Byline: Jim Watson
Jim Watson is a politician in Ontario, Canada. For The Register-Guard
"Some win, some lose with open enrollment": The Register-Guard's April 21 headline may seem like an occasion for joy to the winning school districts but, really, it is just terribly sad for all of us. Open enrollment across district lines is the latest and most extreme version of a school choice movement that is on a trajectory to split public education in two - one set of schools for the haves, and the other for those left behind.
School choice is probably the most popular of the signature elements of the current school reform movement. And is there any reason why alternative and charter schools shouldn't be popular? They house some of the best teachers and some of the most innovative programs; they have more opportunities for enrichment because they are exempt from many of the requirements faced by regular schools; the parents are more involved and better able to donate time and money - the last not because they care more about their kids. Rather, it is because the parents need to be able to provide transportation and often are required to agree to levels of involvement not possible for families without a car and a stay-at-home parent.
The result: one set of schools with wealthier, less diverse students and fewer kids with special needs, and the other serving children more diverse in ethnicity, income and educational needs (with fewer resources and more requirements).
Public education was supposed to be the great equalizer - an inclusive, welcoming place that gives all kids a chance to climb the ladder of success. But current trends create a de facto [Latin, In fact.] In fact, in deed, actually.
This phrase is used to characterize an officer, a government, a past action, or a state of affairs that must be accepted for all practical purposes, but is illegal or illegitimate. tracking system based on socioeconomic status.
Of course we've always had school choice. Through the 1960s the choice was public or private. Over the last few decades, however, public school districts created alternative and charter schools and encouraged them to draw their students from the surrounding neighborhood schools. Talk about watering down what schools can offer!
It just doesn't make any sense for districts to pull desperately needed resources from starving neighborhood schools. It is a model that would be unsustainable even in good economic times, but it is insanity insanity, mental disorder of such severity as to render its victim incapable of managing his affairs or of conforming to social standards. Today, the term insanity is used chiefly in criminal law, to denote mental aberrations or defects that may relieve a person from in these lean years. The fact that public alternatives and charters have so many good teachers and leaders and involved parents is, itself, the strongest argument against public charters and alternatives. Those are the very resources needed by neighborhood schools to make them what they need to be.
It isn't even a zero-sum game Zero-Sum Game
A situation in which one participant's gains result only from another participant's equivalent losses. The net change in total wealth among participants is zero the wealth is just shifted from one to another. - it's negative-sum. Services are duplicated, and shifting enrollments make long-range planning impossible.
The parents of students who choose schools outside their neighborhoods are not the problem - good parents will always look for the best available school for their children. The teachers and administrators in those schools are not the problem - many of them are among the best. The problem is the system that sends parents school shopping in the first place.
School shopping has become a mark of good parenting. "I can't send my daughter to the neighborhood school," said one mom recently. "Those parents aren't involved." It's a myth that is creating reality. And yet, despite the disadvantages that come with being unchosen by the shoppers, most of the neighborhood schools do an amazing a·maze
v. a·mazed, a·maz·ing, a·maz·es
1. To affect with great wonder; astonish. See Synonyms at surprise.
2. Obsolete To bewilder; perplex.
v.intr. job. Visit one and you'll find the rap is undeserved un·de·served
Not merited; unjustifiable or unfair.
The successful innovations that charter and alternative schools have devised, including language immersion The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter.
Please help [ improve the introduction] to meet Wikipedia's layout standards. You can discuss the issue on the talk page. , won't be wasted. They can and should be applied in the neighborhood schools.
(A caveat: charter and alternative schools that step up to meet the needs of high school students when regular high schools are unable to do so work with, rather than against, the mainstream schools. Charter schools such as Network Charter or alternatives like Rachel Carson Noun 1. Rachel Carson - United States biologist remembered for her opposition to the use of pesticides that were hazardous to wildlife (1907-1964)
Carson, Rachel Louise Carson do an outstanding job of holding the interest of kids for whom the regular program isn't working and keeping those students on track to graduate.)
If, as I suggest, we are to end most school choice, it is important to be sure that we are sending our kids to excellent neighborhood schools.
To be honest, part of the reason parents have been so willing to drive their kids across town (or now to a different town) is that some neighborhood schools had become rigid, take-it-or-leave-it, hostile-to-change institutions. Parents with concerns or questions were considered pests. Though they can't be all things to all people, our neighborhood schools need to be what many already are - nimble, responsive, welcoming neighborhood centers providing an outstanding education to all kids.
If we are truly committed to equity, diversity and efficiency in our public schools, it is only reasonable for districts to stop this suicidal intra- and inter-district competition, phase out school shopping and bring back the centers of our neighborhoods - our schools.