BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for March 15, 2010
West Point on the Eno rezoning iced til 2012

Walk-zone maps epitomize some Durhamites' fears, frustrations over magnet lotteries, school choice

Club_blvd_dont_walk_zone Durham Public Schools recently released its magnet school lottery results for the year -- a much-anticipated moment when parents find out if their sons and daughters made it in to the specialty program they hoped for.

In some cases, those programs are desirous to provide kids with a particular educational philosophy or specialty, be it Montessori, foreign cultures, International Baccalaureate, or what-have-you. In other cases, though, it's the ticket out of a base school that (are you listening, Wake County?) isn't deemed a desirable choice if you're the kind of parent who feels they have a choice in education.

Take Duke Park. The base school for most of the neighborhood is Glenn Elementary, a school with a 94% free and reduced lunch rate, giving Glenn what I believe is the second-highest concentration of poverty anywhere in a DPS school, after Fayetteville St. Elementary. Fewer than 50% of students are passing 3rd to 5th grade end of grade tests at Glenn.

Of course, any school with high poverty levels is going to struggle academically, no matter what the school does to intervene. Which leads to precisely the kind of school flight you see in a case like Glenn; once a school reaches a socioeconomic tipping point, no one wants to send their kids there if they have a choice.

(We had some discussions at a neighborhood board meeting over this very subject last year, after adding Glenn to E.K. Powe and Watts as schools to receive financial support from Trinity Park in '09. Some parents at the decision meeting were baffled as to why T.P. was reaching out to Glenn, way up the I-85 corridor. Told that the northern part of the neighborhood was, in fact, zoned to Glenn, a parent retorted, "Well, does anyone actually send their children to Glenn in our neighborhood?" Reaction aside, it's a legitimate question -- and the answer is, I'm betting, "I doubt it.")

For most Duke Parkers, it's Glenn, or a charter, or private school, or go through the process of trying to arrange a transfer.

Or, there's the walk-zone option to Club Blvd. Magnet Elementary at the edge of Northgate Park. That half-mile walk zone around magnet schools serves to, well, "magnetize" local kids, drawing them in to the school -- and with them, parental volunteer time and PTA resources more likely to be missing from a high-poverty school like Glenn.

But what do you do when the half-mile walk zone you thought included your house turns out not to include your house?

That was the dilemma that appeared recently on the Duke Park listserv. 

The question of Glenn first popped up there a few weeks ago:

We are looking at the possibility of a transferring to one of these schools for my son [Forest View, EK Powe] going into kindergarten. Unfortunately, our districted school (Glenn Elementary) is not an option for us. Forgive me for my frustrated tone, but we have applied in the lottery for Club elementary and Central Park School for Children and did not get into either of these schools -- did not even make the wait list.

I am truly disappointed that two schools that are both within walking distance of our house (less than 1/2 mile away) are not an option for our family.  Moreover, I am disappointed that Durham has districted our neighborhood in such a way that our children's education is either unimportant or left up to chance. Regardless, we are now at a crossroads and must decide if we have to take on the mighty task of private education for two kids or moving to a district with a better school system. We LOVE our neighborhood and do not want to leave, but now I am not sure that we can afford to stay.  Having said that, I wonder if any of you may know who to talk to in the school board about our neighborhood districting problem. I know it is too late to solve the issue for my kids but maybe something can be done for others.

The post led to a long and thoughtful conversation on the challenges of finding the right school -- including important reminders that Glenn has some wonderful teachers, and that the magnetized Club Blvd. elementary did its wondrous improvement in performance and scores with the same teachers there who taught there when it, too, had a bad reputation.

But the next question that came up along the way delved into exactly what parents need to do in order to find that mythical walk zone, given the first parent's comment about their own perceived distance. As other parents noted:

I just spoke with someone at Club because I was curious to confirm whether we were in the walk zone (we are not, as we thought).  However, it is interesting to us that the first block of Acadia next to the highway is and they would have to walk all the way to Washington to get to Club or around the park the other way, which is even further....

