Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Don't cream twice?

In this on-line chat with Dr. Alonso one of the things that sticks out in my mind was the discussion about Citywide high schools. My interpretation was that he saw the need and value of citywides when he typed “There will always be a place for City and Poly and the others. They are great schools. I certainly benefited from an Ivy League education.” What sticks out to me was the rest of the statement – that the schools have to be held to a high standard and “don't try to cream twice!”

My first hand experience at citywides finished about 30 years ago, and my second hand experience has to do with a 9th grader who has no point of reference. I don’t think I’m an expert; I’m just a concerned party. That being said, I think the analogy is flawed. In my college experience they did cream twice – first the acceptance rate was fairly low and then the engineering courses had a pretty high failure rate. You could argue that failing a class doesn’t put you out of school, but in reality it usually does. Lost scholarships and financial aid puts you out of a school. Parents stop paying college tuition if you fail classes. There was no intervention plans or extra support. Maybe there should have been, but in the end you did what you needed to do or you figured out you weren’t cut out to be an engineer.I’m not saying that a citywide should operate in the same way, but it seemed to me that the threat of being sent to a school that you saw as less desirable was a pretty big motivator when I was at Western.

Another fallacy in the “once you accept them, you need to keep them” concept is that the current acceptance criteria are tough enough and fair enough to really know that these kids are going to be able to make it through four years at a citywide. Maybe an answer would be to have more/better objective entrance requirements.

I’d like to make these arguments to Dr. Alonso, but it seems to me that those with first hand experience (i.e. teachers from citywides with at least a few years experience) probably have a clearer picture of how things stand and how they are changing. It would be nice if some experts would give me some feedback here or better yet communicate directly with Dr. Alonso and let me know what he said.
The picture of Dr. Alonso was shamelessly stolen from

1 comment:

  1. It's not Dr. Alonso's fault, necessarily, but the citywide schools have certainly taken a dip in quality in recent years.

    The ability to "cream twice" is one of the things that makes City and Poly such good schools. Students should be held accountable for their actions. Of course, schools should be, as well - lots of interventions should take place before re-assigning a student. But it should be done, because it makes graduating from one of these schools mean something.

    What Dr. Alonso doesn't seem to realize in his attitudes towards magnet schools is that sometimes, a student really benefits from a fresh start at a new school more suited to his/her needs and interests. It doesn't help a hall-walking young person to stay at Poly or City with a 61 average, which is something that happens all the time. Academic and behavior probation should occur, because students are losing out on valuable life lessons otherwise.


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