Thursday, October 11, 2012

Class Sizes and the Assignment Plan

Wake County's much maligned assignment plan, in its current version, is quite flawed.  I think we all know that and agree on that.

There's no base school for anyone, currently, and the five "choices" aren't really choices at all because there's little open space in any of them to allow for transfer.

Here's an interesting tidbit though that hasn't gotten any press coverage from the N&O who should, in my opinion, have more than two reporters working the beat since the Wake County Public School System has been such a debacle for North Carolina as a whole.

Sanford Creek Elementary, the school my children attend, has been under-enrolled since it opened seven or so years ago.  Several people I know registered their children to attend school in the WCPSS system.  One was a mom who'd been homeschooling her kids to this point, another was a parent who could no longer afford private school tuition.

Since there is no base school, they were placed in whatever school WCPSS determined to have space.  That ended up being Sanford Creek.  Sanford Creek being year-round, both moms saw their children placed on track three.  One of the moms, the homeschool one, wanted track one but was told she could not have it, because the classes were already at capacity for fifth grade and her oldest was going into fifth grade.  Legal capacity for that grade level is somewhere around 28 - 30 kids.

Ironically, when her son started the school year, he found himself in a track three class with, get this, forty students.  Forty.

Not only that, but it took six to nine weeks (three weeks in, three weeks tracked out and another two to three weeks back in) for WCPSS to agree to allow Sanford Creek to hire another teacher and open up a second track three class, and for the Principal at Sanford Creek to get said teacher hired.

According to the mom, WCPSS had a mandatory 20-day waiting period before it would approve a second class because they needed to make sure the number of students in the class wouldn't fluctuate down due to continued reassignment movement.

Then, the Principal couldn't find a suitable candidate, finally opting to hire a teacher who had previously subbed at the school and whose qualifications were questionable as compared to anyone else the Principal may have interviewed.  But that's another story.  

The bottom line is, among the many, many problems with this mess, is this numbers game that Wake County is playing, particularly with the year-round schools whose administrators must, year-after-year, adjust to.  Year-round, which was supposed to be the end all, be all, for growth management, is a nightmare when it comes to capacity issues and money management.

If community growth fluctuates, and too few students are enrolled, the school must entirely collapse a track to save money, which involves uprooting of students from their classmates and changing their yearly schedule, a problem for parents with other students in middle or high school who must adjust the entire family's schedule to accommodate.  It involves movement for the teacher who is guaranteed a job but must move to another school in some cases, just to keep a job.  It involves overcrowding and adjustment for the teachers on the other tracks who must absorb these new students into their classes.  And it could all change the following year when growth rises again, and they have to add the track back.  

So on top of that problem is the current assignment plan issue.  WCPSS does not have adequate resources in place to accurately reflect space availability at each school,  and it has done a poor job this first year managing the reassignment requests because of it.  As a result, our students and teachers are forced to make due in a class of 40, while WCPSS wastes valuable time waiting to see if the numbers will change.  

I wonder if anyone else has seen these issues at their own schools in Wake County.  It's an issue that should be receiving some attention.