Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lotteries for private schools

Over at the Education Sector, there's a movie review about school choice.

Analysis and Perspectives » What We're Watching » Tough Luck
A review of the film 'The Lottery'
Chad Aldeman
Erin Dillon
Publication Date:
June 8, 2010

"The Lottery" (2010), directed by Madeleine Sackler. The film opens to a wider audience on June 8. For theater listings, visit: http://www.screenvision.com/s/showing/TheLottery/.

"Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker supports charter schools. But he might hesitate before encouraging everyone to see the new documentary "The Lottery," which follows four young children and their families as they vie for a spot at Harlem Success Academy, a coveted charter school across the river in New York City. In the film, Booker says he no longer attends the lotteries that over-subscribed charter schools like Harlem Success Academy use to select students because they break his heart, and because "a child's destiny should not be determined on the pull of a draw."

"Many who see "The Lottery" will likely share Booker's conflicted feelings. The film does an excellent job of showing both the promise and the limits of charter schools and public school choice. When Booker uses the word "destiny," he's not exaggerating; the families feel that winning or losing this lottery will go a long way to determine their child's future. As one prospective Harlem Success parent says in the film, "They instill in those kids from the beginning that 'my goal is to become a college graduate.' I think that if I had had that type of setting ... I think that would have made a big difference in my life."

"And yet, it's no spoiler to alert audience members that some of the families profiled will lose the lottery; more than 3,000 families apply for 475 seats. Those who stay to attend a neighborhood school will be assigned to one of 23 elementary schools. At 19 of these schools, fewer than half of the students are reading on grade level. In contrast, at Harlem Success Academy, 95 percent of third-graders read at grade level, and 100 percent score proficient on the state math exam. Thus, the stakes for these four particular families are high.

""The Lottery's" strength is in showing the audience the school choice process through the eyes of these families..."

1 comment:

dWj said...

I support charter schools as well, partly because they can give us these examples. If this school can be run economically and is oversubscribed by that factor, we should try to replicate what they're doing.

School choice within the public schools, as you've worked on, can give us the same thing; we can see more clearly that some schools are in demand and others are not, and move students, as many as will fit, to the ones they and their parents prefer. It doesn't help nearly as many students, though, when you don't take the next step of observing what schools that are working are doing and what the ones that aren't are doing, and trying to create more of the former and fewer of the latter. (The best thing about private, as opposed to public, enterprise is that failures go out of business.)