Tuesday, July 20, 2010

School Choice -- easy way or hard way. Plus single gender options for more families

The Citizens Alliance of PA issued a press release that endorses and talks about a new PA Bill that gives families a choice to go to private schools if their public school is failing.

CAP Endorses Sen. Williams' School Choice Bill

HARRISBURG, PA—Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania (CAP) today endorsed Sen. Anthony Williams’ (D-Philadelphia) Opportunity Scholarship Act (SB 1405), which would give disadvantaged children in chronically failing school districts the financial assistance they need to pursue educational options.

”The Opportunity Scholarship Act will rescue thousands of children tragically trapped in failing schools,” said CAP Executive Director Joe Sterns. “There should be no greater priority for the politicians in Harrisburg than making sure every student in the Commonwealth receives a first-rate education.”

Sen. Williams’ legislation, SB 1405, would provide children in low-income households a scholarship to attend a non-public school if their public school is chronically failing. The bill defines “chronically failing” as having 40 percent or more of the student body scoring at or below the “basic” range in math and reading/writing for two consecutive school years. The amount of the scholarship would be equal to 100% of the Commonwealth's annual per-pupil school aid funding amount plus 50% of the school districts annual per-pupil school aid funding amount.

In Pittsburgh, we've got a situation brewing -- if not in full boil -- that is going to re-form Westinghouse High School.

I think it makes great sense to get rid of the feeder patterns for all high school students in Pittsburgh so as to allow them the opportunity to go to any of the city's high schools based not upon where they say they live with a street address.

Presently, Pgh Public Schools with its feeder patterns means that students MUST attend a specific school. The student is forced into that school and not other schools in the city. If you live within certain streets, you go to Westinghouse and can NOT go to Carrick nor Allderdice nor Langley.

As a Libertarian, I'm more on the side of choice and freedom and not force.

But still, there are some nice options for families as some flexibility is already in the system. Students can attend CAPA, the Creative and Performing Arts school for grades 6 to 12. But, they need a talent and need to audition. And, they need to be accepted. Anyone in the city can attend CAPA without the need to live within a certain 'feeder pattern.'

Students from anywhere in the city can attend Perry Traditional High School, grades 9-12.

Students from anywhere in the city can attend Pgh Obama, the I.B. School. To go to the IB school students need to have good grades and be able to pass a language entry benchmark. All students at the IB school have languages for all the years they are there. And, the acadmics are very demanding.

Students from anywhere can attend Brashear High School, but this is a secret. The principal there has been flexible in granting admissions to Brashear as there is space. But, you've got to have a good story and meet with him and add to the overall school.

Students from anywhere can go to Allderdice if they opt into the Engineering magnet or else opt into the Chinees Language magnet that is offered at Allderdice and no other place in Pittsburgh.

Students from anywhere in the city can attend Sci-Tech (a 6 to 12th grade school). This newer school is located in Oakland in the former Frick building. However, students who go to Sci-Tech need to have their number pulled in a lottery as there is a demand for the school that exceeds the smaller size. More students can enter into 9th grade as the classes of 9, 10, 11 and 12th grades are larger than the size of the overall classes for 6, 7 and 8.

Students from anywhere in the city can attend the U-Prep School, also grades 6 to 12. Well, they don't have grade 11 and 12 yet, but will grow into those grades as the years pass. U-Prep has available seats in all the grades as there hasn't been much demand there and some who have attended have not stayed. The U-Prep theme is to press the student to attend a University / College after high school.

So, there are plenty of options, but not enough, really. They still have these 'feeder patterns.'

Peabody is going to close, we expect.

Schenley closed.

Oliver is going to have a big change too.

So, this is the time to get rid of all the feeder patterns in the city for the high school students.

If a kid wants to go to Westinghouse and be a part of the single gender classrooms and that student lives in another part of town, say in the Allderdice feeder pattern -- then let the student attend.

But most of all, this should be the stated policy of the district.

Pittsburgh has plenty of variety among its schools. Choice is good. It can be embraced and be turned into a real feature and another good reason to move into the city -- or stay here.

I would support the elimination of all feeder patterns for high school students in Pittsburgh.

Kids can attend Central Catholic from anywhere in the city -- and beyond.

Kids can attend City Charter High School from anywhere in the city too.

Furthermore, families move. If better or different housing is available, then the family should move and not be tied down to a feedern pattern. And, this could work in the reverse as well. A family that used to live in Squ Hill might need to move out and a spot in another section of town might have less expensive rent. If the student is thriving at the school, a new residence shouldn't insure a new school.

Otherwise, lies are spun. Let's be honest.

Finally, in terms of the bill mentioned above -- if Pittsburgh does not offer school choice among its public high schools, then Pittsburgh might find itself in the position of offering families choice to attend PRIVATE schools. Giving kids tuition money for Central, Oakland, North Catholic, Bishop Canevin, Seaton LaSalle, Vincention, A.Christian, Ellis, Shady Side, W.T., Sewickley, Kiski Prep, and so on, won't be as much fun as giving them a chance to go to a non-feeder pattern school.

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