I just saw this article from last week about parents in Santa Clara camping out overnight to win acceptance to a high-performing elementary school there next year:
As if they were winning a golden ticket from the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory, lucky parents were handed orange registration cards, giving them hope that their children will be among the 120 kindergartners at Don Callejon School this fall.
About 80 parents got the cards Thursday, which allow them to receive a registration packet for Don Callejon, set amidst the exclusive Rivermark neighborhood identified by narrow streets, small cul-de-sacs and upscale town homes. Some parents lined up as early as Wednesday afternoon and slept there. At least one dad was wearing a full-body snow parka; others lugged tents and camping chairs. The registration process began at 8:45 a.m. Thursday.
Apparently Don Callejon is a school with neighborhood boundaries, but it is so popular that not everyone who lives within the boundaries is able to enroll. Thus the long line of parents camping out in the cold (makes EPC seem downright luxurious, no?). Old-timers here in SF can tell you that there used to be similar scenes here when parents were desperate to get into the alternative schools (which were supposed to be the only good schools in SF).
One of my objectives in the ongoing student assignment redesign is to avoid going back to the bad old days where parents believed only a handful of schools are good enough. Right now we have some parents clamoring for neighborhood schools, and I have been sympathetic to the idea that the uncertainty of the current system does discourage some people from participating. But I also worry that having less choice and more certainty will discourage others from participating, because they already know what the system will offer them and they don’t like it. Many have argued that going back to neighborhood boundaries will encourage neighborhoods to invest in and support their local school — and that would be great if it is true. But what if it simply widens the chasm between rich schools and poor schools?
I would not like to see scenes like the one described above occur in our district. If parents are willing to go to such extremes for a particular school, what does that say about their opinion of the rest of the schools in the district?