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.