slightly more than double those preferring the Green Plan.