After hours of deliberation last night, the Wake County School Board voted to revise the county’s controversial student choice plan. The revisions include tying addresses to specific schools as well as promoting student achievement, proximity, and stability. The previous plan placed student achievement low in the order of priority for student assignment, but the revisions will presumably make student achievement more of a focus.
Critics of the former policy include families who received no school assignment under the first rounds of the choice plan, real estate agents concerned about the uncertainty generated by having no base assignments to identifiable schools, and newcomers to the system who are automatically placed at the bottom of the priority list. There are many other concerns about the choice plan including increased transportation costs resulting from the complex web of bus routes needed to sustain the choice plan, increased concentration of poverty in poorer schools, and difficulties on the part of families trying to understand how the choice plan actually works.
Aside from the practical problems emanating from the choice plan that are addressed, these revisions recognize the importance of avoiding high concentrations of low achieving students. The research is clear that these schools harm students and are simply too costly for districts to maintain.
After the vote, John Tedesco, a board member who voted against the revisions, acknowledged the inherent hypocrisy of criticizing the current board for making big changes in student assignment given the actions of the previous board in a quote to the News and Observer: “I would caution you as my fellow colleagues not to follow the same path,” Tedesco said. “I’ll put it out there – learn from my own mistakes.”
The only thing better than learning from one’s own mistakes is correcting them – that is precisely what these revisions do.