For several months I’ve blogged about a plan by the Orange County school board to merge its lowest performing elementary school with its highest performing elementary school. There’s been enough pushback from parents that the board will now look at “alternatives.” Let’s hope this is a serious effort, not a way to placate merger critics. I’m willing to give the board the benefit of the doubt for now even though the board hasn’t yet dumped the merger idea, which is a way to circumvent the No Child Left Behind law’s accountability requirements for student achievement. A look at Raleigh News & Observer reporter Cheryl Sadgrove’s blog about the story reveals what board chairman Dennis Whitling is still thinking:

Chairman Dennis Whitling said Tuesday that he and others on the board are still interested in affecting the socioeconomic balance of both schools next year.

Mr. Whitling and others believe that a child from a low-income family won’t learn unless he sits next to a child from a high-income family. In my view, it is the skill of the teacher, not family income, that makes or breaks a child’s learning experience. When a child has a competent, committed, serious teacher who is being paid based on the performance outcome they produce in their students — not based on a salary structure with no differential or merit pay — the family income will be low on the list of factors that affect achievement.