3 steps CMS should take with a student assignment plan

Published in the Charlotte Observer October 31, 2015
From Barry Sherman and Justin Perry, co-chairs of OneMECK.org:

As the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board undertakes the formidable task of pupil reassignment, OneMECK urges the board to proceed quickly with three key steps: define simple, straightforward guiding principles; hire an experienced professional team to prepare plan options; and then engage the community in plan selection and adoption.

Over the course of many meetings, the CMS Policy Committee has attempted without success to arrive at consensus about guiding principles for pupil assignment. Inevitably, the discussions have migrated from identifying guiding principles to possible pupil assignment solutions (magnets, choice zones, etc.).

We urge the committee to adopt simple, general, guiding principles. We recommend (in no order of priority): maximization of student achievement, diversity of the student body (broadly defined), and students’ proximity to the school.

With those three guiding principles, the board can enlist the expertise of an experienced professional team to perform a comprehensive review of pupil assignment and craft plan options that seek to balance the three guiding principles. Creating a new pupil assignment plan balancing student achievement, diversity and proximity in order to make our schools stronger is a monumental task.

CMS staff need outside support from an experienced team. The consultant team can gather and analyze data, then present plans that include different strategies to satisfy the directive of the guiding principles. The range of options that satisfy the guiding principles can then be presented to the public for discussion.

The board has discussed preceding the reassignment process with a communitywide survey to gauge the preferences of CMS families. We believe that such public input will be more valuable later in the process, when concrete options are available for review.

As with so much education policy, the devil will be in the details, and community members need to see those details in order to have the most productive discussions.

Our greatest hope is that in the new pupil assignment planning process, our community will find the will to embrace the needs of all our children. And that in embracing a new pupil assignment plan, we will move toward student and school community integration.