By Great Schools in Wake & NC Justice Center's Education & Law Project
Across Wake County, people are eager for the community discord surrounding our public schools to be resolved. In February, the Wake Education Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce presented the Wake School Choice plan as a first step toward ending the serious disagreements that have divided our community over the issue of student assignment.
Developed by educational consultant Michael Alves, the Wake School Choice plan deserves careful review by all community stakeholders. We, the organizations involved in developing this paper, conducted such a review with the whole Wake County community in mind.
Between 2003 and today, student enrollment in our public schools has grown by 36 percent, reaching 143,289 this year and making the Wake County Public School System the largest school system in North Carolina. The Wake School Choice plan proposes to use a student assignment methodology called "controlled choice" to accommodate continued population growth in our county while also satisfying the school preferences of individual families and honoring our community's values. Based on our reading of the Wake School Choice plan and our research into other school districts where a similar plan had been implemented, we raise the following questions we believe any new student assignment plan must address:
- Would a controlled choice plan in Wake County provide a balance between individual family needs and the needs of the community as a whole, while also remaining academically sound and cost effective?
- We already have a modified controlled choice program with magnet and calendar choice options. How is this plan different, and would we be better off by implementing it?
- Would the plan truly provide stability, choice, and proximity while improving student achievement?
- Is it realistic to expect the plan to accomplish all of its goals while also accommodating the future growth predicted for Wake County?
- Will this plan increase the overall costs of educating students in Wake County by creating more high poverty, racially identifiable, low performing schools?