Tuesday, June 14, 2011

School choice versus neighborhood schools--how you feel depends in part on your local school

The Boston Globe looks at the downside of school choice in their continuing series:

"A daily diaspora, a scattered street

Every morning, children in Boston disperse to schools all over. Childhood chums, and neighborhood feeling, can be left behind

"In September, the 19 school-age children who live on this one city block in Roslindale will migrate to a dizzying array of 15 public, private, and charter schools, from West Roxbury to Wellesley, traveling a combined 182 miles each day. There was a time — some here remember it well — when all the kids on Montvale went to nearby Wolfgang Mozart Elementary School, making the short walk together in a familiar, noisy pack with neighborhood playmates who were almost like brothers and sisters. Now, the children on this and other streets across the city scatter every morning, due to a lottery system that allows them to travel beyond their neighborhood for a chance to attend a better school — or drives them out of the public schools altogether by assigning them to a disappointing choice.

"The daily exodus costs the city dearly, both in sky-high transportation costs — almost $80 million a year — and, some sociologists and education specialists say, in weakened ties among families, which can strain the tenuous fabric of neighborhoods.

"Frustration with the system’s shortcomings has fueled repeated calls for a return to neighborhood schools, which would dispatch children to the nearest school. But in a city with schools of uneven caliber, a return to the old ways would mean many students would lose, primarily minorities, who would be yoked to the struggling schools in many of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
"Kitty-Rousell, 36, was among a group of Roslindale and West Roxbury parents who urged school officials last year to overhaul the lottery system and reconsider neighborhood schools. They soon learned how loaded a term “neighborhood schools’’ is, harkening back to the days when white Bostonians resisted the integration of schools across neighborhood lines.

“If I had known that ‘neighborhood schools’ was code for racist . . . I certainly would have second-guessed it,’’ added Theresa Strang, a former West Roxbury resident who formed the Coalition for Neighborhood Schools and who, in her own childhood, left the public schools after busing began in Boston. “When I think of neighborhood schools, I think of walking to school with my sister. Another mother picks you up, you go to a friend’s house two doors down.’’

"In practice, reverting to neighborhood schools could leave Boston’s schools more segregated, because of the city’s demographic patterns. But if that concern could be addressed, said Mark Warren, a sociologist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, there is reason to believe that children going to school in their neighborhoods could help make schools better.
"Even some parents disillusioned with the lottery system and the schools their children were assigned to still bristle at the notion of returning to neighborhood schools or revamping the lottery.
“Neighborhood schools wouldn’t improve the quality of schools overall. It just lets them untether themselves from a segment of society that maybe they don’t feel that they should have to be involved with,’’ said Jeff Rogers, a black father from Roxbury whose children’s experience with the school lottery is also being followed by the Globe."

No comments: