laurajv: Don't give me any wild ideas! (Default)
[personal profile] laurajv
Hey all -- my older kid came home from school today with a note from the PTO about a push to make his school, current a combination local school + magnet into a full magnet.

While on a strictly academic level, this would be good for my kid (we live w/in the local feeder area but he's enrolled in the magnet portion), I have...concerns.

One of the cons notes that converting to a full magnet will limit the number of spaces in the school and it will no longer be a local feeder school, so kids from the surrounding neighborhood no longer have a guaranteed spot -- they'd have to get in via the magnet lottery.

This is something I'm concerned about. It's a well-run, safe, overall-pleasant neighborhood school, and most students live within walking distance. It's also a majority-African-American (about 85%) school, and the magnet program is, well, whiter. The other formerly-neighborhood school within walking distance of my house became a magnet and it's now about 60% African-American (previously it was about 90%). Most of those students were moved to either this school or to a kind of crappy local, not-walkable-to, in-a-rough-neighborhood-on-a-street-where-jerks-drive-50mph school.

I feel like converting to a magnet this way is, at best, a dick move. All the kids in the neighborhood who don't get in to a magnet via lottery would end up at the less-safe unwalkable school, instead of a lot of them ending up at this one. A lot of the parents of current students did not know about the lottery -- the previous principal had a habit of shuffling non-magnet kids into the magnet program during second grade for those parents; he had the school at around 75% magnet enrollment despite it "officially" being capped at 50% magnet.

I feel like converting this particular school to a magnet-only, with students entered by lottery, will make an underserved community more underserved. But that's just a gut feeling and I don't know if I'm wrong.

What I'm wondering about is the feasibility of arguing that the PTO/School Board should consider remaining a neighborhood feeder school, BUT opening up the magnet programming to all students, and basically running it as much like a magnet as possible without being one.

The major disadvantages I can see to that are less money/support for the program, AND kids in magnet programs for elementary school get preference for middle/high school magnets -- so having a kind of half-magnet would not help in that regard.

So that's another thing I wonder -- why can't it be a feeder AND a magnet? Just -- it's a magnet program, but it's feeder-only, not lottery based.

I'd love comments from anyone with experience with magnet schools, school demographics issues, educating underserved communities, and other general thoughts around this issue. I have a letter to write to the PTO and help marshaling my arguments would be...helpful.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-11 06:00 am (UTC)
raine: (Default)
From: [personal profile] raine
My high school was both a magnet and a local feeder, so I know it can be done, but this was in the late '80's and in Illinois, so I don't know what current standards/best practices are.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-11 10:17 am (UTC)
copracat: Jennifer Keller's wry face in black and white (jennifer keller)
From: [personal profile] copracat
If it looks like, sounds like and feels like The Whitening, then it probably is.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-11 11:18 am (UTC)
villeinage: (Default)
From: [personal profile] villeinage
Well before the final twist of the financial knife that fully eviscerated the city schools where I live, the magnet school system was, in my opinion, helping along the slow death of public schools.

The effect of the academic magnet school system was, indeed, to cherry-pick the best students--and it left the local feeder schools an academic wasteland. In my kids' non-magnet neighborhood high school, only about 15% of the students could read or do math at grade level at the level of basic competence.

Far from unevenly whitening the academic magnets, they became the only schools in the city that represented the proportional population diversity of the city, ironically-- that is, there are at least some white students attending magnet high schools, in contrast to the neighborhood schools, which are essentially attended by only children of color.

Private high schools are a thriving business within the city, and they, indeed, are very white, and very affluent. The less-affluent long ago fled the city, and continue fleeing, as their children become school-age, and parents see the school system for what it is.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that the magnet school system has done nothing to meaningfully stem " white flight" from the city. And keeping in mind that even the less-affluent white folk are, due to the effects of racism, still more affluent than people of color, this further erodes the tax base of the city, which , because our public schools are largely funded via property taxes, further financially erodes the school system...and on and on.
Edited Date: 2014-12-11 11:24 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-11 12:39 pm (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
OMG we live in the same city.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-11 07:45 pm (UTC)
villeinage: (Default)
From: [personal profile] villeinage
A large city in Eastern PA?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-11 10:01 pm (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
ok, not the same city, but the similarities are eerie.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-11 11:15 pm (UTC)
villeinage: (Default)
From: [personal profile] villeinage
Sadly yes, for what this says about education in urban USA.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-11 04:54 pm (UTC)
manycolored: "Fortunately I am immune to its effect." (Default)
From: [personal profile] manycolored
This EXACT thing happened in my school district when I was in 3rd grade. I don't know what you can do to stop it, but please do stay involved. My parents and the other parents who disagreed kind of dropped out of PTA and schoolboard meetings "in protest" and that just let them get away with even worse injustices to the poor/minority kids.

For two years, my school (because we weren't one of the magnets) didn't have a working Xerox and for years after that we didn't have enough textbooks. All of it went to the magnet schools. My school? 15% white. The magnets? 60% white. Ew.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-12 08:09 am (UTC)
saraht: "...legwork" (Default)
From: [personal profile] saraht
Your concerns are valid. On a practical level, how much do you think this will actually change the demographics at your school? I went to magnet-esque schools up through tenth grade, but the population of my city was such that this meant that you got two white kids out of every class of 35, instead one-half of a white kid.

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