Club, Burton, and Harris Elementary have 1/2 mile walk zones. A friend of mine who believed (rightly, by my odometer) that she might be in the walk zone was told by DPS that there is no appeal process for the walk zone map....

[We] also live in the 1/2 mile radius (according to Mapquest, GPS, and car odometer). We are on Edgevale across from Everett. Someone is the department of School Assignment told me the changes were made for political reasons. She also assured me there wasn't an avenue to dispute the school line. Folks have to be living on the north side of Englewood to be in the walk zone....

That final walk zone ruling, though, seemed bizarre to one parent who had been in the walk zone in that same area before:

[W]hen we lived [on Edgevale] from 1993-1997, we were definitely in the Club walk zone.

How to solve this mystery? Well, in order to do so, you've got to start by getting definitive information.

A number of parents started hunting on the DPS site for copies of attendance maps and other data, a resource some parents felt wasn't the most forthcoming or most available.

"The DPS has made determinations street by street and house number by house number, and the only way to know for sure whether you are in a school's walk or priority zone is to call DPS and ask," one parent noted. "If you have particular skills at persuasion, you also may be able to get them to fax you a list of the streets and house numbers in a walk zone for a particular school. I have suggested to them that a more transparent process might benefit everyone, but I believe it is still handled for now on a case by case basis."

Still another parent recalled their own frustration last week in finding out that they were in the walk zone -- but only as long as they maintained their current address, thanks to policy changes (at Club, at least) that didn't grandfather you in if you moved elsewhere in the district. Said parent would have entered the lottery -- success there would have guaranteed access from throughout the district -- but were told they didn't need to do so because they were in the walk zone.

At last, though, a parent found the map, buried within the choice.dpsnc.net web site, and displayed above.

"What a wackadoodle map. Clearly there is some metric at work" besides a flat half-mile distance, one parent noted. (Another pointed out that just because you're in the half-mile zone isn't enough -- you also need a safe route to school, so crossing, say, Roxboro isn't an option.)

But others began to notice discrepancies. One parent saw her house on the map, for instance, but not on the list of addresses on file at Club Blvd.

Was it because Brookline closed when I-85 was widened? But even then, is DPS' map taking into account the new greenway trail along I-85 that could provide a replacement for Brookline's old connectivity?

Donna Hudson, DPS' student assignment director, checked out one address (1609 Edgevale) and came back lacking -- but only by following the city streets' path:

I have researched your request, 1609 Edgevale and found it to be beyond the half-mile distance to Club Blvd. school. To walk to Club Blvd from your residence, a person would have to turn right on Englewood Av, right on Washington St. and right on W. Club. I measured the distance using three different resources and the results were .54 and .55 of a mile. I am sorry that the map on the website was incorrect and have asked our programmer to pull it from the DPS website. Thank you for bringing this mapping error to our attention.

But that mystified another parent, who noted that Acadia Street, to the east of Edgevale -- and thus requiring the same exact path to get to school as the Edgevale student would have had to use -- was still in the half-mile walk zone.

A local Realtor noted the frustration that school assignments factor into the value of homes, and that Realtors rely on DPS having accurate information to keep real estate agents from being sued over wrong info. Others tested addresses that were listed as being in the half-mile zone for Club and had similar greater-than-half-mile results.

For now, DPS has put all the walk-zone maps on the choice.dpsnc.net site behind an authentication barrier, with district spokeswoman Kay Williams telling the Durham Association of Realtors that the maps were incorrect and the district would update them before reposting.

She noted the closing of Brookline as not having factored in to walk zone eligibility -- something that Williams implied will be looked at (though again, we're curious whether DPS will end up counting the greenway trail towards connectivity.)

And while parents were appreciative of having some clarification -- Donna Hudson got praise in particular for going to far as to drive out to the neighborhood to check out the situation -- it still leaves the neighborhood with a mess on its hands.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Of course, as one parent noted, so much of this comes down to the double-edged sword that is school choice in the first place.

The presence of a high-poverty population at schools like Glenn inevitably dissuades parents from choosing that school, if they're motivated enough and have the social capital to want to make a change.

Yet there's nothing inherently better about Club Blvd., or Powe -- two once-struggling schools that improved because parents agreed, en masse, to send their kids there, to volunteer, to affect change.

Ultimately, while the power of school choice can give parents options that keep them within a district, it also can create islands of kids stranded in high poverty schools like Glenn, where a tipping point has been inexorably been reached.

It's a tough problem. And if there were easy solutions, we'd doubtlessly have found them already.

Comments

Tar Heelz

The walk zone maps are public records. They are protected by no statutory exception that would permit them to be withheld from the public. (There is no "We're embarrassed by our current methodology." exception.)

Demand the maps. The school system must provide them to you. You don't need to give your name. You don't need to provide a reason. You don't need to make your request in writing.

Matt Drew

This is basically a perfect example of why more school choice is needed and why we need to move to a voucher or tax credit system, where parents make the choices instead of the government school system. What should be a relatively simple decision about where to send your child to school becomes a political and bureaucratic tangle, with kids being randomly selected or rejected for the "better" schools and constant wrangling over who gets to go where.

Kevin Davis

@Matt: Does the data on charter schools -- which show performance gaps correlated with race and income, just like public schools -- give you any pause?  Coz it does me.  I have no problem with school reform or accountability, but I am not convinced it avoids leaving some kids behind.  And before someone talks about it being the responsibility of the parent, tell me, who will pick up the social services or criminal justice costs of the kids we leave behind?

Tina

Glenn does have the 2nd highest F&R lunch numbers as you stated. But something to keep in mind is there are 700 kids at Glenn. That's like 650 kids from lower socio-economic homes. It's going to take more than just a band of 30 or 40 families to say they are going to send their kids there to turn around that school. I agree that middle class flight doesn't help the problem. But middle class trickle into the school isn't the solution either.

And in terms of the walk zone, my guess is the district is "massaging" some of the walk zone lines to try to maintain an economic balance.? I imagine the majority of the lottery applicants to magnets are non-F&R lunch students. (Correct me if this is a wrong assumption.) Are the walk zones there to provide economic diversity? What exactly is the district's goal for the walk zone? As families our goal might be the community, environmental, and health benefits students get from walking to school. But is that the district's goal? Or is it to provide economic diversity? If so then as neighborhoods gentrify the walk zones might change.

JC

I have to disagree with the assertion, "any school with high poverty levels is going to struggle academically." I absolutely disagree. While it is not easy, and while it takes very talented teachers, schools such as the KIPP schools have shown us that it is possible.

(As an aside I recently heard that DPS had engaged KIPP:NC on the possibility of handing over a DPS school to KIPP. But given the animosity of the DPS Board toward charter schools, such a change is unlikely.)

I'm not saying Glenn doesn't face significant challenges -- it certainly does. But with the right leadership and teachers in place I believe the culture of low expectations can be replaced with a culture of achievement.

Jim

@Tina - I'm not sure if most of the "applicants" to magnets are non-free and reduced lunch students, but the magnet schools' demographics show that most have comparable numbers to non-magnet schools. http://www.dpsnc.net/images/pdf/lunch-data-menus/lunchstats/FRlunch-10-08.pdf

Having lived in an area zoned for Glenn, I can tell you that it was perplexing trying to figure out why my kids would have had to pass by 4 or 5 other elementary schools just to get there. Luckily we got into a magnet program less than a mile away and gained an extra 2 hours with our kids each day. The school is still 66% free and reduced lunch, but we're culturally connected to it because it is in our neighborhood. I've been by Glenn school once in the 17 years I've lived in Durham. It did not make sense to send my kids there. I'm glad we were given a choice, and thankful I don't live in Wake County.

