Monday, March 25, 2013

We win the lottery

The meaning of "public school choice" varies significantly by locale.  In the South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC) while there are a couple of small Charter Schools, what we are primarily talking about are Magnet Schools vs. your neighborhood school.

I wrote about our Kindergarten search five years ago and our Intermediate School selection process this past January. I mentioned that we had settled on the LaSalle Academy program as our first choice.  Sarah's three closest friends made the same determination.  (I refer to this group of BFFs as the Fearsome Foursome.)

To secure admission to LaSalle one must pass an admissions exam.  School officials know that more children will pass the exam than there will be spots available for admission, so the "winners" next enter a lottery.  The lottery determines those accepted immediately, the others go on the wait list.

This process and situation create two significant problems for the community.

As mentioned in the prior post, it is the case that the facilities and course selection at LaSalle are significantly more attractive than the other public school alternatives.  I mean no disrespect to all the hardworking, inspired and inspiring individuals working in the other schools.  LaSalle enjoys much in the way of outside investment, and due to its reputation seems likely to keep it.  You folks aren't given the same resources.

Last January, Oletha Jones of our local NAACP chapter had a viewpoint published in the South Bend Tribune entitled "Consent Decree Speaks To Current Problems".  The consent decree she refers to is a desegregation agreement by the South Bend community schools which came as a result of the Brown v. Board Of Education Supreme Court ruling.

I'd characterize her argument this way:  We have successfully moved from the prior "separate but equal" status quo, but we are now in a "not separate, not equal" condition.  She wrote:

We will not dispute student assignment is perhaps one of the most important requirements of the law, but there are other requirements to the law that need to be followed. We will refer to the Civil Rights Project most recent report of "Deepening Segregation, and Challenges Educators and Political Leaders to Develop Positive Policies." In this report, the authors underscore the fact that "simply sitting next to a white student does not guarantee better educational outcomes for students of color." And among the recommendations stated is that schools give "priority in competing for funds to pro-integration policies; changing the operation of choice plans so that they foster rather than undermine integration."

Even if the corporation is in compliance of the consent decree through student assignment in the magnet schools, how does that bring about compliance in the other schools? When we discuss compliance we are not simply talking about student assignment, we are also referring to equality in academics. Even if the student assignment is diverse, does that guarantee the students in the magnet program are diverse, especially in the school within a school, like the
High Schools?

I served on the magnet committee last year for the corporation. A suggestion that I made was the same curriculum and environment afforded to Kennedy and LaSalle, the blue ribbon schools, be afforded in all of the buildings. This is really the only way to establish full compliance with the consent decree both by the letter and spirit of the law.

The other problem is that even were we unconcerned with the first problem, not all children who are equipped for challenging curicula will have the chance to participate.  This is where the consent decree muddies the waters.  We can't have a straight up gifted school that admits by test score rank (assuming that was valid) because we need to honor demographic factors.  Separately, we can't have all our Intermediate Centers offer the same rich ciricula because the State of Indiana doesn't believe in making a reasonable investment in public education.  Its an unfair situation which tends to place members of our community in competition with each other when what we ought to be concerned about is good outcomes for all our children.

This came home to roost as the LaSalle letters were received by parents late last week.

The Fearsome Foursome are all very bright, well regarded, hardworking, Honorollees.  No doubt that any of them can handle the work. All of them passed the test.  Three of them were accepted (including our daughter), one was wait-listed.  What would you say to her?

1 comment:

  1. I would like to just simply thank you for bringing this important issue of equity to a public forum. We must push for change that affords every child access to the best educational opportunities.


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