While the school lottery by nature can be chaotic, charter public schools are the only hope for many inner city families.
Don't underestimate what charter schools will mean to inner city parents:
To get into the Math and Science Academy, I would hope there is some sort of basic level of proficiency and interest in math and science on the part of the kids going into the lottery. I would like to see something emerge more akin to the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora, minus the boarding and statewide pool of applicants.
To put a metric to it, kids in 8th grade, in (or applying for) a Math and Science Academy should be doing Algebra (not Pre Algebra... but Algebra). I don't consider 8th grade Algebra to be 'advanced' or 'gifted' but rather on target.
I agree Mahkno. I would expect that any child coming out of an inner city school who is "on target" in Math should be among the first included for the Math and Science Academy. The children coming from Washington Gifted have a great advantage for filling MST slots. However, I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of them live North of War Memorial.Inclusion for the right reasons will be tricky.
I have no doubt that there are young people in the inner city who have the capability of excelling in math, etc. However, many of them are in schools with chaotic environments where discipline problems have hindered learning. These schools are all on watch and warning lists--that means the majority are behind in reading and math skills. These kids need an environment in which they can "catch up," and I doubt that this new charter school will provide them the opportunity to "catch up" with their peers to the north who will be more "elgible" for the kind of charter school everyone seems to want. At some point, District 150 will have to give the "right" attention to these young people who deserve better. I could be wrong, but I don't think this charter school will provide sufficient help to the inner city. Until these inner city schools are turned around (instead of 150 just providing escape routes for a few), District 150 will remain a failing district with just a few "exceptional" schools. I might add that the parents in these areas are going to have to speak up to demand that the discipline problems in these schools be addressed--the support has to come from parents.
If it's a true lottery, how would kids from Washington - or living north of War Memorial - have a great advantage? If you slap on entrance requirements then it's no longer open to everyone which I thought was a requirement of a charter school.
Kohlrabi... there should be a minimum proficiency requirement and then from there you would have a lottery. I suppose, if not enough kids qualified or applied you wouldn't need a lottery.
No minimum proficiency. It's a lottery - not a magnet"Like magnet, private, and other schools attended by choice, charter schools offer alternatives to the neighborhood public school. Unlike the others, however, they cannot select students based on aptitude or achievement. If applications exceed the number of slots, Illinois law requires them to use a lottery or other random process, with preference given only to siblings of current students."
This Math and Science Charter school isn't a solution for kids who are behind. It isn't viewed that way by many of the supporters in the West Bluff. Instead it is looked at as an incentive for better off (financially) families to move into the District 150 area and more specifically into the West Bluff. By having more of these families move into Peoria you will have a gradual improvement of all the schools in the area as not every one of those kids will want to or be able to go to the Math & Science academy. More specifically, it's an effort to shift demographic patterns, which is the fundamental core problem for District 150.
I think more people around here are dreaming of something more along the lines of the Illinois Math & Science Academy in Aurora; minus the boarding, minus the statewide pool, not so focused on high performing kids but nonetheless focused squarely on prepping kids for future careers in the sciences and engineering.
Maybe it would be a solution for students that have been left behind. Maybe it would raise them up. I think the people who are dreaming of MSTA as a some sort of downstate IMSA are dreaming. They just aren't dreaming of a charter school. I don't underestimate PSD150's ability to gild the lily into something that it can't be.
I also don't underestimate the ability of the interested parties to market the school to the students they want to attract - and maybe not mention it so much at the schools or to the parents of the kids they don't want to attract. It seems like kids/parents that are at schools not meeting AYP should be the most interested in an improved learning environment.
