The Wake County Board of Education defended its actions as part of a federal civil rights investigation, says WRAL in Raleigh. In a response to an inquiry from the [U.S. Department of Education's] Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the board wrote that decisions about how to assign students to the 163 schools across the county were not “motivated by racial animus.” The state NAACP has expressed concerns that changing Wake County’s student assignment policy from one that emphasizes economic diversity to one that prioritizes putting students in schools closer to home will concentrate poor students into schools in poor communities.
Federal investigators visited Wake County in early March 2011 to interview school leaders and staff. They are scheduled to return for meetings with school board members in the first week of April, according to district spokesman Michael Evans. A Department of Education spokesman characterized the visits as “neutral fact-finding” that do not imply that OCR believes the complaint has merit. OCR’s investigative process generally includes on-site meetings, interviews and gathering data, said Jim Bradshaw of the Department of Education press office.
After the February 2009 vote to change the student assignment policy, the school board endured months of heated debate about the change. The board made little progress in implementing a new assignment policy and, after hiring a new superintendent in January, deferred to him to develop a plan. Superintendent Tony Tata has temporarily reassigned six members of his staff to devote themselves entirely to implementing the school system’s new student assignment policy. ” He said, “Our team is creating a long-term, comprehensive proposal that includes the input that we have received from all segments of this community representing all points of view.”
Tata’s plan is expected sometime later this spring. It is widely expected to draw on the suggestions of the Wake Education Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. Those groups hired Boston-based consultant Michael Alves to craft a plan that would give Wake County families a choice of schools while focusing on the academic achievement mix of students attending each school. Another advocacy group, Great Schools in Wake, issued a joint report with the NC Justice Center questioning whether the so-called “Alves plan” would do enough to assure student performance. Great Schools in Wake, a group which has historically supported the “diversity” policy of student assignment, suggested again Tuesday that the current model be revised rather than abandoned.
Source: WRAL, 3/29/11, By Adam Owens
[Editor's Note: The New York Times reported that the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce (GRCC) had proposed a student assignment plan for Wake County Public Schools (WCPS) that would base student assignment on student academic performance. Specifically, under the plan, no school would have an overwhelming number of failing students. Instead a school might have 70% of students who have scored at a proficient level on state tests and 30% who are below grade level.
GRCC proposed the plan in an attempt to end the dispute between the Wake County School Board, which in a 5-4 vote scrapped WCPS’s widely acclaimed student assignment plan based on socio-economic factors in favor of assigning students to neighborhood schools, and groups, such as the NAACP, representing the minority community in Wake County. The plan appears to be the first of its kind in the nation. A summary of the article is below.]