Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Meck, Wake on new school choice index

When it comes to educational choice and competition,  Mecklenburg County ranks about in the middle of the pack,  while Wake County is among the leaders.  That's the conclusion of The Brookings Institution, which today released ratings of the nation's 25 largest school districts,  along with the charter and private schools that offer alternatives in those counties.

Brookings worked from the premise that students benefit when their families have alternatives to their assigned neighborhood schools,  whether in the form of magnets,  charters,  affordable private schools or online learning.  Too often , study author Grover "Russ" Whitehurst writes,  real choice is available only to families who earn enough to move to neighborhoods with the best schools or pay private-school tuition.

Whitehurst created a 13-item choice and competition index that includes such things as the number of alternatives available in each area,  the quality and clarity of data available to help families make choices and the willingness of school districts to let family choice influence decisions about school budgets and even closings.   New York City took the top spot with a B grade.  Wake was No. 4 with a B-,  and CMS was 11th with a C+ . Orange County,  Fla. , was last with a D.  (Read the list here.)

Both Mecklenburg and Wake rated high on options available and accessible online information about school quality . In both N.C. counties,  roughly 80 percent of school-age children attend regular public schools,  with the rest divided among charters,  private schools and home-schooling.  Both districts offer an array of magnets.

Wake County Public Schools rated high on closing schools that aren't popular with parents,  while Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools landed at the bottom of that list.  Mecklenburg got a low rating on providing transportation as part of school choice.  CMS recently cut back on busing to magnets,  and N.C. charter schools are not required to offer transportation.

In an interview Tuesday,  Whitehurst said he was impressed with the data CMS offers families to help them compare and choose schools.  But he said he's disappointed that the district backed away from the "choice plan" that rolled out in 2002,  offering families options to switch their kids to other nonmagnet schools.  That plan created crowding at some schools and underenrollment at others,  which led CMS leaders to limit choices.  Whitehurst, who directs Brookings' Brown Center on Education Policy,  said CMS would have served students better by closing the schools that families fled and expanding those that attracted students.

"It was disappointing to see a good choice system in place  ...  kind of collapsing because of the difficulty of dealing with the demand,"  he said.

Brookings, a nonpartisan research and policy group based in Washington, D.C., hopes the index sparks discussion of ways to increase choice.  Whitehurst said he plans to update the index to include the 100 largest districts and their environs by this time next year.

Choice is a front-burner issue in North Carolina, with the legislature's recent decision to lift the 100-school cap on charters. Earlier this fall, Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina held meetings around the state to encourage people of color to launch charters; the Charlotte session drew more than 350 people.


Anonymous said...

Bad parenting cannot be fixed by a charter school.

BolynMcClung said...


The statement below is from the full report.

“….a quarter of parents of school-aged children report that they moved to their current neighborhood for the school” (see link below).

It doesn’t do anything for the quality of life in the neighborhood you live, if you have to go outside it to get an education. Busing and choice are counterproductive to good societies.

This is why good neighborhood schools are the soundest way to rebuild CMS and reestablish that everywhere in Mecklenburg is a good place to live.

The School Board was correct in returning to system of Home Schools regulated by proximity.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Ahh! The Choice Plan. I'm having flashbacks. Make it go away, make it go away...

Anonymous said...

Bolyn, enough of the bandstanding for the board you covet. Timmy Morgan is going to make sure you get the 6 seat so enough with the self promotion. Tell the residents of Madison Park about neighborhood schools and how well CMS does it. They bus them 10 miles (today) to the west side for high school. All the while Myers Park and South Meck are within 1.5 miles of their homes ! If your going to comment at least have some substance !!

Wiley Coyote said...

Yet another attempt to deflect from the core issue here.

CMS is in the business to educate. All of its branches (schools) should have all of the components in place to ensure each child has an equal opportunity to learn, which includes the environment within the school.

It is ultimately the parent's responsibility to ensure their child is prepared to come to school with manners, respect and the desire to learn to better themselves in life, regardless of their socio-economic status.

The sad fact is, CMS spends entirely too much placating that scenario and many parents really don't give a damn about what goes on with their child in school.

You can have all the magnets and chartrs and choices you want, but at the end of the day, the child either learns what the answer to 2+2 is or they don't.

No amount of choice is going to fix what's wrong with public education until we eliminate the excuses and hold parents and students accountable - and mean it.

Anonymous said...

Give the parents what they really want.

Some just want CMS to babysit their kids.

So how about a babysitting magnet?

That should satisfy a lot of the parents and also keep the kids whose parents don't care out of the way.

And bus the students as far and as long as needed.

After all, time on the road is just as valuable as time in the classroom if it keeps the kids busy.

Allow the kids to opt back in to a regular school if they promise to behave and study.

And if they don't...

Send them back.

therestofthestory said...

Bravo 10:31. However you may have to consider the scenario that it may require less busing to send the serious students to other schools.

Hey WC, with all I am reading in the newspapers these days about the obesity issues in the kids, I think FRL program is a dinosaur meant well when started when incoming military recruits wwere considered undernourished but now a thing of the past.

Anonymous said...


Bolyn, please stop grandstanding for the open board seat. The support for you is nonexistent, period. Scott Babbidge stands a much greater chance of landing that seat.


Anonymous said...


My bad...

Wiley Coyote said...


The very unfortunate problem is, it won't be long before the Feds give every child free lunch like they do in FINLAND, but the Feds will also dictate what they eat.

Some schools in Chicago don't allow lunch to be brought to school.

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