Michael Oehler

Kevin,

Another well written article on the Bull City's educational scene. My two cents:

In some sort of Bull City envy, I have really enjoyed the watching the Wake County School Board self destruct, but this topic, and the "Duke Park parents are really upset about the walk-zone" chatter I've heard at the parks recently has really been schadenfreude.

Disclaimer: I live in WHHN, and happily send my son (and daughter next year)to EK Powe. We did not apply to any magnets or charters because we think this system is morally perverse. If I lived in Duke Park, would I send my children to Glenn? You're damn right I would. That said...

The idea that Powe is now a "good" school is laughable. Just last year when we started attending Powe, it was a highly questionable choice, now... because about 10 white people from Watts Hillandale's kids go to Powe, it is a good school?

Hey Durham parents....All DPS are good and bad. A good friend of mine is a principal at an elementary school in Northern Durham that has a population much like Glenn's. To say that that school is a bad school... based on demographics... and Powe is good school... makes NO sense. I'm so sick and tired of Trinity Parkers, Watts Hillandalers, and now... Duke Parkers and Old North Durhamers... will it be very long before Cleveland Holloway gets gentrified enough to be included... whining about this...

While I can certainly understand people's concern, it really is all ridiculous. Remember that book we all had given to us when we graduated from college or high school... All I ever needed to know I learned in Kindergarten... what happened to that? Why do you feel the FEAR or Glenn? Seriously? As Ben Kenobi would say... "Search your feelings Luke" What are you really AFRAID of?

Finally, I was talking to a neighbor who sent his kids to Duke School, and they are about to leave. This neighbor stated that she wasn't sure they would spend that kind of money again. Wow! I was shocked. I expected her to say next... "DPS would have done just as fine a job." Well, nope. She said, "We'd just move to a neighborhood with better schools." Yes, indeed. All of you Bull City residents that have the means to MOVE away from the REAL Durham. Please. Just do it. Lets have the Bull City's citizens who are interested in working together with ALL Durham's children get together and improve ALL our schools.

Michael Oehler

I can't really handle the "lets privatize and more charter schools" cheerleaders right now. Fighting the good fight against my very well meaning neighbors is about all I got at this time.

Leigh

This whole situation would be better if someone higher up on the food chain within DPS gave the assignment office a through look and demanded they treat the parents and public with more courtesy and respect. I am not talking about the people who man the desk there -- the receptionists are unfailingly polite and helpful. I am talking about the (two?) people who head that office and the paper pushers who make the decisions and provide information to the parents. I have had nothing but wretched experiences with them for four years in a row.

They treat every legitimate question like an attack and react with suspicion and hostility, no matter how polite you may be. When you submit requests or inquiries in writing per their request, they do not take the time to actually read what you have written: they immediately assign some sort of "here's one of those [problem category]" labels to it and send you what on the surface seems like a legitimate reply, until you read it and realize it's a form letter that does not actually address your concerns and, by the way, is very heavy-handed in their defense of their assignment system. By the time you try to follow up on that and get a relevant answer, their deadline has inevitably passed.

It's extremely discouraging. This is the face of the Durham Public School system. Yes, it's a difficult place to work. Parents are often disappointed and angry. But it's their job to deal with that in a way that does not escalate hostilities. At the very least: be polite to people, listen to what they are saying and react without a huge chip on your shoulder. They need new leadership in the assignment office.

Mary

My oldest went to Lakewood Elementary for kindergarten. The school itself was fine, small classes, nice teachers, solid administration and we could walk there. Pedagogically, there were two things I didn’t quite agree with. Firstly, there was ‘homework’ for kindergarteners, granted just a simple math and writing worksheet to be completed over a week’s time. At first I was bothered by that but then came to see it as a way to help both non English speaking children (and their families), reinforce learning and encourage adults at home to be involved with their child’s education. But my biggest objection, however, was that outside recess was limited. Recess wasn’t daily and, in her class at least, recess was skipped on occasion to stay inside and work on worksheets. I’m a firm believer in outside play every day for young children as part of a good education.

