Dr. McLaurin and her District 5 representative on the Student Assignment Committee (SAC), Anne Cooper, held a District 5 Forum on student assignment tonight at Dillard Drive Middle School. I gave a revised presentation on the SAC's now-in-limbo zone plan, and Tim Simmons of the Wake Education Partnership spoke about the "controlled choice" plan being developed for the Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce by Dr. Michael Alves. All presenters fielded questions.
Entries in FRL (16)
Today's student assignment committee meeting was limited to sharing information, since the zone-based plan has been scuttled for the time being and no new option has emerged.
While no decisions were made, John Tedesco did reveal some heretofore hidden aspects of the "zone plan." Apparently Athens Drive HS and Broughton HS were destined to be moved out of the Central Region to the Western and Northern Regions, respectively, and the downtown and Southeast Raleigh magnets would have become something like what they already are, namely countywide magnets. Apparently, however, more seats in these magnets would have become base seats, increasing the poverty and minority isolation in those schools. Since this plan continues to have four votes, it continues to be important to think about it.
Staff shared information about
- assignment changes for 2011-2012 arising from the opening of new schools (Walnut Creek elementary site, Rolesville middle school site, H6 (Rolesville) high school site
- growth projection and the need for new schools in the next decade (33 new schools if 1,000+ student year-round elementary schools are used, more if not)
- school funding methodology
- program distribution and equity (AP, languages, etc.)
- reverse magnets (Here is a report on the one that once existed in Wake County, which was discussed at the meeting. The magnet program is called CBALC in the report. It was not particularly successful.)
I'll link the materials once I have access to them.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have produced impressive proficiency gains for their poor, black, and hispanic students, who now outperform their counterparts in Wake. They have done so in an environment with more poor, black, and hispanic students. If one believes CMS has done this in spite of the concentrated poverty resulting from neighborhood schools, rather than because of some benefit conferred by them, then WCPSS can obviously learn some things from CMS.
Watch out, though. Mecklenburg County has a poverty level (10.9%) very similar to Wake County's (9.2%). Despite this, far more users of Mecklenburg County's public schools receive free lunch (50.9% versus 31.2%). See chart. While the white residents in both counties are less likely to use the public schools than their counterparts who are black or hispanic, the difference in Mecklenburg County is much more striking. In Mecklenburg, 54.1% of the population is white, but only 33.5% of the students are white. In Wake, it is 64.2% versus 51%. This appears to mean that far more nonpoor whites are opting out of public school in Charlotte than in Wake. This probably isn't good for public support of the public schools.
Today's News & Observer printed a viewpoint piece by J.B. Buxton that identifies the problem with assuming that neighborhood schools will bolster achievement: the evidence does not support it. As he puts it, by reference to an oft-cited example:
Charlotte's student assignment plan was not part of the solution - it was part of the problem. Progress has resulted from actions taken to address challenges created in part by the assignment plan. It has also meant higher levels of local spending in Charlotte than in Wake ($429 more per student according to latest state data).
Read more: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/10/03/714595/a-better-course-for-wake-schools.html#ixzz11LoYUODC.
Some studies support the conclusion that parental involvement enhances achievement. Others do not. Where an effect is found, however, it generally stems from parents more actively encouraging their children to do homework, not from visiting their school. I do not know of any research showing that "neighborhood schools" affect parental involvement of this type or enhance achievement in another way.
Studies do not show that neighborhood schools are bad, either. But they do confirm that concentrating poverty or isolating black and hispanic students, as the current proposal would, adversely affects achievement for all groups in the areas where those concentrations would exist. WCPSS school proficiency data supports this conclusion too.
Today's Student Assignment Committee meeting provided much data but few answers.
There was a brief detour into achievement in which it was proposed that another committee of the Board (the Policy Committee, whose operation has been suspended by the Board) design a "policy" to promote student achievement by holding schools accountable and replacing personnel or programs that fail. There was a more sustained effort to extract data from staff the would show magnet schools and busing are a bad idea. This data is on the WCPSS website if you would like to review it. There was a significant amount of prearranged node flipping to address concerns raised by constituents of John Tedesco and Debra Goldman. Among the key questions neither addressed nor answered:
- Given significant evidence from multiple studies that concentrating poverty and isolating African-Americans impairs the academic performance of poor and minority students in the resulting environments, why should the Board adopt a reassignment plan that does those things before it determines the steps that might be taken to promote achievement in spite of them?
- Do the base students who attend socioeconomically diverse magnet schools perform better than they would perform if their school were a racially isolated, high poverty school?
- How will it be possible to preserve the existing magnet system in anything like its current form, given the proposed reassignments?
More on each of these topics later.