After learning that Dr. Michael Alves was heavily involved in our implementation of Controlled Choice (codenamed “Schools of Choice” which is extremely confusing to parents) and that he is still involved in our kindergarten lottery, I dug up some more info on him. See my previous post for that timeline. Anyway, here is my first post on my reactions to the research work. Note that these are my mostly unedited, unordered, “as it is” thoughts and thus may be a little hard to read.
Authors suggest that our focus should be not on the disjunction of equity and excellence, but rather on their conjunction, the goal of working towards both diversity and school improvement at the same time.
Choice encourages parents to get more involved. Does this really happen? I see a number of parents pulling out of the school system instead of tackling issues with teachers and principals, instead of getting involved with the School Board.
Two-fold goal: excellent of the individual (exclusionary), equity of the group (inclusive). It almost seems mutually exclusive, but I think the authors are arguing that the better the group (equity), the better chance that low-performing outliers will improve (excellence), which in turn makes the group better. An upward-spiral, if you will.
What exactly is a unitary school system? Why is it sought-after?
Page 12: For Unit 4, how do overchosen schools compare to underchosen? For instance, in terms of dropouts, scores, number of first-choices granted. From the numbers I have seen so far, overchosen schools grant less than 100% of first-choice requests (which is the definition of overchosen, is it not?), but have not seen any other stats for performance metrics.
Page 14: What exact are the institutional arrangements and contemporary individual actions that maintain a residentially segregated society? My observation can be boiled down thusly: the privileged are greedy and do not want to give up what they have. Even if it is mutually beneficial to do so. Moreover, living in a voracious capitalistic society as we do, it is almost ingrained in our upbringing to acquire wealth, and the relative ease with which it can be gotten.
Page 26: In Boston, 90% of the school applicants received their first or second choice. Authors posit that overchosen schools denote a relative“successfulness” (my word, not theirs); however, I disagree. Cannot schools be chosen merely on the basis on convenience? How can such schools be role models based merely on how long the waiting list is? One can twist the numbers – perhaps it is saying that most the other schools just plain suck. Maybe they only offer Liberal Arts (yuck! *grin*). Maybe they smell funny. I do concur that the authors employ a kindof “try it and see” attitude, and are merely offering a suggestion. It is entirely possible that overchosen schools are actually doing something great and deserve their prestigious position.
Page 33: Schools develop and disseminate knowledge and information. Not like the market system whatsoever, where goods are traded for “fair value”. “There are no unworthy seekers of knowledge.” Also came across a paper by a Dr. Harris which uses the Student Diversity work as a source; ironically, his take was that Controlled Choice is supposed to function like a market. His argument is that underchosen schools should feel some competitive pressure to make themselves more attractive. I tend to align myself with Willie, Edwards and Alves on this; rather than each individual school, it is the District’s Administration and School Board that shoulder the responsibility of focusing on “less attractive” schools and finding ways to bring them up.
Page 44: Why is it important to racially balance schools? Think about that for a moment. I agree that diversity and culture in itself is “good” in a generic, nebulous sense. But as far as the main thrust of addressing society problems and issues of equity, is it really the ethnic background that is the pivotal point? Perhaps it is. Perhaps it is not. I do not know. However, my observation is thus: the most flagrant grievances occur when the affluent have opportunities, yet the poor are essentially oppressed and their potential squelched. Statistically speaking, there is a high correlation between minorities (specifically African-Americans and Latinos) and the lower-income class. This is not a 100% correlation, however; not all blacks are poor, and not all white are rich. So, how do I as a white, upper-middle class resident, view this? What should my stance be, particularly in terms of race?
Page 46: How much does Unit 4 spend on busing and how much time? Max, min and average. Have we received any incentive for this? One cannot help but to wonder how much interaction Carol Ashley had with Dr. Alves or Dr. Willie. I am very curious about that. What about Dr. Peterkin?
Page 79: Does Unit 4 conduct SQRs (School Quality Reviews)? If not, why not? If yes, where do I find them?
Page 80: What is Unit 4’s “Institutional Strategy”? Whatever happened to “Great Schools Together” and “Great Campus”? Nobody hears about them anymore, and the websites are quite stale. I know Imani is still pushing forward with Great Campus, but I do not hear anything about it. Is the community actually getting involved?
How did Unit 4 justify Barkstall? I can only imagine how that infuriated the Plaintiff class. It seems to go against the principles of Controlled Choice; what does Dr. Alves say about it? Was it built on an economically sound, cost-conscious budget? What about the new school in Savoy?
Do Unit 4 principals have mentors? Who?
Page 85: Teacher retention; chicken and egg? Good teachers go to good schools, but good schools depend on good teachers. Barkstall was able to attract a lot of good teachers – in fact, I heard a rumor that they somehow had the pick of the crop from within Unit 4. If this rumor is true, does it not raise a huge red flag?
If Controlled Choice is supposed to allow community members equal access to all school services, how come Barkstall, named after Vernon Barkstall, a well-educated, intelligent, compassionate and community-conscious black man, how come the school named after this man was built in a predominantly wealthy neighborhood at a time when tensions over the Consent Decree were relatively strong? Our schools do not appear to be equal at all.
Is Controlled Choice a socialist idea? It seems to have socialistic leanings in the sense that all peoples are supposed to be equalized and leveled so that all basic needs are met. We obviously have real life examples of socialism gone wrong, but I think (and I could be wrong) that the core tenets are socialism are geared towards mutual benefit. Wikipedia tells me that “ Socialism refers to various theories of economic organization advocating public or direct worker ownership and administration of the means of production and allocation of resources, and a society characterized by equal access to resources for all individuals with a method of compensation based on the amount of labor expended.”. Dictionary.com says “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.” There definitely seems to be some overlap. The biggest problem with this theory of socialism, IMO, is pure human greed; enough is never enough. Especially here in America.
How does Unit 4 recruit and retain teachers? Are their active scouts/programs/”binders” with the University of Illinois and Parkland?
Chapter 7: The relationship between equity and excellence is very interesting. It seems that schools with a high percentage of low-income students perform worse than affluent-weighted schools, sometimes despite racial balances. If Carrie Busey moves to Savoy, it would seem that the SES balance would shift a bit. I believe (need to confirm) that Carrie Busey is 49% “free and reduced lunch”; what will happen to those students that no longer have Carrie Busey as a Proximity A choice?