N.C. district moves to parental choice

The Wake County, N.C., school district that once used socioeconomic diversity as a factor in student assignment now plans to let parents decide which school to attend.

From the Raleigh News and Observer:

RALEIGH — Barring a last-minute school board revolt, Wake County families will now get to pick which schools they want their children to attend, instead of being told where to go based on their address.

Wake Superintendent Tony Tata laid out a timeline Tuesday for a new student-assignment plan, in which families will be given a list of schools from which to pick. Most of the options would be near where they live.

Tata’s formal recommendation of the plan, which must be approved by the school board, is a key step in how the state’s largest school district transforms the way it determines which students attend which schools.

The new plan would replace Wake’s discarded method of trying to balance the income levels of students at individual schools. The socioeconomic diversity policy was established in 2000 after the board’s lawyers warned that race might be made illegal as a factor for assigning students.

But the diversity policy came under fire from parents who blamed it – as opposed to rapid growth – for their children often not being able to go to class close to home. Parental dissatisfaction over the diversity policy and issues such as mandatory year-rounds led to a change on the school board in 2009.

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit