Wayne County Public Schools' new formula for determining entry into Wayne School of Engineering has resulted in lower acceptance rates for students attempting to enter the public school system for the first time, according to data released by the school system.
Of the 39 non-WCPS students who applied for WSE entry for the 2017-18 school year, only four were accepted. Some parents have criticized this change, saying it unfairly disadvantages students who come from home-school or private school backgrounds.
Maj. Kendall Chudy and his wife, Casey, have home-schooled their children for several years as a way to combat the instability that comes with active military service. After shifting to reserve status, the family decided to settle down in Goldsboro with the hope of sending their child to WSE.
Chudy said he was told by the school system on three occasions that his child would be included with students at Carver Heights Elementary for allotment purposes.
Instead, non-WCPS students like his child were placed in a separate group.
"What happened in the lottery was not what we were told," he said.
The lottery system changed this year in an attempt to make the population of WSE more representative of the county as a whole, said Tamara Ishee, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
To do this, slots at WSE were allocated based on a given elementary school's fifth-grade population. For instance, Carver Heights' fifth-grade class accounted for 10 percent of all WCPS fifth-graders, so the school was allotted 10.7 percent of the 65 available slots, for a total of seven.
Non-WCPS students comprise their own group, with a disproportionate number of applicants compared to population. While non-WCPS fifth-graders make up less than 5 percent of the overall fifth-grade population -- the smallest group -- they also accounted for the most applicants from any single group with 39.
In previous years, when feeder school information was not used, non-WCPS students were somewhat over-represented at WSE in grades 7-12, as their smaller population was not taken into account, Ms. Ishee said.
That small population translated to four slots this year, which comes out to 6.2 percent of the total allotment - actually a higher percentage of slots than the population calls for.
In comparison, Tommy's Road Elementary accounted for 6 percent of WCPS fifth-graders, and was also allocated four slots.
The numbers for home school students in particular were a "very educated guess," Ishee said, because there is no data available on how many children are home schooled in Wayne County.
To remain equitable, Ishee said, the district erred on the high side for allocation.
Those slots were created because Spring Creek Elementary had only four applicants, despite accounting for 14 percent of WCPS fifth-graders. The leftover space was allocated to non-WCPS students, which Chudy said was troublesome.
"So, if Spring Creek had had four more applicants, does that mean the non-WCPS kids would have no chance of getting in?" Chudy said. "That's not equitable at all."
Ms. Ishee said this is not the case.
"If we had not had those extra slots coming from Spring Creek, we would have had to pull slots from a few of the other schools," she said. "That was a misconception that some people had, that their kids would just not have a chance."