September 20, 2012
New framework proposed
for student assignment
A new approach to student assignment featuring base schools, school choices, capped enrollments and a “stay where you start” policy was generally well received this week by school board members.
But that agreement found its limits when the discussion turned to the role of student achievement in the new plan. At issue is whether the new assignment plan should try to create a targeted academic mix within schools, and if so, how that mix should be accomplished.
“To me, student achievement is the most important issue and it’s the thing we have the least detail about,” said board member Jim Martin.
Without that level of detail, the public can review the proposed rules governing the plan, but not the details such as where children would be assigned.
Still, the new approach drew broad board support as it pulled elements from both the current controlled choice model and previous base assignment plans. Highlights of the plan include:
Also In This Issue
Common Core sample questions available
Future school sites reviewed
ACT scores top state
Immersion programs improve overall test scores
Register now for our 2012 Education Summit!
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• Every address is assigned to a school.
• All students can remain at their current school until the end of the grade span.
• Existing feeder patterns will be honored, although transportation is not guaranteed.
• Partial caps could be placed on schools that exceed 100 percent capacity. A partial cap means only base-area students can be added to the school.
• Full caps could be placed on schools that exceed 105 percent to 110 percent of capacity. A full cap means no additional students can be enrolled.
• “Overflow schools” would handle students who cannot get into a capped school.
• Magnet students would have the chance – but not a guarantee – to move among magnet pathways.
• Students may not hold a base-attendance seat and a magnet seat at the same time.
• Students can choose to “stay where they start” within a grade span, but transportation is not guaranteed in such cases.
• Students will be given a choice between traditional and year-round calendars.
• Wait lists will be used at all schools.
• Students will be reassigned to fill new schools, although they can choose to “stay where they start.”
• New students would enroll at the base school where they are assigned instead of traveling to the district’s central office as was done this year.
Board Chair Kevin Hill said he intends to call additional meetings for board members in the coming weeks to resolve key questions and work toward full approval as soon as possible.
A majority of the board questioned the original timetable calling for approval by Oct. 30. That caused the board to scrap a series of public hearing dates planned for September and October. They will be rescheduled.
It is unclear how late the plan can be approved by the board and still be cleanly implemented. The 2013-2014 school year begins in July for year-round schools.
A video of the presentation, slides, frequently asked questions and a place to comment on the proposal can be found here.
Common Core sample questions available
One of the oddities about the new Common Core State Standards Initiative is that many teachers have changed their approach to classroom instruction even though tests for the new standards aren’t ready yet.
But an increasing number of sample questions are being released by two large groups of states involved in the project. Teachers naturally have the most intense interest in seeing the questions. In fact, the first online release in August by one the major players drew so much traffic that its server crashed for a brief time.
Beyond teachers, however, the release of questions is giving the general public a better understanding of what will be expected of students based on the new standards. For example, a sixth-grade math question asks students to design a community garden for under $450 according to certain specifications.
Some of the question reads: “The director has asked you to design different sections of the garden that meet the following conditions:
Section 1 must be shaped like a square.
Section 1 must have an area between 26 square feet and 50 square feet.
Section 2 must be shaped like a rectangle but must not be a square.
Section 2 must be exactly twice the area of Section 1.
On the grid below, draw your design for Section 1 and Section 2. Be sure to label each section (1 or 2) and include dimensions. Each box in the grid represents 1 square foot.”
Once students complete this part of the problem, a similar task awaits where they need to calculate the minimum amount of wood needed to build planter boxes of a specific size. Then they need to use those calculations to determine the minimum cost of the planters.
At this point they will be only half way done with the problem. The sixth-graders still have to calculate how many tomatoes and carrots to purchase and how much soil it will take to fill the planters. Then they need to determine the cost for that part of the project.
The time allotted for this task is two hours.
If you have ever built a garden – or fixed a deck or taken on some other backyard project – these questions should seem very real. And that’s the point. These are not end-of-grade exams as North Carolina has come to know them.
Future school sites reviewed
Given the growth rate of Wake County’s public schools, numbers like 150,000 students and 169 schools can be a bit numbing at times. People just want to know if there will be a school nearby when they need one.
A report this week on the district’s long-range building plans helped answer some of those questions by showing where Wake expects to need new schools between now and 2016.
Part of the report’s purpose was to show if the land owned by the district is located where new schools will be needed. In general, the answer to that question is yes. But it also shows plenty of areas where the district owns no land even though population models show a clear need.
“You have a lot more sites you need to be looking at acquiring,” said Christina Lighthall, senior director of long-range planning.
Preliminary estimates of the long-range plan suggest the district will need 16 elementary schools, five middle schools, six high schools and one career-technical center.
The estimates were made in conjunction with county planning agencies, the school district, and planners at N.C. State University. They do not necessarily reflect the scope of the building program that must be outlined in the next school bond request to voters.
More than half of the growth will occur in the southwest area of the county and the far west area near the county line.
A review of the map below provides some insight into how the district is positioned to handle the growth. The circles show where elementary schools will be needed and the dots show where land has already been purchased.
Middle and high school maps can be found here on pages 25 and 26 of the report.
… High school juniors taking the ACT college-entrance exam in the Wake County Public School System last year scored above the state average in all areas and ahead of students in other large North Carolina school districts, according to scores released by the state last week. The scores are available from both the district’s website and as part of the statewide report released by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
…VIF International Education, an organization involved in the Global Schools Network in Wake County and throughout the state, recently issued a release saying all students in its language-immersion programs outpaced their peers academically regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. Of the programs with tested students, 85 percent passed the reading exam and 95 percent passed math, according to the release. Students in immersion programs are taught 90 percent of their core class instruction in a language different than English, which is usually Spanish or Mandarin Chinese.
… Registration is now open for Wake Education Partnership’s 2012 Education Summit, which will feature a program that explains why new Common Core standards are now being used in the classroom and what it means for students. The program includes remarks by Brett Carter, state president of Duke Energy for North Carolina, top state and local education leaders and a live classroom lesson involving summit participants taught by 2012 Wake County Teacher of the Year Lauren Brooks. Tickets are available online.
Wake Education Partnership is a 501(c)(3) non-profit created in 1983 to support public schools, in part by educating the community on current school issues and serving as a strong advocate for student achievement and world-class academic standards. Most of its financial support comes from individuals and local businesses. Please send comments or questions to Tim Simmons, VP of Communications,or visit our website .