Wake Ed

NC State professors improve Wake County magnet application process

Gabriel Lopez, right, and his mother, Maria Vazquez listen to Cris Laurens, Magnet Coordinator at Powell GT Magnet Elementary, during a Magnet Mini Fair at Farmington Woods Elementary School in Cary, N.C., Wednesday, January 6, 2016.
Gabriel Lopez, right, and his mother, Maria Vazquez listen to Cris Laurens, Magnet Coordinator at Powell GT Magnet Elementary, during a Magnet Mini Fair at Farmington Woods Elementary School in Cary, N.C., Wednesday, January 6, 2016. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Three N.C. State University economics professors are credited with helping making it easier for Wake County parents to apply for the magnet schools they want their children to attend.

Wake’s magnet application period went online Thursday morning and will be open until 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 31. Wake will fill the 43 magnet schools using a selection algorithm suggested by N.C. State professors Bob Hammond, Umut Dur and Thayer Morrill.

The professors say that parents can apply without having to consider their chances of admission when ranking schools. Instead, parents only need to consider the order in which they prefer schools and not worry about trying to game the system.

“It’s made the process simpler,” said Hammond, who first got involved several years ago after having applied to get a child into a Wake magnet school. “The key thing for parents is to find the best fit for your child.”

Since their first formal meeting with school officials in February 2014, the three professors have used their economic insights to help Wake. As a result of the collaboration, Hammond said Wake is now using a deferred acceptance algorithm that assigns each student to the best school that is possible for the child.

Hammond cited how the new algorithm won’t cost applicants either sibling priority or pathway priority, something parents risked before. It’s important because sibling priority is the top priority in Wake’s magnet selection criteria followed by pathway priority.

Hammond said applicants will retain their selection priority if they rank their older sibling’s magnet school or their pathway magnet school as their second choice. Previously, families only kept the selection priority if the older sibling’s school or the pathway school was the first choice.

Hammond said this more efficient algorithm has been used by Wake since the 2015-16 magnet school application period. He said a number of other school districts have made similar changes, including New York City, Boston, and Chicago.

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