Saturday, August 4, 2012

Out of focus

Let me start out by saying that I believe assignment - and how students are assigned - should have nothing to do with achievement. For decades, the solution to addressing student achievement in WCPSS was always to fall back on student assignment. If a school wasn't performing, students were moved to other schools to make the school "healthy" once again. That solution didn't actually do anything positive to the education of those who were moved - you simply can't make a child smarter or perform better just by reassigning them. But, it made some people feel good. Really good. It was a cheap, feel-good way to perpetuate the awards for diversity and the perception of "no bad schools". It also, however, created much unnecessary instability, did nothing to improve achievement and ticked off many parents royally.

WCPSS was on its way to untangling assignment from achievement with the new Choice Assignment Plan. All parents were given choice - with a mix of proximity, calendar, and magnets. All families were promised stability at every school level and a predictable future as their children aged up. Plain and simple - this plan provided what parents wanted for their children and families -- and had little to do with raising achievement.

As a result of this new focus, Supt. Tata and his staff have worked to understand the educational needs of different schools and students and have implemented academic solutions to address achievement -- and we are now seeing very successful results. Just last week, the NC Department of Public Instruction released performance data for Wake County schools -- and the results are incredible. There have been gains across the district - at many schools and subgroups. (You can look up your school here.)

So, rather than fret over the demographics of a school and how to create and maintain a utopian mixture of students, it's obvious that our focus should remain on how each school population could be served better academically. We've seen the success - and it could be only the beginning.

Instead, however, the School Board has thumbed their noses at parents and chose to direct staff to link assignment with achievement once again. They didn't even wait to see how many more successes could be achieved. The new Choice Assignment Plan has been nixed (without even getting a chance) and we're moving back to "healthy" schools, set aside seats for certain types of student, limited choice and quotas for every school.

Back to a system that believes assignment and "diversity" will magically increase achievement. In reality, it will only serve to make the Democratic Board members feel good about themselves. After all, that's all it's done in the past.