Exploring a "controlled choice" school assignment plan for Wake County


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On Sept. 16, Wake Education Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce jointly announced a decision to hire education consultant Michael Alves to help create the draft of a new student assignment plan for the Wake County Public School District.

Alves has spent most of the past 30 years designing "controlled choice" plans that put an emphasis on stable assignments, parental choice and making sure all students have access to good schools.

In drawing up a plan for Wake County, the Partnership and Chamber instructed Alves to follow four guiding principles: choice, stability, proximity and student achievement. They are defined as follows:


Choice: All families choose the schools they prefer to attend. The choices are defined primarily by the assignment areas where families live.

Stability: Once enrolled, students remain in their school unless they choose to leave.

Proximity: Families within a walk-zone are given a strong enrollment preference. Base school options are provided for all families in Wake County.

Student Achievement: When granting choices, attention must be given to the academic achievement mix of students attending each school. Consistent with research, this is done to maintain high student expectations in every school while making it easier to retain high quality principals and teachers.

While the work with Alves is not quite complete, some planning assumptions have been used as a guide. They include the following:

  • During the transition year, all students are offered a "grandfather" provision so they can remain at their current schools.
  • Siblings are offered guaranteed placement with a brother or sister.
  • The district's magnet program will remain intact.
  • All types of schools will be offered in every attendance area: traditional calendar, year-round calendar and magnet programs. Families may get several choices of each.
  • The attendance areas must accommodate future growth and remain reasonably similar over time.
  • The boundaries of each assignment area will be contiguous.
  • A cost analysis of the "controlled choice" plan will be provided to the school board.
  • Parent outreach is a critical component of any “controlled choice” plan.
  • Public input will be necessary for further plan development following any recommendations to the school board. 

The Partnership and Chamber expect to provide input to the school board in February in the form of a comprehensive plan recommendation. If you have questions or would like to offer input of your own, please email Tim Simmons, the Partnership's VP of Communications, or call him at 821-7609.

To view the press briefing where the announcement was made to hire Alves, click here. Alves also visited Wake County in July to talk with a wide range of community leaders. At the time, he distributed a set of talking points that offer a general explanation of how controlled choice plans work.

This page will be updated periodically as Alves' work continues with the Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. The Partnership's most recent presentation on the topic can be found here.