Top of the Morning

Top of the morning


Here is some reading for the new members of the Wake County Board of Education who ignored the democratic process in their first meeting this week in their rush to dismantle the economic diversity policy used in student assignment.

The Washington Monthly features the Wake County schools in its October issue in a review of book by Syracuse professor Gerald Grant, who compares the schools in Wake County with the ones in Syracuse.

The choice between Raleigh and Syracuse is the choice between hope and despair, the choice between one America and two Americas.

Grant came to Raleigh this summer to sign copies of his book. The review was written by education scholar Richard Kahlenburg, who also came to Raleigh earlier this year to talk about the diversity policy.  Here is the subheadline above the review in the magazine.

Economic integration may be the key to fixing America’s schools, but Washington is scared to even talk about it.

The new majority on the Wake County Board of Education is doing more than talk about it.  It’s trying to end it and set the county back 50 years by resegregating the schools.


  1. Something Clever

    December 3, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Unfortunately, Mr. Fitzsimon, you have once again gone for talking points over substance. Where is the out-cry about WCPSS student performance under the diversity program? Economically disadvantaged (ED) students in Wake County trail the state average for ED students on nearly all DPI reported academic measures. Wake County has a lower percentage of ED students than the state average as well, so based on the claim that concentrations of ED students can result in inferior academic outcomes (the foundation of the Wake diversity program) the county should be doing better. But it isn’t.

    The diversity program was supported by big business for one reason: it hides the problem of the low performing, low income students by spreading them out. No “bad schools” is nice PR point, but when the student outcomes are the same or worse, what good does it do? You are absolutely right to question the motives of the new board members, but your continued defense of a program that hurt the disadvantaged and attempted to hide them from public view is not the way to do it.

  2. James

    December 3, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I see a whole slew of litigation in the future. The new board members have violated both the letter and the spirit of the law.

    Where are Bob Orr and Les Merritt? Why aren’t they raising holy hell about this anti-democratic action?

  3. gregflynn

    December 3, 2009 at 10:52 am

    The ED testing decline is not the result of the diversity policy and would probably be worse without the diversity policy. Cash Michaels has explored this in an excellent series of articles in the Carolinian. Wake achievement climbed with Goal 2003, a comprehensive program which focused on grade level achievement for all students and low performing students in particular. In 2003 when grade level achievement peaked Wake adopted Goal 2008 to continue the momentum. Several factors conspired to reduce that momentum but the diversity policy was not one of them.

    To some degree the school board rested on its laurels and dropped the ball. Goal 2008 never got the attention that Goal 2003 and was supplanted by concerns about explosive growth, funding and controversial solutions. At the same time testing standards changed written and taught curriculum was not changing at the same rate. This particularly impacted low performing students. Also, since 2001 while the percentage of black students has held steady at about 26%, the percentage of white students has declined from about 62% to 52%. A dramatic increase in Hispanic/Latino students was not met with the necessary resources for grade level achievement.

    A 2007 a curriculum management audit identified 117 action steps and 8 broad recommendations to get achievement back on course. Ending the diversity policy was not one of them.

  4. Something Clever

    December 3, 2009 at 11:18 am

    gregflynn – “The ED testing decline is not the result of the diversity policy and would probably be worse without the diversity policy.”

    Probably be worse? How can you make that claim when the performance of other districts that don’t have such a policy and, on average have a larger ED population by percent, perform equal or better than Wake?

    I understand that the diversity policy sounds like a really good progressive policy. But it isn’t. It is nothing more than a clever way to disguise the fact that the same population that consistently gets short-changed. The results at the child level do not improve. The fact that they reduce the ED population of each school so that it is less obvious doesn’t help anything.

  5. gregflynn

    December 3, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Perform? By what metric and correcting for which factors? Apart from the issues raised above CharMeck’s EOG/EOC “performance” for black and for ED students has been marginally better than Wake in recent years yet CharMeck’s graduation rate for those students is lower than Wake’s. CharMeck spending per student is higher than Wake. Charmeck has smaller average class sizes K-8, smaller course sizes & smaller schools. The absence of a diversity policy might be used to explain the lower “performance” of Non-ED students in CharMeck than in Wake but it would be just as absurd as attributing a recent identified and correctable trend to a policy that has been in effect for some time. Even without a diversity CharMeck’s reassignment battles are as contentious as Wake’s and seem focus on overcrowded schools in affluent neighborhoods versus underpopulated schools in poor neighborhoods.

  6. Something Clever

    December 3, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Perform – NC School Report Cards

    Correcting for which factors? None. I believe that in education there are no ‘acceptable losses’ so there is no correction needing to be done to the reports. One of the major problems is lower expectations for low income and minority students.

    I didn’t bring up CharMeck as I certainly don’t think that they have all the answers. However, you say “spending per student is higher than Wake” as though that is a bad thing. I see a community willing to invest in public education as a positive reflection of the school system, not a negative one. You also say “Charmeck has smaller average class sizes K-8, smaller course sizes & smaller schools” which are all positive attributes in a school system. I repeat, CharMeck doesn’t have all the answers, but it is pretty clear from what you just posted that WCPSS could learn a thing or two from them.

    I am looking at Wake versus the rest of North Carolina, as reported by the DPI.

    Wake has a lower percentage of students than the average district who are ED yet their performance is worse than average. This isn’t to say that the diversity policy is completely without merit, but the idea that it is somehow worthy of this admiration, and, as Mr. Fitzsimon quoted, “the key to fixing America’s schools” is simply not supported by the data from WCPSS.

    For performance at grade level (the absolute minimum standard), comparing ED students, WCPSS is behind the state average by 4.2% in reading and 3.9% in math. If, as Bob Geary said, “The diversity policy, after all, is only the cornerstone of the system’s three decades of success” then we either need to come to some agreement on what success actually is or the program needs to a careful evaluation as it quite clearly isn’t bringing about the results needed for the at risk population it claims to help.

  7. gregflynn

    December 6, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    The 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 numbers were pretty good when Goal 2003 peaked and the same diversity policy was in effect. What changed was the relative inertia of Goal 2008, misalignment of teaching/testing curricula and rapid growth of ED student population.

    CharMeck applies resources that Wake Commissioners have historically been reluctant to provide. ED students at half of CMS’ high poverty schools still under-perform. The other half does as well as ED students in more diverse schools without the subsidies of high poverty schools.

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