Friday, April 20, 2012

Newark Charter School, diversity, and lotteries, or . . .

. . . explaining why we want to keep those people out.

Warning:  this post is going to piss a lot of people off, because I'm going to stop beating around the bush and address a very difficult topic directly.

Over at Kilroy's there is a lot of discussion about how NCS might use its lottery system to diversify its student body.

Here was my suggestion:

Hold an opt-out rather than an opt-in lottery. All CSD students in 5 mile radius automatically entered, and if they win a slot must confirm in two weeks or the slot moves down the list.
Now obviously in two sentences I laid out a suggestion, not a full operational program with the details of how people would be notified, etc. etc.  But my point is that if a public good (taxpayer funded education at what its advocates contend is one of the best schools in the nation) is going to be distributed via a geography-bounded lottery, then we need to take steps to insure that all children have equal access to the chance of winning.

In other words, 5-year-old children living within five miles of NCS should not be denied their opportunity to compete for a shot at the best education deal of the millenium even if their parents are not upper-middle-class people who read their newspapers every day and surf the net every night.

The responses interested me.

Let's start with Patriot:

@ Steve – so…how does this address the diversity issue? You’re expecting the same group who currently doesn’t fill out an application, attend open houses, etc. to “opt in”. What happens when the under-represented groups don’t opt-in and we’re right back where we started? I think whatever plan that is developed to recruit under-represented groups has to have a positive affirmation requirement. That is, after NCS puts an approved recruitment plan in place, the family and student have to explicitly indicate they want to attend the school by applying to the school. This ensures that there is buy-in on their part. If we require low-income families to fill out a F/RL form to obtain benefits, surely requiring a family to fill out an application to attend a school is not that much to ask.
OK, this is worth parsing.

You’re expecting the same group who currently doesn’t fill out an application, attend open houses, etc. to “opt in”. What happens when the under-represented groups don’t opt-in and we’re right back where we started? 
The same group who doesn't fill out an application, attend open houses, etc. is low-income families.  The implication in Patriot's sentence is pretty clear:  these poor people don't care enough about their children's education to do anything positive for their education, so why should we reach out to them?

Perhaps we should reach out to them because NCS is supposed to be about opportunities for children and not about only taking the children who come with zero-defect parents.

The answer to what happens if they don't opt-in is that you can go back to DOE and say, "Look, we tried.  Poor people and minorities just are not interested in first-rate academics and decorum."

But the reality is that's not what I think NCS parents are worried about, as Patriot's next statement makes pretty clear:

That is, after NCS puts an approved recruitment plan in place, the family and student have to explicitly indicate they want to attend the school by applying to the school. This ensures that there is buy-in on their part. If we require low-income families to fill out a F/RL form to obtain benefits, surely requiring a family to fill out an application to attend a school is not that much to ask.
This is really interesting.  The last sentence is particularly interesting in terms of the free/reduced lunch argument, because what NCS has always previously demanded is that these families fill out forms declining F/RL.  Notice how the last sentence converts into a really subtle piece of what I would call welfare prejudice--in other words, "We make 'em fill out papers to get hand-outs, why shouldn't we make 'em fill out papers to get an education."

More to the point, these poor parents who didn't attend the open houses and fill out applications are suspect because . . . well, why exactly?

I recall reading Mr. Meece sayng that NCS only advertises its lottery in the newspapers (and presumably online).  That, plus word-of-mouth, gets him his pool of applicants.

In case nobody noticed, poor people have far lower newspaper subscription rates, far less internet access, and in general poor parents will be less well prepared to even find out about this opportunity.

Then there was Newarkmom:

Steve’s idea is interesting and must assume that NCS employs the same amount of administrative support people as the whole CSD does to accomplish such a feat. An all emcompassing lottery, doesn’t run itself. And of course you would have to include all children of the 5 mile radius, including homeschoolers and private school childred to have a true representation.
First, it's too hard to run an opt-out lottery because NCS is not big enough and doesn't have the resources of CSD.  This is utter horsecrap.  CSD can simply provide NCS with a data-run of all children enrolled in CSD schools within the 5 mile radius, and those names can be entered in the lottery.

I don't have to include all the private school children and homeschoolers in that number, because I already know that those families are families with the inclination and resources to pursue other educational options.  They have already opted out of the public school system; to get into a regular CSD school would require them to show up and register, and there is plenty of evidence that they are already doing so in large numbers.

Pencadermom then tells us

I think just the idea of ‘charter’ school might sound intimidating to some people. I also think that some things that involve parental involvement could feel intimidating such as parent conferences, and volunteering at school

Which is precisely my point.  Let's allow the lottery to offer the opportunity, and then let's structure the school to help train these intimidated parents to participate.

Let's also note that what we've gotten from all these parents is that children who are orphans, children whose parents have substance abuse problems, children whose parents are in prison, children whose parents are neglectful are to be denied a shot at one of the best schools in the country (NCS tells us that all the time) because they picked the wrong parents.

kryan67 is at least honest enough to admit what everybody else is thinking--this really has become about BOTH race and class:

Sorry, I believe that parents should still need to apply to NCS. They should have some interest in attending before they are selected. But, I believe that all parents already have the ability to attend, and that all have the same chance of being selected.
I do not like racial quotas. Not because I am an evil racist hater. In fact, the opposite. I believe that all children, from whatever race or economic background, have the ability to succeed. I think that quotas actually take away for those people who do succeed on their own merits. No one should have their co-workers whisper that they got the job to ‘check off a box’. This takes away from the effort and ability of a person.
I also find it extremely racist to have a system that implies that some races require more help than others. Aren’t we all created equal?

First off, it isn't the parents who will be attending--it's the children.  I'm not sure how pre-K kids express an interest in a school with lots of homework.  But the gist of kryan67's comment is the kids who are capable of succeeding on their own merits will apparently (at age 5) carefully select the right parents to that know they need to apply.

kryan67 doesn't come across as evil racist hater, but as something more mundane than that, as somebody who has come up with the argument that equality means that nobody should ever have any extra assistance based on their circumstances lest people snicker behind their backs.

You do have to love Patriot, again, though, for the honesty of coming right out and saying what so many NCS parents seem to be thinking:

Why is it wrong to acknowledge this dynamic and formulate a plan to address it? Since kids in these situations require a different approach and/or additional resources to teach them, why can’t we identify them and offer them a different solution that doesn’t involve allowing them to disrupt the learning of all the other kids? If that comes across as harsh or callus I don’t mean for it to be taken that way, but it is what it is. We can’t continue to advocate for these kids in a way that hinders and holds hostage the learning of all the other kids in the public school system.
NCS would not be NCS, the parents are telling us, if we weren't allowed to use a filter like an opt-in lottery to keep out (a) children whose parents cannot be counted upon to be as involved as we'd like, and (b) all those poor kids who can't understand decorum and would probably just spend their days like little crabs pulling our children back into the bucket.

There is an unlovely aspect to the defense of the NCS status quo by its parents, which boils down to these  two closely related ideas:

There are certain parents we don't want as part of our school.

There are certain children we don't want as part of our school.

Amazingly, at age 5, they know everything they need to know about the parents by whether or not they fill out an application form, and they know everything they need to know about these childrens future disruption of the learning environment . . . by the fact that their parents didn't fill out an application form.

The statistics suggest--surprise, surprise--that most of the children who therefore don't deserve to be at NCS are either poor, or African-American, or both.

I began following this process with a great deal of sympathy for the position of NCS parents.  I am a strong believer in charter schools and school choice, so at first I assumed that people were throwing rocks at NCS just because . . . .

The more I have listened to NCS parents react to every criticism (no matter how mild) and every suggestion that changes might be made to their school in the best interests of more low-income children from the surrounding five-mile area, the more uncomfortable I have become, and the more I have come to believe that all of them stopped reading their Bibles around Exodus 34:6-7.

No link.  Go look it up for yourself.


Beth said...

Steve, I believe this is segregation based not merely on race or economic level but on the characteristics most closely tied with success in school. While I believe NCS is a good school, it is ludicrous to compare it with other schools with student bodies with a wide variance when it comes to these traits. This type of statistically invalid comparison devalues and demoralizes the educational community not engaged in this type of selective admission process.

Coolspringer said...

Simply a fabulous post, Steve. Thanks.

pandora said...

Very impressive, Steve.

downwithabsolutes said...

Love it. Great idea!

Hube said...

How about applying this idea to Wilmington Charter, too? In fact, I'd say it needs it even more, given that it is even more exclusive than NCS. What other charters, may I ask, give entrance exams and then can pick and choose the highest/best scores?

Or is it b/c Steve's children go there that there's very little discussion of CSW's "unfair" practices??

Hube said...

What's the racial ratios of CSW compared to NCS?

Hube said...

In fact, over at Kilroy's place, Steve wrote back in Feb (

You should also acknowledge that under Chuck Baldwin CSW now has special needs students on 504s and IEPs.

We can disagree on the issue of overall admissions policy for CSW, but note that Chuck is definitely moving to change the culture at the school in positive ways.

So? NCS has kids on 504s and IEPs, too. And waddya mean "disagree" with CSW's admissions policy? You disagree with Kilroy? If memory serves, Kilroy objects to CSW's admissions policies; does that mean you favor them, Steve? Is giving an admissions exam to pick and choose within the spirit if not actual charter school law, Steve?

If you're gonna go after NCS as you are, you oughta be ripping CSW just as much -- if not more.

Oh, and from that same thread: over 90% of CSW's pop. is either white or Asian.

Steven H. Newton said...


Yep, my kids go to CSW. They were also turned down for Cab, and didn't get to choice into AI like at least my daughter wanted as her preference.

But NCS and CSW are two entirely different propositions.

NCS has said that what it does can be done with any child, and takes them in at Pre-K (primarily), and says we work with what the lottery gives us.

Except that the lottery, while pristinely run in a technical sense, is serving as a filter. I wouldn't have so much concern with that if any of them would actually admit that.

CSW was designed and states on virtually everything that it was created for high-achieving high school students interested in math and science, with a preference for students in Red Clay.

This past year CSW finally got it right, and gave virtually every slot not covered by a siblig preference to a Red Clay student.

CSW's demographic diversity stats are--in the context of the discussion we've been having--far less inclusive than those of NCS. I don't like that and I have been working to change that. So has Chuck Baldwin. He's been out there working to increse the number of low-income and minority students who apply to CSW.

Nope, not perfect. Yep, our kids pushed hard to qualify.

Here's the other difference: rightly or wrongly, CSW is having little or no negative impact on Red Clay high schools, especially with the creation of the IB program at Dickinson. Every other high school in the district has students choicing in, many from out of the district.

Hube said...

Here's the other difference: rightly or wrongly, CSW is having little or no negative impact on Red Clay high schools, especially with the creation of the IB program at Dickinson. Every other high school in the district has students choicing in, many from out of the district.

How is NCS having a negative impact on CSD high schools when it is ONLY a middle and elementary school? The HS won't open for two years? And have you talked to teachers at Dickinson and McKean? Those schools have deteriorated since the inception of CSW. Here's just one example from 2006:

And where in the charter school law does it state that admissions exams can be given to select only the best students?

Sorry, but I am unconvinced by your arguments, especially when looking at CSW. You have an interest in the latter, and merely say "we can do better" when discussing its racial demographics, yet imply racism and classism against those who differ with you about NCS.


Hube said...

Here you, Steve: Show me where in the DE Charter School law, under "restrictions," can use an admissions exam to skim the cream off the top:

However, NCS complies with the law in that lotteries are permitted, and a five-mile radius stipulation is permitted if such is included in its original charter.

Hube said...

The only thing I can see that remotely gives CSW any leeway is this:

(3) Students enrolling in a new (nonconverted) charter school may be given preference under the following circumstances as long as the school has described its preferences in the school's charter:

c. Students who have a specific interest in the school's teaching methods, philosophy, or educational focus;

But even given that, I'm sure there are plenty of less academically able students who're interested in CSW's concentration of math and science.

KilroysDelaware said...

RE: CSW / Baldwin. Chuck Baldwin is an amazing man and is up to the challenge to put his teachers to the test. He is moving CSW is a moral direction. I support him taking risk slowly to get it right! However, the diversity requirement placed on NCS has open Pandora's box and may come CSW. But that must come by legislation because CSW oversight agent Red Clay isn't going to force it down CSW throat.

Bladwin and I go back before DMA and that man has real raw passion.

"Here you, Steve: Show me where in the DE Charter School law, under "restrictions," can use an admissions exam to skim the cream off the top:"

Hube you won't find it. The test is part of the process to determine the potential student's level of "specific interest" which you will see is a preference. There are no written guidelines in the law to say how to determine specific interest. So that leaves it up to the charter.

Dana Garrett said...

"Show me where in the DE Charter School law, under "restrictions," can use an admissions exam to skim the cream off the top."

I don't like the admission exam policy or the use of tax dollars to set up a segregated privileged class of students who are high achievers. Educating children is as much about social learning as it is academics. But I thought CSW's admission policies and procedures had received an imprimatur by a DE court when they were challenged. Unless I am confused on this point, I seem to recall reading about the case in the NJ.

Hube said...

Thanks for your input Kilroy and Dana. You basically confirm my feelings on all this. Again, it basically comes down to this: There's absolutely NO substantive difference between NCS and CSW when it comes to following the charter school law, yet Steve has chosen to target NCS. Why? He says "technically" NCS is following the law, yet its lottery acts as "filter." Well, WTF is an admissions test?? At least a lottery and 5-mile radius are specifically permitted in the written law. A selective admissions exam is not.

All I can think of is it's b/c Steve has an actual interest in CSW. And I can't believe he said CSW hasn't had an effect on McKean or Dickinson. McKean in particular used to be an elite RCSD school; now, it's a shell of its former self. Dickinson was never known as an outstanding school; now, it's even worse. Maybe its IB program will turn things around. But ... why did it have to implement such a program, hmm? At least A.I. seems to have maintained its stature. And, again, it makes no sense to blame NCS for the deterioration of CSD schools (esp its high schools) when for years it was merely a middle school, then followed by an elementary.

Citizen said...

Steve, I appreciate your detailed analysis of the filters currently surrounding NCS application and the justifications for them that have been made by various NCS parents. Your lottery involving all CSD students is a good idea (though would it be clear who those kindergarteners were, by November of the year prior to their kindergarten entry, when applications are due? I would think not--yet that's the one entry point that really matters).

I've been wondering about comparative data for poor-minority kids, at NCS vs. surrounding CSD schools. Is there a straightforward way to get those numbers (I'm not asking you to do the data analysis again, just curious if those stats. exist). I would think that, as an indicator of how schools are serving our community's most at-risk students, poor-minority children are really the clearest single indicator. For reasons that have (of course) everything to do with history & sociology and nothing to do with any inherent intelligence or moral quality of those children & their families, that is the group most likely to have experienced multi-generational poverty. Happily, there are a fair number of African-American and Hispanic kids around here whose parents do have educational and other advantages--and I'd bet the majority of the NCS minorities fall into that group. (Similarly, the f/r/l category encompasses a range of economic hardship--it would be nice to disaggregate that further, if possible, at least into "reduced" vs. "free.) My guess is that the already suspicious comparative stats. indicating NCS's low admission of poor & minority students as compared with surrounding district schools doesn't sufficiently indicate the disparity. If NCS minorities are largely non-poor, and if NCS f/r/l students are at the "high" end of that low-income spectrum, then the concentration of poverty in surrounding schools is worse than available data indicate. Any straightforward way to get at this reality, that you know of?

NCS parents: this is not a witch hunt. It's acting on suspicions well substantiated by the points Steve makes above. My tax dollars support NCS, and I'm fairly nauseated by how it has been permitted to filter area students, over the past several years. When you see that happening in your community, you should draw attention to it and work to change it insofar as possible (a process that one hopes has started with Lowery's conditions).

KilroysDelaware said...

"yet its lottery acts as "filter."

Hube, the lottery was meant to be use for over enrollment

"b. By lottery in the case of over-enrollment"

It is my understand all application for Newark Charter School are put in a lottery whereas with Charter School of Wilmington states "Admission is highly competitive and unfortunately, there are always well qualified students who do not gain admission." Which leads to believe all highly qualified applicants are selected first and others go on some kind wait list hoping an approved student changes their mind.

Here is what DMA posted on their website

"At present, our enrollment projection for the new 9th grade class is filled. A lottery was conducted on February 7 for non-preference applicants. If openings occur, applicants will be contacted by phone for an interview from this list according to their lottery number. As applicants are called, the list is adjusted appropriately."

So it looks like DMA use a lottery for those "non-preference applicants" but not for preferred students.

But my interpretation of the law
"b. By lottery in the case of over-enrollment" is if there is more application than seats all applications go into a lottery. It states over enrollment not lottery for lest qualified applications.

KilroysDelaware said...

correction on DMA
"A lottery will be used in the event that the number of applications exceeds the number of openings after preference is given to siblings and Red Clay School District residents."

Saw this on another wedbpage at DMW

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