Requesting your help to update the Choice Policy

I am attempting another “crowdsourcing” effort to see if you readers want to take a stab at 1) reading and understanding the current policy on Choice (aka, School Assignment, Policy 705.09), and 2) suggest how it might be made better.

I am linking three documents that were attached to a meeting announcement for the Choice Committee coming up next week (wow, Monday is going to be super busy for some people!):

Controlled Choice Committee Agenda for 9 23 13 – self-explanatory

RevisedChoicePolicy clean copy  – what the modified Policy 705.09 would look like after the changes are made

RevisedChoicePolicy – the old version with inline comments and “corrections”

I will be reading these myself and will make further comments. I am a little concerned that it is a bit involved (and overly complicated), but I don’t have the procedural bandwidth to scrap the entire thing and suggest a new rewrite. If you do, please let us know! 🙂

Again, the more comments the better – my personal goal is to hear from 20 of you, either publicly here on this blog, or personally via email (or, like, in person or something *grin*).

Another thing that confuses me – the Choice Committee does not even have a website, and none of these documents (the agenda and the proposed changes) are to be found on the Unit 4 website. Why not? Why isn’t the Choice Committee seeking your input? Yes, I realize you cynics are going to say that’s the way Unit 4 does business, but in this case, being cynical isn’t very helpful to me. I am looking for productive responses, constructive criticisms, and at least a glimmer of hope. *smile*

6 Responses to “Requesting your help to update the Choice Policy”

  1. Robert DeAtley Says:

    Charles, I am not sure how to amend the documents to reflect this proposed change, but I think the community as a whole would be much better served if, at a minimum, the school district assigned a “proximity A” school to every home / neighborhood of the school district. I see this as an opportunity to increase community within those neighborhoods which are not currently within 1.5 miles of a school district, eliminating some of the buses that currently run through such outlying neighborhoods, and to save on transportation costs. But the down side is the district would need to redraw those boundary lines from time to time, as they used to have to do, since the outlying neighborhoods are currently used as pawns to fill seats at under-selected schools.

    • amy Says:

      The revised document does away with the distinction between proximity A and B. This means that home has a “proximity school.” It is either any school within 1.5 miles (in which case no transportation is provided) or the closest school according to the bus routes. This was true under the previous system as well. All homes have a proximity school, however many do not wish to send their child to that school & of course there is no guarantee that you will receive your proximity school even if you request it.

      • charlesdschultz Says:

        Agreed – I get the impression the one and only goal with that modification is to make it easier to understand. The whole “proximity B” thing was throwing people off.

        However, I will point out that according to the raw data I have, there are rare cases where a family was neither Prox A nor Prox B. Go figure. 🙂

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    Going back to earlier posts, here is something I think we all keep forgetting:

    For example, I would suggest that the statistical disparity in educational performance between African American students and Caucasian students, should be a societal concern and that actions to the extent practical should be taken to remedy this disparity in the form of educational reform.

    @Robert, one of the things I will be pointing out to Dr. Zola & Co. is that Controlled Choice increases busing. And if the the BOE and district decides to pony up to Bruce Knight’s plan for a high school on the other side of the highway, we will be increasing busing exponentially more.

    We definitely need a more communal focus. I fear we have lost the ancient art of actually being a healthy, well-functioning community. We are hyper-individualistic (hat tip to Pattsi for the term). Is our job to change society? YES!! But it is a daunting (some would say impossible) task.

  3. charlesdschultz Says:

    Check out this “Controlled Choice Memorandum” (aka, Exhibit A) – I dug it up from the older post I linked above and had to hunt down the original because the URL was broken. Much thanks to Sascha Meinrath:
    Controlled Choice Memorandum

    What strikes me is that the whole point of Controlled Choice was to make sure schools were NOT racially identifiable based on whole-school performance. I am very much torn about this idea. More later (don’t have time now).

    Your homework assignment: go read the memorandum.

  4. charlesdschultz Says:

    Here is what I sent to the Choice Committee:

    Good day, fellow Choice Committee members!

    I also have a few thoughts to share about the proposed Policy.

    Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to reread the “Controlled Choice Memorandum” (circa 1997) and several of the decisions handed down by the Honorable Judge McDade, and some other commentaries on the issues revolving around the Consent Decree and why we have a Controlled Choice program in the first place. At the same time, I look through the RPC transportation study documents prepared for Monday’s Special Board meeting.

    My first thought is that Controlled Choice DOES NOT reduce busing. In fact, it does exactly the opposite! It may reduce busing for some people, but relative to “neighborhood schools” that were in effect prior to 1996, we do a heck of a lot more busing now.

    However, more important than that was why John Lee Johnson and Herb Stevens filed a lawsuit against Unit 4, which was formally resolved in 2002 as a “Consent Decree”. The whole premise was that black children were being treated unfairly. Now here we are in 2013; the Consent Decree has officially ended, we have a completely new Administration and BOE, and many improvements to the north-side schools. We are also looking at the possibility of a new Central, which may or may not be located near a minority population; while outside the jurisdiction of “Choice” (due to the fact that we draw district lines for the high schools), we still have to ask ourselves “Is this fair?” As stated at the last Choice meeting, someone will ALWAYS be unhappy. If we make things “more fair” for one group, will we not make it “less fair” for another group?

    So here is where it gets a little tricky to say politely. The Controlled Choice Memorandum points out 29 objectives or goals of the Controlled Choice program. We have met some of them. Others, we have very much failed at. For instance, most people in the district have no real clue why we have Controlled choice nor what it really means. Why? “Choice” is, for the most part, implied to be “Parent’s choice” and that a parent gets to choose where they want their child to go to school. As we all know, this is a very frustrating perspective for some parents. Especially those with higher social capital who are used to having choices. Here are some specific areas where we currently lack:

    b. promoting school improvement by identifying, through parent choices, schools needing reform (somewhat ok for Stratton, BTW and Garden Hills, but Dr. Howard is woefully behind)
    c. identifies specific criteria and mechanisms to identify and improve underchosen schools (right now all we do is slap a magnet program on them)
    g. (implies that students should rank order ALL SCHOOLS – not just 5)
    o. one or more Family Information centers – we have one in a GREAT location now (not true when north of campus), but what about another center?
    r. and s. students get assigned to a school, even “administratively”
    y. we do not provide transportation to enhance parent involvement (ie, parent teacher conferences, PTA/PTO)
    z. and aa. Overchosen schools are not publicly identified, acknowledged and earmarked for replication

    We have significant numbers of families that qualify for “low SES” status, and this concerns me greatly. The goal of public education is to guarantee a quality learning environment where EVERYONE and ANYONE can be equipped to participate successfully in society. From where I sit, those with higher social capital will make sure that happens for their child no matter what. It seems to me that we need to make sure everyone else has that opportunity as well. In fact, I wonder, what if we turned our “high SES” families into good samaritans and heroes? I realize that is a bit progressive, but I think I prefer that. And believe you me, I have seen tons of good samiritans and heroes in the lower SES ranks – the higher SES folks have systemically become very individualistic due to a society that panders to exclusivity.

    Overchosen schools infographic:
    “Controlled Choice Memorandum” aka Exhibit A:
    The miseducation of Champaign’s Black Students:

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