Changes to Student Assignment Won’t Be Quick

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Amid a flurry of questions and overheated discussions Tuesday, the Wake County school board laid to rest any notion that it might delay or change the choice assignment plan for the time being.

The informal decision means that the first round of the selection process will begin on Jan. 17 as scheduled.

However, board members emphasized the need to closely monitor the plan and make changes as needed.

“There is consensus that we need close monitoring and scrutiny,” said Board Chair Kevin Hill. “As [the plan] moves along it will need adjustments. “

While the board may have consensus on the plan being monitored, Republican board member Deborah Prickett countered, “I can’t say I’m open to adjusting the plan on the 17th.”

In a work session last week, Democrats, who regained control of the board in December, asked staff to gauge the impact of making several key changes to the plan, including delaying new feeder patterns, switching certain selection priorities, and setting aside seats for low-performing students in high-performing schools.

Members of the student assignment task force argued against any delays to the plan as well as switching any selection priorities. However, they recommended setting aside seats for students from low-performing nodes in high-performing schools—something for which Republican members have long touted the dangers.

In the end, some Democratic board members, such as Jim Martin, didn’t support the set-asides.

Martin called the set-aside option too “simplistic,” saying it would disrupt a delicate balance – potentially for the worse – in already high-achieving schools.

As an alternative, Martin proffered a system where schools would be offered additional resources for taking on additional students from low-performing nodes.

The lack of set-aside seats was Hill’s reason for voting against the plan in November.

Despite strong doubts about certain aspects of the plan Martin said, “If we proceed with the plan and monitor it then we serve the public justly.”

A committee is yet to be assembled that will help review the plan, create benchmarks and suggest changes to the board.

“That committee needs to gets put together ASAP,” Hill said.


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