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.
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August 2017

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