MEDIA RELEASE: NC Justice Center, Great Schools in Wake Weigh in On Student Assignment Proposal

NC Justice Center, Great Schools in Wake Weigh in On Student Assignment Proposal

RALEIGH (March 29, 2011) - A new report issued by Great Schools in Wake and the NC Justice Center says the Wake School Choice plan, authored by consultant Michael Alves, does not prioritize student achievement highly enough and lacks clear policies to ensure all schools are high-performing.

According to Alves and Wake Education Partnership Vice President Tim Simmons, the Wake School Choice plan is a series of general guidelines and assumptions that illustrate how a controlled choice model could work in our school district. Recognizing the incomplete nature of the Wake School Choice plan, the new report emphasizes that without fact-driven policies that are clearly defined, easy to understand, and consistently implemented, this plan could easily degrade the academic quality of our schools. It could also cause greater instability in assignment, limit school choice and substantially increase costs—all of the things that it was precisely not intended to accomplish.

"If the Wake School Choice plan or similar controlled choice plan is ultimately accepted as the only politically palatable compromise for our current situation, then strict guidelines that allow instruction to be successful must be in place for such a plan to succeed," said John Gilbert, former 16 year veteran of the Wake County School Board.

Outreach will be a key part of successful controlled choice, the report says, in order to inform the public of how the plan works and what choices are available. A controlled choice system must aim to avoid racial and economic segregation, as well as guarantee transparency so that all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background or race, will receive a fair shot at attending high quality schools. It will be imperative that the Board of Education make a commitment to balanced schools, and this commitment should be reflected in Board of Education policies. Further, these policies cannot be waived, relaxed or ignored, or the “control” part of a controlled choice plan will become meaningless.

“We strongly encourage the school system to ensure that the student assignment plan adopted in Wake County gives top priority to student achievement while addressing concerns about proximity and stability,” said Matt Ellinwood, a policy advocate with the NC Justice Center. Ellinwood continued, “As Superintendent Tata himself noted, ‘a student assignment plan has to address avoiding high concentrations of low-performing students.’ Low performing schools drain countywide resources and all students receive a diminished education.”

The report argues that revising, but not abandoning, Wake County’s current node-based assignment policy also warrants serious consideration. The overwhelming majority of parents surveyed last year indicated satisfaction with assignments and school calendars. In addition, strained financial resources will make it difficult to implement an entirely new controlled choice system effectively.

The report concludes: “We believe that the Wake County Public Schools’ Student Assignment staff has the knowledge, talent and good judgment needed to fine tune our current node-based system and create greater stability in assignment. And by augmenting our magnet program, we can extend choice to more students. In sum, we already have a modified choice plan with great potential to be enhanced for the benefit of all.”

Click on the link below to read a PDF of the report.


About Great Schools in Wake Coalition:
A project of WakeUP Wake County, Great Schools in Wake Coalition (GSIW) is a community coalition of organizations, business leaders, parents and citizen advocates who are working to ensure educational excellence in the Wake County Public School System. GSIW’s mission is to provide accurate information to educate the public about policy initiatives that would impact the quality of education, foster well-informed discussions about critical education issues, and advocate for policies that improve public education in Wake County. For more information on the Coalition or to join, please visit:

Yevonne Brannon, Chair, WakeUP Wake County,, 919-244-6243; Matt Ellinwood, Education & Law Policy Advocate, NC Justice Center,, (919) 861-1465

PDF icon 3-29-10 School Choice White Paper.pdf215.61 KB