Monday, October 8, 2012

MORE's Julie Cavanagh on DOE Convoluted School Choice

Choice is great for the folks who have the resources to be good consumers. For the rest of us, choices are really no choice at all. It really should be quite simple. Great neighborhood schools with what we know works: small class sizes, rich and culturally relevant curriculum, experienced/supported educators, and parent/community involvement and empowerment. None of this is difficult, none of it is a mystery. The only mystery is why every current policy and all ed "reform" rhetoric espouses basically the opposite....... Julie Cavanagh
Julie's comment is an excerpt from a Great debate with numerous people at Nycednews over the insanity driven nycdoe choice options parents have to slog through. Julie's point is that "choice" is advertised as beneficial for poor parents when in fact it favors the well-off.
(Just for fun Attend any meeting full of Evil Moskowitz minions where they practically chant "choice" till u want to barf all over them. And then go over and do it).
I also include comments by Lisa Donlan who basically agrees with Julie but has her own twist on choice. Leonie Haimson and Deb Meier also chip in.
Read it all but here are a few segments to whet your appetite:
Leonie:
... for those who get into a school they want, often it turns out not to suit them and despite all the rhetoric of "choice" DOE makes it nearly  IMPOSSIBLE to transfer out.
It's a little like the Roach Motel ad; once you check in you can't check out.
Julie's full comment below is in response to a Deb Meier comment below that closes with:
"I did rather envy my other grandchildren who live upstate and had one choice--their local high school."
Julie begins:
Exactly and thank you Deb.
And let's also think beyond our own subject positions...
What about the child of a single mother?
What about the child who has a parent(s) who is/are an addict?
What about parents who work more than one job? Who can't read or write? Who are mentally ill? Who are immobile or elderly?
What about kids who live in foster care or a group home or are homeless?
What about parents who are intimidated by the overwhelming nature of the process or because of institutional racism, or because they are immigrants or all three?
What about parents who have no one to watch other siblings while they navigate this process?
What about the parents whose budgets simply cannot afford extra travel expenses to be factored in so that they can travel to schools (let alone extra expenses for tutoring/prep for specialized exams or other admissions processes)?
I could go on.
Should these children have less access to "good" schools because they have no access to the process?
Should parents have to sacrifice time and treasure to find a "good" school for their kids?
My mom was a single mother raising two kids, one of them (my sister), was ill. She worked tremendous hours as a nurse, cared for my sister and our household largely on her own.
She would not have had the ability to navigate this process with me, and in fact when it came time for college I was on my own (save my amazing teachers who helped me including one who actually drove me out to Indiana to school bc my mom couldn't. Which, I'm sure has a lot to do with why I am a teacher).
Who knows what my middle school and high school experiences/access would have been if I grew up in NYC and, therefore, who knows where I would be now.
I've worked in Red Hook for over 10 years now. Some parents do not even fill out the middle school applications let alone visit and "shop" for schools. There are a myriad of reasons why they don't/can't and their reasons should not matter; as a society what should matter to us is that every child attends a great school, I don't see "choice" getting us there.
Choice is great for the folks who have the resources to be good consumers. For the rest of us, choices are really no choice at all.
It really should be quite simple. Great neighborhood schools with what we know works: small class sizes, rich and culturally relevant curriculum, experienced/supported educators, and parent/community involvement and empowerment.
None of this is difficult, none of it is a mystery. The only mystery is why every current policy and all ed "reform" rhetoric espouses basically the opposite.
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Phew. What a powerful statement by Julie, echoing the great narrative she wrote for our movie, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Superman.
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Here is Deb Meier's full comment on choice:
What an unreal picture folks have of most people's lives.  I'd never consider reading through that huge list as a way to make choices.  I'd depend on friends and school contcts to whittle it down for me.  And then?  When my son and his wife were away I tried to help out by doing some of the visiting with my grandkids.  I managed to see two schools in one full day, and it left me bewildered.  In three days I saw four.  No clearer.  I mostly found out--as they did--how easy or hard it would be to get there and back home, what the plant looked like and something about the schools values --  but I was not sure it wasn't random, depending on one's guide.   I don't know what they'd do if they hadn't felt they could trust their middle school advisor and a few friends.  I did rather envy my other grandchildren who live upstate and had one choice--their local high school.
Deb
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I want to close with Lisa Donlan on choice. Lisa saw a program of local choice on the lower east side undermined and ultimately destroyed by Tweed because its very existence threatened the favored bogus "charter is the only choice".
I'll let Lisa take over:
I am always so glad when I see thoughtful discussion of these huge polemics.
 "Choice" is not simply black or white but is very complex and must be unpacked to be understood.

For all of the reason Julie enumerates above, school choice has caused our nation's children to learnin increasingly segregated schools. That is just wrong!
But I feel it is important to note that the whole notion of choice, which has been hijacked and used to manipulate parents and create a separate unregulated privately managed school system, stems from real inequities in our nation.
The practice of school zoning, which largely recreates inequitable and segregated housing patterns in our schools, is the "wrong" that school choice claims to address.
 Until we find a way to improve all schools, in order to deliver on the right that Leonie evoked a few posts back,  to a high quality neighborhood school for all children, it is hard to imagine anyone telling those families that they do not deserve better options.
The tragedy is that there has never been any large scale attempts  to bring about that promise, and those with privilege (who often demand and work for a different outcome for their own children) have not necessarily suffered from the effects of those inequities and may not understand what it means to feel you have no choice.
As most folks on the list know already I believe in the power of diversity-based choice-driven assignment plans, like magnet programs and community controlled choice,  that try to address these inequities and help all schools to be those quality neighborhood schools every child deserves.
Neither pure market-style choice or rigid zoned-based assignment plans are going to get us to that promise.
Lisa
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Leonie Haimson on choice:
Perhaps we can all agree that every child in NYC should have the right to attend a high-quality neighborhood school, all the way through HS.
And that offering 400 plus HS "choices" of uneven and unreliable quality, any of which can be closed at a moment's notice for arbitrary and often unfair reasons by the Mayor, should never replace that right.
The HS admissions process in NYC is a nightmare; extremely time consuming and stressful, with highly unreliable results.  Thousands of kids get shut out of ALL of their top ten choices each year; for those who get into a school they want, often it turns out not to suit them and despite all the rhetoric of "choice" DOE makes it nearly  IMPOSSIBLE to transfer out.
It's a little like the Roach Motel ad; once you check in you can't check out.
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Back to me. Choice as framed in a competitive capitalistic market ultimately leads to little or no choice as competition drives out the choices. As eva and hubby eric run wild all over north bklyn creaming the top kids with massive advertizing campaigns we will see public schools shut down ala New orleans without the hurricane.







































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