That bugged me but we were prepared to keep her there. Then Central Park School for Children became an option. I was thrilled to find a school that encouraged outside time, no matter the weather, project-based learning , and didn’t encourage homework (except for reading 30 minutes a day) because research suggests it didn’t do much academic good til children are older and, as a super gold star big plus, had a year-round calendar.

My youngest is in his last year there and for my family, it has been a wonderful experience for the past seven years. It could be (and the administration wants it to be) more diverse but there are two obstacles for all public charters: transportation and lottery. The school’s location was chosen in part to draw from the walk zone in the very diverse surrounding neighborhoods (since charter schools don’t receive money earmarked for transportation that can affect the population it serves). But charters must do a blind lottery (and in the case of CSPC it is a draw names out of a box with the public invited to watch) which can also affect the demographics.

Back to DPS lottery, when you get to middle school, it gets even more convoluted! Some schools have feeders, some don’t, some have walk zones, some don’t and the lottery for the year round and magnets are done at the same time. In some cases (like my son this year) you can be chosen for both a year round AND magnet thus temporarily taking up two spaces and stressing out the many families who got into none of the above and end up having to commit to alternatives (especially if they involve tuition) before the next lottery. (To all you hopeful middle school magnet parents, we chose year-round so there is a DSA space open!)

In my daughter’s case, I didn’t feel my daughter would be well served by our zoned school of Githens with its ~1,000 11-16ish year old kids so we went for lottery options. She got into none of the choices so we went with a much smaller sized charter option. I know families who are quite happy with Githens although most middle schoolers themselves wouldn’t say they are happy anywhere 

So while there must be a method to the DPS lottery madness, it sure doesn’t feel like it! I know DPS folks work hard in thankless positions and do the best they can but humbly urge them to rethink assignments and the lottery system and be more transparent about the process.

GreenLantern

The whole argument about assignment and "neighborhood schools" is about real estate values, not education or walkability or convenience. People move here do their research and then choose to live in the "good" school district, and avoid the "bad" district because it creates a short supply, high demand neighborhood that translates into higher returns on investment. The equation is further expanded when you consider Durham vs Raleigh, or western Wake vs eastern Wake. The magnet idea just allows people to stay put when redistricting doesn't go their way because they can send their kids across town. They may have to wait longer to sell their home when the map is redrawn, putting them into the high F&R lunch school zones.

People are generally looking out more for their financial benefit than their kid's education. You can get a good education in a high F&R lunch school, but you better start the process at home with good discipline and a value for learning. You should propably not be concerned with the rate of your home's appreciation if you really care about going to any school in or near your neighborhood.

Reassignment doesn't do anything substantial to improve test scores of kids that don't want to learn. It's just a fight between the haves and the have-nots over property values and bragging rights. If people spent more time worrying about what their kids are being taught at (pick any DPS school) rather than fighting to stay in a "good" district, perhaps the folks down at DPS would be a little bit more understanding. It all comes across as a bunch of Yuppy whining, as they know the real reason you just don't want your kids to go to school with all the poor black youngsters that can't behave. There are real problems in the poorer schools, but don't you think it just makes things worse for the people working at DPS when they have to deal with a flood of reassignment requests every time they draw up a new map? So what if your kid can't walk a 1/2 mile to school. There are probably fewer kids walking to school in Durham than bicyclists on the roads, and I seriously doubt new sidewalks are going to placate the fears of parents who typically drive kids to school or have them use the bus.

Jonathan

I really like to hear all the arguments about how to reform school. It is a very complex problem which can't be put on just teachers, parents, administrators, or the community.

I know for me I never did really enjoy K-12 and it wasn't until college that I really loved school. And looking back through all the places I was in for my education, sure there could have been better schools for me to go to, or maybe I should have taken some honors classes, but at the end of the day, k-12 just gave me the starting point to discover who I am, and exposed me to opportunities where I can better myself.

