Thursday, April 21, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

The school choices I hear the most about these days, having made the leap to teaching high school, are those that my school's seniors are busy making as they sort through their college acceptances. I got a bit of nostalgia for my middle school days as I read this article from GothamSchools about the convoluted high school admissions process here in NYC. Unfortunately, for someone such as myself, it raises more questions that it answers.

The first and most obvious question is why such a process is necessary to begin with. I know the answer that some people will propose: To give families and students more choice in where the students will spend four years of their lives. All well and good. But it seems to me, having spoken to many actual families and students, that most families would prefer that their children be able to attend a safe and well-functioning school close to home. So many of my students are commuting up to an hour each way to come to school, which is not at all uncommon for many high schoolers in the city. This effect is trickling down to middle school, too; one of my students with a long commute also has a younger brother with a similarly lengthy commute to a middle school. Their mother is extremely involved with her sons' education and clearly wishes to see them succeed, which is wonderful. So why does she feel that her sons cannot be successful close to home?

I wonder if the "creaming" effect some people theorize regarding charter schools doesn't also happen with some of the public high schools, and here I specifically do not mean the testing or audition schools like Stuy or LaGuardia. I mean some of the new small schools in tony or up-and-coming neighborhoods--Frank McCourt is one that immediately comes to mind. Frank McCourt is only entering its second year of existence, yet is already in high demand. While I have no doubt that its faculty and administration is committed to building an excellent school, you can't tell me that the UWS address has nothing to do with it, either. Look at some of the Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods that are seeing high demand for their small schools--Astoria, Williamsburg, Red Hook, Cobble Hill--and I wonder what resources are being driven to these schools to continue to drive up real estate demand. These schools will then soak up some of the kids who would have attended the formerly zoned high school, now in a more affluent area, and the more motivated kids from outside the area like the young men I mentioned above. The schools get even better. Meanwhile, the schools in areas that aren't gentrifying get worse, starved of resources and of the best local students.

I'm not a social scientist, an economist, or a demographer, mind you--just a teacher who reads. And the mother I told you about earlier might very well be right that her sons are getting a better education because of the choices she was empowered to make. I am merely very curious as to why she or anyone thought that choice was necessary. After all, her sons now attend schools in which they are still taught by lazy unionized teachers (SARCASM) and supervised by terrible unionized principals (ALSO SARCASM) what's the difference?
blog comments powered by Disqus