The UCLA professor and contracted expert on student assignment said it’s possible for Jefferson County Public Schools to create diverse schools with less transportation by next fall. “Well I think the longest ride times would be less than half the longest ride times now. That’s my guess,” Dr. Gary Orfield told the JCPS school board.
Orfield was contracted last year by JCPS to give recommendations on its student assignment plan. His job was to address concerns regarding the plan and to consider more recent data in the district. The long-awaited recommendations include improving technology while cutting transportation times and encouraging city government help, according to the report released at Monday’s school board meeting. The plan could be implemented as soon as next school year and some neighborhoods could even be considered for exemption from student assignment in 2013, said Orfield.
The plan would begin by removing the district’s six A-B clusters defined by race, income and education levels and it would create 13 more organized and equally diverse clusters based on similar information, but according to recent census data.
Although around 40 percent of JCPS schools are not in compliance with the current student assignment plan, the new plan showcases the district’s current diversity according to more recent data, said Orfield.
“The county, when we looked at it, wasn’t a layer cake. It was a marble cake, with lots of different kinds of neighborhoods, especially in the middle of the county that are close to each other but that are different that could easily be part of relatively small clusters, that would integrate everybody at very short transportation times,” he said.
Orfield’s plan recommends consideration of removing certain neighborhoods that are stably integrated from having to comply with student assignment, which could begin in fall 2013. Rewarding schools for being stably integrated was around in earlier JCPS policies, said Orfield.
The plan leaves out middle and high schools but says kindergarten should be considered for inclusion. Orfield’s plan goes further to recommend the district ask housing agencies and Metro Government for help in creating stably diverse neighborhoods.
Other items in the plan include yearly reports and enhanced technological communications between JCPS and parents.
There will be four public meetings regarding the report beginning in October, said JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens. That should be plenty of time to implement the plan by next school year if it chooses, said Orfield.
Hargens will have to introduce any plan as a recommendation to the school board for the plan to be considered, said JCPS officials.
The report was co-authored by Dr. Erika Frankenberg.