So while seeking improvement is great, remember no matter how great the classroom or the teachers it is still the choice of the student to live the rest of his or her life. And school is just one factor that makes up the culture of a person.

blinkng

I taught at Fayetteville Street for several years, after starting my career in charter schools. (I'm still in a title one school- not burned out or run off) The solution isn't charters. They use your tax dollars, and you don't get any say in how they do so (no elected board). Most don't do any better than the district- some do better, some worse. Kipp schools are idealist- they require outrageous amount of extra time and work from their teachers without financial compensation. That combination is the perfect conditions to burn out your teachers. And the idea that firing every teacher in the building is going to then make the school a wonderful place to teach and learn is outrageous and an affront to teachers in struggling schools everywhere. What's my incentive to continue to work hard, love my kids, and help them figure out how to get through their lives if the answer to low test score is to destroy a community those students count on as a support network? Where's the high expectations- the belief that teachers as well as students can learn and improve?

It's not remotely politically correct, but I honestly can't understand why it is so essential to provide parental choice at the cost of student learning. "Choice" and "neighborhood schools" do my students at FSES no favors. The Wake County debacle is an atrocity. Say what you will, but that district is huge, and has high need regions, but has no failing schools!

Yes, DPS has much to earn by becoming more transparent, and yes, the maps are public record. However, don't be too quick to judge a school system full of parents too cowardly to demand that ALL schools be quality institutions of learning. Schools change when parents with social capital, who have positive experiences themselves in school, become invested in a school, support the admin and teachers, and demand outcomes for all students in the building. There are kids in Durham outside of your home who need your support, and we will pay the consequences if we choose to ignore or fear them.

DPS parent

Evidence (from research done in Durham) shows that magnet schools create more socioeconomic inequity in the system by drawing families who want to be with others like them-- meaning higher SES. The walk zone policy, while not intended to, perpetuates this inequity-- see Morehead Montessori, effectively a neighborhood school for the relatively rich families in the walk zone (the school has only about 20% free and reduced lunch and free pre-K). Walk zones may help strengthen magnets but drain neighborhood schools, some of which might otherwise be more socioeconomically balanced if higher income families would just send their kids there. Plus, what is called "choice" is a gamble, unless you live in the walk zone. Either all schools should be lottery, giving every child an equal chance, or all neighborhood schools should be good (i.e., have adequate resources).

Kevin Davis

@DPS Parent:

"Walk zones may help strengthen magnets but drain neighborhood schools, some of which might otherwise be more socioeconomically balanced if higher income families would just send their kids there."

True -- but we're stuck with this double-edged sword. Choice hurts some schools by concentrating higher-income, higher social-K children/parents in a few schools. OTOH, if we removed choice and mandated attendance (say) at a base school, you would have exit from DPS entirely or exit from the community to live elsewhere.

It's a crappy, crappy choice.

"Either all schools should be lottery, giving every child an equal chance, or all neighborhood schools should be good (i.e., have adequate resources)."

I think you're on to something here. Was speaking with someone with good cause to know their stuff on DPS yesterday who argued that we've never *really* tried to close the achievement gap, and only recently have gotten past (at the district level) the self-fulfilling excuse that children from poverty just can't learn and that achievement differentials are inevitable. If we solve that issue, we could see significant progress on all these issues.

Rob Lamme

I say the solution to Glenn is to break it up into smaller schools - like the school within a school concept at some of the high schools. 700 kids is just too big for any elementary, let alone one that serves a largely poor area. Then borrow what is working at other schools and make the Glenn schools magnets - arts like DSA, Montessori, or maybe even Spanish immersion. That will make the school appealing to students, parents AND teachers alike. I'd also add financial incentives for teachers to teach there and/or increase the length of the school day as a pilot for the rest of the system/state - tho I realize in tough budget times like these that might be hard to do. I'd also add a mandatory parent involvement component so that families must be engaged in their students' success (something I think should be implemented in ALL school, btw). Like requiring parents to volunteer at the school 1-2 hours per month.

Another DPS parent

Thanks BCR, this is one of many aspects of DPS that deserves analysis and discussion.

