At least we don’t make parents camp out! (Yet)

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?

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2 responses to “At least we don’t make parents camp out! (Yet)

  1. Looking at the six options being considered I am moved to ask about the seemingly ultimate goal of “academic diversity”. This is a continuation of the wrong path we’ve been on since the 1970s. Engineering society is not what school’s for; school is for education and preparation for life’s challenges.
    It would seem very clear that placing a low academic achiever in a class with high academic achievers will have two outcomes. One the low achiever gets better and two the other students will not advance forward from where they already are. This is the outcome from a teacher that is working on bringing the low achiever up to the level of the other students. If the teacher doesn’t give that additional attention to the lower achiever the student will be bored, resentful and likely disruptive.
    My view of placing good students in under achieving schools is that it will raise the API for the school but it will not educate the student nor will it prepare the student for the next challenge.
    Education not diversity should be the ultimate goal of the district. Every student in every school should be educated according to a curriculum that prepares them for the next challenge, whether that’s second grade or university.
    Assignments should be as local as possible to reduce the transit strain and time commitment for the student. Most importantly, every school should fulfill its mandate of educating to the established curriculum.

  2. According to Greatschools.net, it has an API of 806, which is good but exceptional, although it has high %ages of ELL and low-SES kid, but not as high as, say Yick Wo or E.R. Taylor. Doesn’t appear to have an immersion program.

    Wonder what the fuss is about?