school choice

New York

After panel on school choice, critique of city’s system of schools

Chancellor Dennis Walcott is interviewed by WNYC's Brian Lehrer at a forum on public school options. Many of the parents and teachers attending a forum last night about school choice said it was their first time hearing Chancellor Dennis Walcott talk about the Bloomberg administration's school policies. Walcott defended the school choice model that has developed during Bloomberg's tenure at the event, which was organized by the New York Times and WNYC in conjunction with their SchoolBook reporting project. (Listen to WNYC's coverage of the event.) The event took place against the backdrop of a spate of school closures announced by the Department of Education earlier in the day. The city's closure strategy, meant to clear space for better school options, has in large part fueled the increasing number of choices that families face, especially when applying in middle and high school. Parents and teachers we spoke to said the apparent options could be dizzying, even for the most involved families. educators, some parents said they didn't think Walcott's answers got to the root of their concerns. "It's very confusing. The whole process reminds me of voting. People don't engage because there's too much information out there. They don't know how to process all of it," said Tania Cade, who has a child in third grade at P.S. 278 and another in seventh-grade at a gifted-and-talented program in Washington Heights. "I don't think that [Walcott] addressed that issue at all. It's all up to the parents, and God bless those parents who don't have the time or don't speak the language."
New York

School choice advocates rank city's enrollment policies as best

The same admissions processes that leave city parents scratching their heads or, worse, pulling their hair out have put New York City at the head of the pack in a new study ranking districts' school choice policies. The report, by the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, which has long pushed for expanded school choice, compares choice policies in place in 25 urban school districts and how families took advantage of them. New York City came in first, in part because students here are never assigned to schools based simply on where they live. Of the 25 districts, New York was the only one where students are assigned to schools based on applications that asked for families' preferences, not just their address. The city has a labyrinthine citywide high school matching process and district-based middle and elementary school admissions processes that many believe could be improved. In a district with more than 1,600 schools (the Brookings report tallies 1,474), the processes are seen as bringing order but also as sometimes pitting schools against each other and limiting options, particularly in high school, for students who aren't happy with what they've chosen. The Brookings report also gave New York credit for making data about school performance public and closing or restructuring low-performing schools. But its B grade would have been higher if it had more virtual school options and provided transportation when students enroll in schools outside their districts. To tie in with the report, former city schools chancellor Joel Klein, who bolstered and expanded the city's school choice policies, is speaking at Brookings' Washington, D.C., offices today.
New York

Diverse approaches to admissions labyrinth on view at HS fair

Eighth-graders and their parents began queuing up outside Brooklyn Technical High School on Saturday an hour before the annual citywide high school fair's start time, and by 9:45 a.m. a long line of families wrapped around the block. When the doors opened at 10 a.m., they poured into the stuffy building, some of the tens of thousands of families that passed through the fair this weekend. Inside, Brooklyn Tech's eight stories were something of a labyrinth — but no more so than the high school admissions process itself. Parents and students that we met outlined varying strategies for navigating the fair and the journey to high school. Laura Napiza with daughter Samantha, left, who wants to be a teacher Laura Napiza and her daughter Samantha tried traversing the hallways but seemed completely lost. “We just got here and it’s very overwhelming,” Laura Napiza said. “We’re looking for a high school with a strong academic program that also has something that she’d be interested in. Right now she wants to be a teacher.” They said their goal was to visit the Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts, and the Sciences and Maspeth High School — if they could find those tables. Saying they planned to inquire about graduation rates, student-to-teacher ratios and extracurricular options, the mother and daughter disappeared into the melee. Spencer Jackson and Beverly Brailsford creating a plan of attack for the fair Beverly Brailsford and her son Spencer Jackson came in with a clear plan of action: Head straight to the seventh floor and methodically work downwards, hitting only the schools with strong academic programs and track and field teams. First, though, the pair found a quiet hallway where they could sit down and prepare. With the high school directory in her lap, a pen in her hand, and a notebook turned to a fresh page, Brailsford took notes on schools such as Aviation High School and Medgar Evers College Preparatory School while Jackson played on his phone. “I think it’s more of a mom thing,” Brailsford said of the process. “As long as they have what he’s into, it works for him.”