A Good Time To End The Education Lottery

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While the Board of Education and much of the public are trying to figure out how to “fix” Chicago’s selective enrollment and magnet program admissions policies now that the desegregation decree has been lifted, little thought seems to be going to what may be a timely alternative:  getting rid of magnet, selective, and other programs that pull kids out of neighborhood schools and create massive quality and resource imbalances within the district.

Take a look at the dismal current situation:  Even after 15 years of economic growth and mayoral control there aren’t nearly enough selective schools to go around.  The consent decree did little to fix the situation.  School choice hasn’t solved the problem.  Nor has creating new schools.  The most qualified and highly paid teachers — and the most advantaged students are clustered at a handful of schools and subsidized by the rest of the system.  Even with all the new schools created there aren’t enough spots.  Clout seems to have infiltrated the process.  Too many parents are being forced to pay for private school or move out of the city to get an education they deem acceptable for their children.  As a result, fewer than 10 percent of public school students in the city are white.  Fewer than 15 percent come from families above the poverty line. 

Sending kids (and dollars and teachers) back to neighborhood schools won’t solve everything.  It would likely worsen things for the few teachers and families that have won the education lottery.  But it would likely improve things for everyone else, and for the system as a whole.  Chicago shouldn’t have an education system that sucks the life out of neighborhood schools and requires kids to win the lottery in order to get a quality education.  And now we could do something about it. 


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  • from retiredtoo: How true this is. Duncan made the decision to concentrate on new schools and turned his back on improving existing schools. He created a two tiered system that did little to improve the majority of the schools. The situation at Fenger is a classic example of a failed approach. It would be good if the larger education community in Chicago began to have a discussion about this. Duncan's personality allowed him to do this will very little critical examination or evaluation. Vallas was abrasive, so he did not enjoy the respect that Duncan had. It is unfortunate that the success of CPS is based on the personality of the leader and not the data. I hope Huberman recognizes this.

  • I agree with your post. The two tiered system was (is) has failed the majority of CPS students. What will become of the kids currently enrolled in magnet schools? Our neighborhood school is overwhelmed coping with the needs of ELL and special ed - they have abandoned the needs of top performing students, since they are not broken - don't need fixing. When will CPS acknowledge the needs of academically capable kids (can't use the radioactive term gifted)are not currently being met at the neighborhood schools?

  • What you say is completely true but the fact is that not even the most open minded, altrustic, equity-loving parent is going to send their kid to a school in transition if they have any other option.

    My kids are at a neighborhood school (that is also part of a cluster magnet)that I am completely happy with. That being said, if all the kids who opted out of this school for some other selects came back, the school would be a different (and I don't necessarily mean better) place. Yes, there are not enough spots at the select schools but there are also not enough involved and empowered parents in this city either and given what I have seen of parent behavior, very few are going to risk their kid getting no education while the system rights and adjusts itself to some sort of mediocrity for all.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't like the select-ness and preciousness of the select schools and I think the system is pretty gerrymandered and corrupt (esp. at the elementary school level). At the same time while I am committed to every kid getting a decent education, I feel more responsible and more empowered to act and advocate for the ones in my home.

    Kudos to Mayfair Dad as well r.e. the academically capable. Helping SPED or low students is a fine accommodation for some of the time but it can't be the only accommodation that a school makes for the self accelerating student. I am looking forward to my kids having a more academically rigorous HS experience....

  • Watch--CVPS will now use this 'ending' to get middle class parents pushed into the charter schools more and more. The charter schools are like syhdly wiplash just waiting to get their hands on these desired students, furthering the demise of the neighborhood schools. Watch.

  • Let us stop the lies coming out of City Hall and CPS. They make up things as they go along. Chicago, we can judge how CPS is working or not working to improve the building of healthy professional communities in each skill by reading the watershed report published this year by the National Staff Development Council: United States Is Substantially Behind Other Nations in Providing Teacher Professional Development That Improves Student Learning; Report Identifies Practices that Work http://www.srnleads.org/resources/publications/nsdc.html

    Daley and Huberman cannot hide behind their "innovative" never explained actions. We have the benchmarks to judge them based on the best practices from around the world.

  • Sending everyone back to the neighborhood is a specious argument. All that would do is drive more people to private schools or out of the city.
    Certainly this move to move kids from one neighborhood school to another (because of school closings) has created tne conditions for more violence, but the solution is wrong.
    There should be a big push to improve the local school (and IDS is the wrong way to do this!) We need to think, what was Arne's phrase, "dramatically differently," about how instruction is "delivered."
    But don't take your most successful students out of the system. That would make us, at least in the public eye, a less viable option to parents who can afford the choice.

  • It would do good, especially with high schools, if there were more distinctions as far as curricula goes. Will we ever have a more relevant curricula in our schools? Why are there so many 'academic' schools and so few trade schools?

  • You seem to feel strongly about this issue, Alexander. Selective schools that "suck the life" out of Chicago neighborhood schools sounds a bit harsh. And what is with the "we" at the end of your post? You don't even live here in our city and you have an elitist private school education yourself. Give me a break!

  • Yes, lets get rid of the few successful schools we have... great idea.

  • How about really building strong professional communities in all schools. Daley hires folks without expertise and no vision on what is needed to build strong academic communities in all schools. Thus their priorities are muddled and money is wasted on dubious projects that are even done half- *ssed! There is no need for charter schools or Ren 2010 if there were competent administrators running CPS. Read the ground breaking technical report that we can use to judge Huberman and staff on what they are doing to build professional communities in all schools! The benchmarks can be found by downloading the report by the National Staff Development Council on Feb. 4 2009. Daley and Huberman can't hide behind empty phrases. Lets look at the data and compare it with world class public schools from around the world.

    United States Is Substantially Behind Other Nations in Providing Teacher Professional Development That Improves Student Learning; Report Identifies Practices that Work http://www.srnleads.org/resources/publications/nsdc.html

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