Wake school board denies 'racial animus' for student assignments

Staff writerMarch 29, 2011 

— The Wake County school board denies allegations that it discriminated, or based any action on "racial animus" when assigning students, as it responded today to an investigation by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.

Investigators had asked Wake County for a detailed response to a charge that the system discriminated against non-white students by killing the policy that used socioeconomic diversity as a factor in assigning students. A 42-page response released today noted that the school system is in the process of developing a new student assignment plan under the leadership of superintendent Tony Tata.

"I asked for, and was given, the responsibility of developing a student assignment plan" Tata said in a statement. "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.”

The investigation began in response to a complaint last year by the state office the NAACP.

One of the things that Tata's task force is looking at is the Wake School Choice Plan. It was developed at the request of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and the Wake Education Partnership, which wanted to try to maintain some kind of diversity in a new assignment plan.

The Wake School Choice Plan has the goal of trying to prevent schools from having too many low-performing students. It calls for using student achievement along with proximity, stability and choice as factors in the new model.

But a new report released today by the Great Schools in Wake Coalition and the N.C. Justice Center warns that the Wake School Choice Plan doesn't promote student achievement highly enough. It says the model lacks clear policies to ensure all schools are high-performing.

"To support high achievement, a choice system whose rules strongly encourage parents to favor their neighborhood school, like the Wake School Choice plan, must also find a way to ensure that those rules do not result in the creation of new low performing schools." the report says.

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

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