On DPS Parent's point about Morehead Montessori, I would love to know how that walk zone got drawn up. The walk zone includes homes deep into Forest Hills, over 1/2 mile away by road, and forces a crossing of University Dr., which is one of the busiest streets in Durham. Both of these violate what the Magnet Czar tells anxious parents at pre-lottery meetings every year, which is that the 1/2 mile zone is involiable and no student crosses a busy, potentially dangerous intersection. Without transparency, that just seems like some kind of backroom gerrymandering. Plus, I agree with the previous comments that the administrators of the magnet program are completely imperious.

I am on the side of neighborhood schools in Durham, because so much of what is great about Durham is neighborhood and community. I do agree with previous posts that the magnet system in DPS benefits a few at great expense to schools more broadly. I am not convinced that Wake's (former) model of diversity assignment didn't just create "passing" schools by spreading out the low performing students. Do we have hard evidence that kids bused from impoverished neighborhoods really raised their scores because they sat next to a wealthy child in class?

But, as mentioned by DPS parent, neighborhoods only work if they are good and adequately resourced. Many Durham elementary schools would be much more successful if parents with social and financial resources made the choice to engage in their neighborhood schools and help address the barriers to educational success confronting the poorest children who go there. Instead, too many flee in search of better tests scores and perhaps better demographic profiles. Test scores are an illusion of success for a school. Do all of you who leave neighborhood schools really believe that your years spent diligently enriching your children will only work if he or she is sitting next to another "enriched" student in class? Taking E.K. Powe as an example, if all the WHH and OWD parents who have fled E.K. Powe were to return, test scores would surely go up, and it would no longer be perceived as a "risky" school. That's lovely, but has this helped the kids from Walltown and West End? No!!! Our poorest students still come to kindergarten unprepared, underfed, and underclothed, with parents who are either disengaged, busy working, or who simply do not know the basics of helping their children become academically successful. And their test scores will remain low until we find some way to fund before- and afterschool programs to help these students get the academic and social enrichment they need to stay on the learning curve.

Some schools in Durham may need even more than that, perhaps with some sacrifice on the part of wealthier schools. But what many schools in Durham need is a reversal of flight and more local commitment to doing whatever it takes to help ALL students in the school succeed. Just think what could happen if parents transferred the time they spend driving their children around Durham in search of educational Shangri-La toward getting involved in their neighborhood schools. Positive change would occur, your kids will do just as well in school as they would have somewhere else, and you'd never have to leave your neighborhood.

Thanks for the opportunity to vent.

Peter


@DPS Parent:

Morehead's RFL population is 38.24% of served lunches.

The numbers are readily available here:

http://www.dpsnc.net/images/pdf/lunch-data-menus/lunchstats/freeandreducedreportOctober2009.pdf

It's a fairly small school. It has 238 students while Glenn, for instance, has 700 students:

http://www.dpsnc.net/images/pdf/enrollment/Enrollment_09.10.pdf

This means that a walk zone could have a disproportionate effect on the student population.
I don't know that it does because I haven't seen statistics on how many kids come from the walk zone and how many of them are not RFL. If you have those numbers, please post them.

One of the purposes of magnet schools and "schools of choice" was to reduce the middle class flight from the school system. This was to benefit them and to benefit the teachers and the other students.

There's quite a bit of research that shows that an RFL population of 40% doesn't hurt the progress of the non-RFL population and does improve the progress of the RFL population.

Based on that, Morehead is just about perfect.

You might feel "school choice" is not well implemented and I agree, but you can't force people who have other options to send their kids to failing schools.

And with respect to "neighborhood schools," the initial discussion was about people who weren't in a walk zone having their base school be five miles away from their house.

That isn't a neighborhood school.

@blinking:

Personally, I DEMAND that "ALL schools be quality institutions of learning."

Did that help?

Didn't think so.

Most parents are invested in the school their children attend.

They may be willing to provide help to a neighborhood school near their house.

