Sunday, May 3, 2009

School Assignment Meeting with Rachel Norton


Some background from Rachel
  • People who have gone through it and landed in the public school system are generally happy (like childbirth – you forget)
  • A lot of committed families now
  • The last two years have seen unprecedented demand
  • Up until the last year you could get a proximate school if you went 0/7 within a mile of your home
Meredith shared information on scope of problem and meeting: focus on proximity for elementary school

Rachel shared ideas on why the district is not pursuing geographic based assignments
  • "neighborhood" has racist baggage and means no change in diversity – "I only want to send my child to school with children like mine."
  • "Proximity" is different than "neighborhood"
  • While proximity is not officially a priority in the redesign, the BOE will consider how proximity factors into assignments from a common sense standpoint – for example, if the new system requires an extensive network of busing then that will be an issue.
Why the focus on diversity?
  • Schools with >60% African America/Latino/Pacific Islander student body have lower achievement and a collection of issues that hinder progress such as high teacher turnover
  • When you send low scoring kids to higher scoring schools the low scoring kids don't improve
  • When you send mid-scoring kids to higher scoring schools they improve and when you send them to lower scoring schools they degrade
  • The bottom line is that school composition matters
  • Question from parent: shouldn't keeping the high achievers in the system therefore be a priority?
Redesign Plan
  • One simulation is geography based and the others are diversity based – there is no proximity-diversity hybrid
  • The simulations are just helping the district examine the options but are not meant to be the options to choose from
  • Question from parent: What information will be presented to respond to? RN answer: don't focus on your specific case but think about effects on whole system
  • RN noted that the district has not used data well until recently
  • Carlos Garcia thinks neighborhood schools would be just fine because he feels that the district has the ability to make all schools good, no matter where they are or who attends them
  • BOE has not adopted this approach
  • Some families don't want to send their kids to neighborhood schools
  • To define diversity, the simulations use: home language, public housing, free lunch, and race (maybe others, too)
  • Rachel (and others) favor a cluster approach where families would have some choice within a set cluster of schools – gives some predictability and some choice
  • Any system will have to stand up to Prop 209
Rachel thinks there should be some tweaks to the system for 2010-2011
  • Rachel would like to scrap the diversity index since it is not working but she has no idea if there is support for this
  • Rachel supports running the system by 1st choice, 2nd, etc.
  • Parent suggested creating a geographic hardship – 0/7 families assigned to schools > 2miles from home would get a hardship priority in the waitlist
How do the parents support the concept of proximity-diversity clusters?

Positions of BOE members:
  • Rachel and Norman Yee are already in favor
  • Norman wants geography and is frustrated that we're mired in this mess
  • Hydra Mendoza probably supports this
  • Jill Wynns might support it but is die-hard for choice (see below)
  • Jane Kim, Sandy Fewer, and Kim-shree are into diversity at any cost
  • They are all very focused on the achievement gap and would even accept a complex network of busing to deal with it
  • We probably won't change Kim-shree's mind
  • Jane Kim is pretty reasonable and often agrees with Rachel – we could talk to her
  • Sandy Fewer?
The BOE/district don't like the BOS telling them what to do. Carmen Chu does not yet have a lot of credibility for this issue but Bevan Dufty does.

Most metropolitan school districts in the US are cluster based

  • Since choice the whole district has seen marked improvements
  • Choice forced people to consider a wide range of schools
  • Parent involvement seems to have played a critical role in "lifting up" schools
  • We may be up against the limit of what choice can do – most of the schools that need help are on far from those with resources who would help lift these schools up
Next steps
  • Meeting with Jane Kim (and other BOE members) – call BOE office to schedule
  • Emails are ok but meetings are better
  • Don't use the word "neighborhood"

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