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In county wracked by increasing segregation, Charlotte schools to weigh new student assignment plan

school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bLast month, Policy Watch reported on the tremendous resegregation challenges facing North Carolina’s two largest school systems, the Wake County Public School System and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).

Fittingly, this week, leaders in the Charlotte school system will be considering a draft plan for a pending student assignment, and it’s likely to be a disappointment to those advocating for more sweeping changes.

CMS is planning a public hearing on the draft Wednesday, but as The Charlotte Observer reported last week, the proposal had generated applause from some, and disappointment from others.

It’s important to note in this discussion that, at last count, the school system reported that 93 of its 168 schools handle school populations where more than 50 percent of children hail from low-income families.

In 65 schools in CMS, the percentage of disadvantaged children exceeds 70 percent, despite long-held research that high concentrations of poverty can be harmful when it comes to student achievement.

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Despite calls to speed assignments that heavily weighed socioeconomic diversity, the draft plan unveiled last week would continue to prioritize so-called “neighborhood schools,” meaning students’ geography will continue to play a heavy part in their assignment.

However, the draft proposal indicated that the board would consider attendance boundaries for new schools that emphasized socioeconomic diversity. Additionally, students from low-income families would be prioritized for admission in magnet schools, innovative school programs that can draw students from all over the county.

The proposal also calls for “varied transportation options,” a key component in ensuring access to magnet programs for poor children.

Based on the Observer‘s report, the plan earned largely positive reviews from those in attendance at the school board meeting last week.

“It’s a step in the right direction and I’m pleased to hear it,” said Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor, who has formed a task force to study splitting from CMS if it doesn’t protect suburban neighborhood schools. But he said the task force will keep meeting until the board makes decisions.

“I’m very encouraged that we are moving toward a compromise position,” said Rosalyn Allison-Jacobs of OneMeck, a group urging the board to increase diversity and break up concentrations of poverty.

“I think there’s a lot of optimism out there, and optimism is what has been missing,” said Rachael Weiss of CMS Families United for Public Education, a group created to explore student assignment solutions.

However, the state’s Teacher of the Year, James Ford, a former history teacher at Charlotte’s predominantly minority Garinger High, was less than enthused.

From the Observer:

 [Ford] said he read the draft report Wednesday and thinks it falls short of “an aggressive approach” to reversing concentrations of poverty.

“I expected a little more out of the gate,” he said.

We’ll continue to follow this plan as it develops.

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