They might be willing to help other schools, too, if they are asked.

I would suggest that if you have specific needs for your school, you send an email to the Watts-Hillandale, Trinity Park, Duke Park, OND, and Northgate Park email lists and ask for volunteers or donations of specific things you need.

The more specific you are with your requests, the more likely you are to get a positive response.

Tina

"Just think what could happen if parents transferred the time they spend driving their children around Durham in search of educational Shangri-La toward getting involved in their neighborhood schools."

I agree that this approach can help temporarily. But it's only part of the solution. The solution HAS to come from DPS's administration. Or otherwise you get pockets where parents ban together, make a school better, thus driving up the desirability of the school and the neighborhood. Which in turns drives up real estate values and force the folks from lower SES to other neighborhoods with not so good schools.

I saw this happen in the old neighborhood I lived in. The parents had the best interest of the students (all of them) at heart and did not fathom the ramifications that in 6 short years, the poor families would be forced out by economic factors. Parents are definitely part of the solution and the district should use their passion and energy to the advantage of all kids. But there needs to be a bigger plan that involves DPS, the City of Durham, & the County. I just don't know what that plan is.

GP

I have no disagreement on the problem of Glenn School's distance from the neighborhoods it serves. My sympathies go to the families caught in this dilemma, but that discussion would be incomplete without including magnets and school quality as a whole.

I don't have any delusions that schools like Powe or Lakewood are going to get SO good that families will rush in from SW Durham, Cary, or wherever to take up residence in a 1000 sq ft mill house in Walltown or even OWD and drive off poor families in the process. I just think that if the resourced families in these neighborhoods stayed in these neighborhoods that you could bring these schools up to acceptable levels of academic achievement and parent involvement. That rising tide would lift a lot of boats at the school. In a least a few of these schools, reverse flight would bring RFL down to something closer to the 40% benchmark referenced by Peter, without the artificial intervention of a magnet school.

I again disagree with this idea of a failing school. It's not as if you could remove all the kids from a school like Mangum or Little River, replace them with struggling students from a "failing" school and suddenly have these students 90% proficient on their EOGs within a year. Nor would the kids from Mangum or LR suddenly forget how to read or multiply if they were suddenly taught by the teachers at one of the low performing schools. My kid is at a so-called low performing school, is happy, has healthy friendships, gets appropriately differentiated eduction, and performs well. If the school has solid administration and teachers, I don't see what the problem is for a kid from a nurtured background

Many of these so-called failing schools are full of great teachers performing the thankless task of educating the children with the greatest academic needs. I see teachers leading coat drives, staying after school to tutor kids on their own time, trying relentlessly to contact disengaged parents, and pushing themselves harder and harder to reach the neediest kids and lift their school up. All we do is give their bonuses to teachers at wealthier schools and label these dedicated teachers as failures. The failure here is in the immediate neighborhoods of those kids and our societal priorities toward helping them, but also to an extent in the neighborhood folks who could really help the school but choose to go elsewhere. If you could change the failure and you elect not to, then that is part of the failure. If you want to live in a trendy urban neighborhood and don't want to take on this neighborhood responsibility, that's fine and it is ultimately your choice, but don't completely pass the buck on the "failure" issue.

Neighborhood associations are indeed generous for specific needs of a school, but it doesn't replace quality parent involvement, nor do they have the funds for a programmatic overhaul like comprehensive afterschool services.

I've also been to enough school board meetings to recognize that change over there is not a top-down process. DPS will have to be improved one neighborhood school at a time.

Best-

blinkng

Well said GP. Thank you.

@BCR- I certainly can appreciate the notion that DPS is only now beginning to meaningfully recognize the achievement gap as something that actually can be fixed, but I'd love to understand how they plan to change that, particularly with looming budget cuts. I really do believe that DPS tries top down reform, and Reading Street (which y'all covered very well) would be a prime example, but it's a clumsy process. Top down tends to be one size fits all, which is ironically, not how good teachers teach.

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