Accountability part of Wake schools' reassignment plans

Staff writerSeptember 28, 2010 

— Faced with increasing opposition to Wake County schools in-progress, community-based assignment plan, Wake schools assignment committee chair John Tedesco is showing renewed determination to continue along the same path, adding details and recommending draft rezonings of a half a dozen neighborhoods in an effort to leverage more support.

At today's meeting of the school board's student assignment committee, Tedesco introduced elements of the plan that focus on accountability, responding to criticism that the board’s developing plan will leave large numbers of low-income students in failing schools.

“Instead of reassigning the kids, I want to hold the system responsible for educating them,” Tedesco said.

Schools could be found to be underperforming based on a standard of having seven of 10 students showing proficiency or significant gains on standardized tests, according to a handout from Tedesco. Those schools would face consequences of removal of the principal, screening for teacher effectiveness, conversion of the school to a full-service community model or turning it into a charter-like academy.

“At which point in the choice model are we going to consider poverty?” board member Keith Sutton asked.

Poverty should be an indicator for assignment just as proximity or stability, Sutton said.

Tedesco disagreed, insisting that reassigning high-poverty students hasn’t worked in the past.

The committee has a non-voting community member for each board member, and several heatedly challenged the recommendation of rezoning nodes, or small areas when the overall plan is incomplete. A rowdy atmosphere prevailed when it became clear that Tedesco and committee member Chris Malone would prevail over board member Carolyn Morrison on the issue of recommending the changes.

Nicole Sullivan, the committee member appointed by board member Keith Sutton, walked out of today's meeting in protest after board members voted to make changes to the draft map. She argued that making changes would legitimize the map that still needs to be reviewed.

"This is a waste of my time," said Sullivan, manager of Office of Research and Planning for the state Department of Corrections' Division of Prisons, said before walking out.

Board member Anne McLaurin agreed that the changes were premature.

"I’m recommending keeping the lines the way they are until we have more information," McLaurin said.

The committee agreed to these changes today: * Move nodes 461.1, 461.5, 461.6, 463.0, and 468.0 from the Fuquay-Varina Zone to the Middle Creek Zone. * Move nodes 371.6 and 371.7 from the Cary Zone to the Green Hope/Panther Creek Zone. * Move nodes 365.1, 365.2, 582.0, and 583.0 from the Green Hope/Panther Creek Zone to the Cary Zone. * Move the portion of node 368.1 north of I-40 from the Athens Zone to the Broughton Zone. * Move the zone line at the southern most part of the Cary Zone and the northern part of the Middle Creek Zone to the Athens Zone so that the zone line mirrors the 2010-11 Athens Drive High School base attendance area. Move nodes 417.2, 417.3, 417.4, 417.5, 417.6, 417.7, 417.8, 418.1, 418.2, 418.3, 418.4, 418.5, 418.6, 424.3, 424.5, and 424.7 from the Cary Zone to the Athens Zone. Move nodes 424.2 and 424.6 from the Cary Zone to the Middle Creek Zone. Move nodes 423.1, 423.2, 441.1, 441.2, 441.3, 441.4, 441.5, 442.1, 442.2, and 442.3 from the Middle Creek Zone to the Athens Zone.

The school system's current assignment plan puts each address in Wake into an attendance area called a node. Go to wwwgis2.wcpss.net/cgi-bin/prod/mainscript/MainScript.pl to find your node.

Even though the student assignment committee only includes three of the nine board members -- Tedesco, Chris Malone and Carolyn Morrison -- every board member has turned out for the meeting.

Morrison said she encountered overwhelmingly negative response to the committee’s direction after taking six hours to read through masses of comments on a school board website.

The committee has received 1,500 e-mails, staff said, many of them expressing concern about students’ high school assignments.

In new information presented to the committee today, staff said students who chose to attend Wake County's magnet schools tend to show much higher reading proficiency levels than the students who live in the school's immediate neighborhood, school officials said today.

For example, 96.4 percent of students who chose to attend Enloe High School, a magnet, showed reading proficiency, while 65 percent of neighborhood, or base students, showed proficiency. Members of the school board's assignment committee had asked for the data to see if attending magnet school with higher-achieving students from other area would help the typically low-income base students.

“This is shocking,” said board member Debra Goldman.

thomas.goldsmith@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8929

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