Board hears about 'Controlled Choice'

July 28, 2010 4:12:46 AM PDT
The Wake County school board heard from an education consultant Tuesday who pitched a plan called "Controlled Choice" that could carve up the district into new attendance zones.

The school board has been discussing such ideas since the newly-elected board majority decided to vote out the district's old socio-economic diversity policy in favor of sending kids to schools closer to home.

Some opponents - like the NAACP - are worried the policy will lead to the re-segregation of schools.

The plan pitched by consultant Michael Alves Tuesday might be a compromise. He told board members Controlled Choice would divide the county into a dozen or more school zones and attendance would be based on a computer model so that each zone is representative of the entire district.

To read more about what Controlled Choice is click here

Proponents say each zone would be diverse and give parents a choice of schools within each zone.

"All schools are going to be schools of choice," said Alves.

Controlled Choice is used by other school systems across the country. Each zone offers different school types and if a certain school gets too crowded, then a lottery is used to determine who gets to go.

"What I tried to emphasize here is that while you need to be practical, you need to be fair," said Alves.

He says being fair means creating zones that include areas of poverty and wealth, and making sure schools offer the same courses and programs from zone to zone.

Maps of possible zones were released Tuesday.

"Each of these zones should be able to promise families one of these seats in one of these schools in this area," said board member John Tedesco.

Supporters like the idea.

"If the parents have enough choice, they're going to choose what's best for their children," said Claude Pope Jr., chairman of the Wake County Republican Party.

Critics who fear community schools will lead to resegregation hope the new plan will prevent that, but say one word will need to be added back into the policy: diversity.

"Some form of a definition of diversity is a critical part of a Controlled Choice plan that would work well for Wake County," offered Benita Jones - an attorney and Education Fellow with the UNC Center for Civil Rights. A group that's working with the NAACP and other organizations on Wake Schools issues.

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