Sunday, May 31, 2009

A small change in course

As per my last post, you can see I'm missing the information and conversation on the City School front. Typically I only post here about thing that I have a strong opinion about, but I'm going to try to just bring up a topic and see if that might spark some discussion.

Last week, at a meeting I couldn't attend, Dr. Alonso spoke about City Schools. I'm sure he spoke on many topics, but the one that was reported on in The Messenger (on-line here) was the issue of "different constituencies" in schools that have magnet programs as well as in zone students. I'll try to restate the discussion reported on in The Messenger:

Roland Park Elementary Middle School (RPEMS) has moved from having very little in-zone attendance to having above 90% in-zone in the elementary school. The middle school is the only large-scale magnet program for middle school students in the city and as such is larger than the elementary school and is predominated by out-of-zone students. Judging by test scores both the elementary and middle schools are very successful and there is pressure to expand both programs, resulting in class sizes getting larger. At the meeting Claudia Diamond (a former PTA president at RPEMS) asked if Dr. Alonso would consider splitting apart RPEMS (the article didn't detail how this split would be made, elementary/middle or in-zone/magnet come to mind). Dr. Alonso's reported response was not too enthusiastic (and a little obscure) "I'm not a blueprint guy." But the general idea was that there were other more pressing problems on his agenda.

There's another online article from New York magazine here discussing how once racially and economically diverse schools that become successful, start having too many local students that want to attend and end up losing their diversity ("density trumps diversity"). Judging from some of the comments, the idea of transporting kids to achieve diversity is not any better received now then it was 40 years ago when Pimlico students were bused into Roland Park.

Having been a parent in magnet programs (and not attending our zoned school) for the last six years I can say I have often felt the schism that Claudia Diamond was alluding to. And honestly there is often an under-current of racial and/or economic segregation involved.

So - there's the topic for discussion. I think it's a continuation of the Brown vs Board of Education discussion from Inside Ed that had a lot of interesting comments.


  1. The argument made for separation comes across as being elitest. The whole point of the magnet programs that exist at Roland Park is to give bright and motivated students an opportunity to have more advanced instruction, which would not neccessarily be available to them at their zone school. Separating zoned students from city-wide/magnet students is just a dressed up way of saying "I want my kids to be around other kids like them." No one is going to come out and say that, of course. . And let's not forget that there are other students zoned for Roland Park that do not live in the "neighborhood." Students from Medfield are zoned for RP too. What's next? I hate to jump to conclusions, but in my experience a lot of parents feel this way and are very careful about how they phrase their concerns.

  2. Well, I think it's kind of bad form to get into the discussion myself, but since one comment doesn't equal a discussion, and I've given people 10 days to chime in, I guess it's OK. I'd say the argument for separation is all about economic/racial segregation. Out-of-zone has been a code word for those people in my experience. I've got to say it makes it hard to be an involved parent in that vibe. Of course that no doubt helps confirm some peoples' impression about how the problem with out-of-zone kids is that they have bad (uninvolved) parents.


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