Suggested changes to Schools of Choice (Policy 705.09)

To: Susan Zola, u4boe, Judy Wiegand

Subject: Suggested changes to Schools of Choice (Policy 705.09)

Date: Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 1:22 PM

Good afternoon,

I have had the pleasure of reading Dr. Zola’s DRAFT copy of suggested changes to Policy 705.09 (as posted on BoardDocs) and am very glad these changes are being considered. I truly appreciate the work that went into contemplating these changes and I firmly believe they will indeed help.
If it pleases the Board, I would like to offer a few supplemental changes to further enhance the existing policy. I have four suggestions that I outline as:
  1. Allow incoming parents to rank-order all schools, not just 5
  2. In light of how Magnet registration will occur concurrently, place the magnet schools on a separate list from the non-magnet schools
  3. Standardize the definition of SES to match all other areas of District Administration and Title I funding
  4. Publish the SES ratio for the current year to be used to determine what SES “quotas” are in effect
The overall goal in my suggestions is to increase a positive perception by reducing complexity and eliminating “unassigned” situations.
The idea of making all schools available for rank-ordering is not new and has been talked about in the past. I am personally not aware of the justifications used for limiting the choices to 5 – perhaps they are still valid, but I truly believe they contribute to some of the anxiety felt by parents. But this does not stand alone – I think it is also important to make sure that every registering child be assigned to a school, perhaps defaulting to the closest school that has open seats, even if the parent/guardian only chooses one or two schools. Again, the perception of being unassigned is very significant, regardless of the facts of the matter.
I am a little concerned how the Magnet school registration plays out and is made more complex by having two different registrations. The wording of the proposed policy is not clear about whether this is actually a separate form, but I would encourage you to aim for simplicity, and perhaps keep both registrations on one sheet of paper (or one webpage, if we ever get to that point), dividing the schools between two lists or marking them in special ways so that it is clear that some schools have magnet programs.
In terms of the SES definition, I again urge for simplicity. Why is SES defined differently in the context of School Assignment when it is basically derived by eligibility for Free/Reduced lunches in all other aspects of the school district? Is this solely because of Dr. Alves’ suggestion? I fully acknowledge the many years of experience and deep wisdom of Dr. Alves and I do not argue against him. However, looking over the Kindergarten data, it is clear that there is significant overlap between free/reduced lunch and “low SES” as calculated by Dr. Alves. On top of that, his calculation for some measure of social capital is not perfect (in all fairness, it would be impossible to have a perfect formula). Again, my argument is to simplify and reduce confusion. If SES can be calculated solely by free/reduced lunch program eligibility (which is verified), there is no “gaming” of the system, and no further worries about logistical demographics.
And finally, because the district utilizes the Choice program to the stated goal of embracing our rich diversity and promoting academic excellence, I propose that the SES “quota” to be used during a registration period be published, perhaps even on the registration form itself.
Again, my impetus for making these suggestions is to make the school assignment process more simple and less worrisome for incoming parents. As Sandra Duckworth and Doretha Simmons have said, “School Choice works!”. I totally agree, it does work. The problem is what parents think of it. If we can improve the soft details of how it feels, I believe we will see less and less negativity about the program and more focus on how well it serves its purpose.
May you each have a most excellent Monday and have an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful sunshine.
Respectfully yours,
Susan Grey
Nov 6

to me, u4boe, Judy, Susan
Charles,Thanks for these suggestions, we will take them under advisement.  I will ask Dr. Wiegand to share wtih  Dr. Zola who is working on the School Assignment process.


Charles Schultz <>
Nov 7

to Susan, u4boe, Judy, Susan
Thanks for the response. I was not able to attend the Board Meeting on Monday and Mr. Hohman mentioned he had issues with the video sent to CGTV thus I was not able to watch the board meeting either, but I understand that the Board tabled the discussion with Dr. Zola. Correct? I am curious if the Choice Task Force has been active – I have not see any notes about it. Has Dr. Alves provided any new software that he was contracted to produce? Any communications from that direction?

Thanks again for all your hard work!
Charles Schultz <>
Dec 7

to Susan, Judy, u4boe, Stephanie
Good morning! 🙂

Dr. Zola, may I ask you for an update on the School Assignment process? In particular, where are things with Dr. Alves? What has he provided to the district since winning the most recent Bid? Has the Choice Task Force been active, and what is it doing?
I again strongly urge the school district to collaborate with local software companies on rewriting the RFP; the previous RFP was so heavily skewed towards Alves that none of the local companies wanted to touch it. Please make a priority to change the RFP and focus on hiring local talent. As I told Dr. Wiegand last go around, I am happy to help in this regard.
Disclosure: I do not work for any such local software companies, and I will not gain a single shiny penny if a local company is hired.

3 Responses to “Suggested changes to Schools of Choice (Policy 705.09)”

  1. Registration 2013 « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] 4th) I followed up with the district administration and the Board about Dr. Susan Zola’s proposed Choice recommendations. I am still waiting to hear back. I reiterated the need to go back to the four local software […]

  2. Putting things in perspective « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] vendors who have expressed an interest, not to mention the University). [previous posts: 1, 2, 3] The first step is rewriting the RFP so it is friendly for local businesses, and perhaps even […]

  3. Controlled Choice Committee tomorrow (Friday, August 9th) | Citizen4: A citizen's blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] I have not yet seen an agenda. I have expressed a desire to discuss Policy 705.09 (blog posts 1 and 2) as well as the Choice RFP *(blog post). Anything else from you […]

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