Wednesday, December 26, 2012

High School Redux

Before the break, CPS announced BoE approval of five new high/middle school projects. One of them is the expansion of an elementary magnet school to include high school grades as well. 

It is interesting that CPS would approve additional high and middle school seats whilst bemoaning its (under)utilization across the district. But: at the same time, everyone I know seems to be anxious about the (lack of) high-quality high school seats within CPS. The Boy is, unfortunately, among them.

It is interesting because it is the only CPS high school to be approved from the 2012 RFP. The other two high schools are charters, and the other middle school expansions are military academies going down into 7th and 8th grades.  But: I do not know how many other District operators made proposals.

It is interesting because (I think) only three other K-12 schools exist within the CPS portfolio: Ogden International, Alcott, and Chicago Academy.  But: Alcott and Chicago Academy are neighborhood schools throughout, while Chicago Academy is an AUSL/contract school. Ogden is neighborhood in elementary, but turns into a magnet with enrollment requirements and a preference for students who live in Ogden Elementary's attendance boundary.

My kids' school, Disney II Magnet, was the school approved for the expansion into high school. Like Alcott and Ogden, it will give preference to elementary students to matriculate into the high school. And (presumably) like Ogden, it will offer most of its seats to students who come from outside the elementary school.  In its first year of operation, Disney II 's expansion could provide an additional 300 high-quality middle- and high-quality seats to students throughout Chicago.

And finally, it is interesting how few magnet high schools there really are within the system. There are seven: Chicago Ag, Clark Academic Prep, Curie, DeVry, Goode STEM, Ogden International, and Von Steuben. In researching this blog post, I looked into magnet admissions policy across the District. Many magnet schools also have admissions requirements. There are four magnet high schools that require testing or requirements of some kind for admission into the school: Von Steuben, Chicago Ag, Ogden, and DeVry. DeVry only accepts juniors and seniors. Goode STEM just opened this year.

I've attended a fair number of CPS commission hearings, public hearings, public meetings, and other education- and CPS-focused events. A common concern running through them is the lack of high-quality options for (high school) students within the city. Or sometimes just for those populations represented at the event. 

As CPSObsessed notes, the prevailing view is "SEHS or bust," among parents of middle- and high-school students. Concurrently--and somewhat contradictorily--there is an increased emphasis on the importance of high-quality neighborhood schools. However, there doesn't seem to be an increased emphasis on students attending their own neighborhood schools--at either the high school or elementary school level. Perhaps because I live in the boonies of the NWside and none of my neighborhood options (Murphy, Marshall Middle, Carl Schurz) are terribly appealing, I know very few people who actually send their children to their neighborhood school by choice. (If you do send your kids to your neighborhood school by choice, please leave it in the comments.) 
 
In the past, when I've suggested that our local high school, Carl Schurz, is an option for my children, people look at me aghast. One fellow parent told me that I was selling my kids short to have them attend this school. One teacher told me that my kids would get in somewhere, anywhere, that would be a better environment for them than the one available at Schurz . And The Dad continues to worry about gangs-and-guns behavior that surrounds neighborhood high schools like Schurz (and Roosevelt, Senn, Lakeview, Taft, and Mather), and has remained steadfast in his view that suburban kids who shoot up are preferable peers for our children than CPS populations who shoot

Frankly, I don't see a significant difference between creaming because students are redirected toward selective-enrollment high schools and creaming because students attend neighborhood or magnet high schools outside of their own neighborhoods. Perhaps the problem lies in the belief that we must have options in the first place? Because, invariably with options comes competition. Instead of attending the best school for their talents, interests, and location, our children must vie with 14,000+ other high school students for a seat, any seat, at a high school that is anything but their neighborhood school. And that mindset is really the true barrier to improving options, education, and resource allocation within CPS. 

2 comments:

Mayfair Dad said...

Well said.

Adam Dew said...

Hi Caroline. As thoughtful, diligent parents we did the song and dance, applying to dozens of schools for kindergarten for our son. We did get into one school that appeared to be slightly stronger than Murphy on a few levels but it would have been an 8 mile round trip to W Rogers Park each day which meant an hour on the bus or an hour in the car... for kindergarten. So we passed.

After 4 months getting to see Murphy from the inside, we'd recommend it without hesitation. It also shames me to some degree that I ever for one second thought Murphy might not be good enough for my kids.

Will we do our due diligence again this year and jump through all the hoops to try to get Henry into one the handful of truly first class options available through CPS. But lets just say our expectations are tempered and we are fully at peace with the idea of walking the three short blocks to Murphy every morning again next year.

All the ingredients are in place for Murphy to continue to improve. All that's missing is improved public perception.