I am thinking there will be some self-selection going on that will raise the bar, to some degree, in terms of the students applying to attend the MST charter school. I would hope in conjunction with establishing this school they would alter instruction at primary schools, especially those failing primary schools and offer pull-out math and reading programs for promising students. Otherwise, Sharon is correct, some MST students selected through the lottery will be behind from the beginning and will never be able to keep up. Sharon, I think you give far too much credit to the North ends schools. My children attended Kellar and thereafter Washington Gifted for part of their schooling. I did not feel the math curriculum was rigorous enough at these schools. Since we left Washington, I believe they have increased the difficulty level and have added additional math classes. But, for example, when we transferred our daughter to Kellar in 3rd grade she had already been required to master times table to 12 at her previous school. At Kellar, they did not really begin concentrating on this until the beginning of 4th grade.We are living outside of Peoria for now and although my oldest daughter was a top student at Washington, she cannot hold a candle to the Korean math students in her class now. She says the teacher has to give these students special work because they are at least a grade level, perhaps two, above students like herself. This is a dramatic example, but my point is that there is no substitute for early strenuous math training and the MST would be a great gift to the community. I am betting the Korean students in my daughter’s class knew their times table way before 4th grade! It is a global world out there and children from Peoria will have to go out and compete against students like these to gain acceptance into colleges of engineering and medical schools.
Frustrated: I'm inclined to agree that the curricua at Washington and the northend schools have been watered down considerably. I think it's just a trend in the district and nationally. Have you ever read the book "Dumbing Down Our Kids"--it provides considerable insight into what has happened to public schools?
I believe all the above comments indicate that District 150 really doesn't know much about the guidelines for a charter school. I don't believe that the guidelines allow for cherrypicking--so the district and charter holder will have to play some games to get the "right" group of students at the school. And there should be those who will be seeing to it that the guidelines are followed.If the district wants a magnet school, it should create one instead of a charter school--to keep things honest.
Maybe Peoria Next (Cindy Fischer is listed on the board) is under the impression that they will be able to cherry-pick the students for the MSTA - but not by following the rules for a charter school. If the students picked by lottery "are behind" - then that's that's the way it goes - the MSTA should meet them where they are. If top students are cherry picked - by whatever means - surprise, surprise, they'll be successful. Pretty easy for a charter school to be a successful under those conditions.
Kohlrabi: I agree totally--I think there is a good possibiity that Fischer or District 150 do not really understand the guidelines for charter schools.
According to IL Charter School Law, there is no “cherry picking” allowed and special emphasis is to be given to at-risk students. I would think the school would be in jeopardy of losing its charter if its demographics were not at least somewhat reflective of the District, as a whole, that it draws from. Charter schools are to offer “high, rigorous standards for pupil performance.” So, I do not think it will be so much about “cherry picking” but removal of the pits! All students will be able to enter a lottery to be selected to attend, but only those that have the academic ability will be allowed to remain. I am assuming there will be some grace period in which tutors, etc. will help those struggling to succeed but after some period of time, if the student cannot perform or if there are behavior issues that cannot be resolved, the student will be sent back to their home school. But, that is why charter schools are called “choice” schools. The parent/student selects to enter the lottery for a school based on an assessment of what that school has to offer in relation to the interests and abilities of the student.
If you look on the website for the charter school Chicago Math and Science Academy (and it looks like a great school) - possibly comparable to the proposed MSTA - the application asks for name, age, current school, grade applying for, if child lives with one or two parents. there are no questions on academic achievement or readiness - no requirement for transcripts or test scores, no letters of recommendation.
Frustrated: Are you sure that the charter school has the authority to send an underperforming student back to his/her home school? A magnet school could--but I am not at all sure about the charter school--but I really don't know, just asking.
No, I am not sure, but in the case of a MST charter whose goal is to better train students in math and science, if a student cannot perform at grade level after some intervention in would seem that would have to be the case. I do not believe, like others that have posted here, that the Peoria MST charter, is or should be a program only for "gifted" students however, for the program to achieve its goals, the classrooms have to be filled, for the most part, with "average" students, whatever that means. Otherwise the aim for more "rigorous standards" set forth in the statute could will not be achieved. And more importantly, if the curriculum is watered down so that all are included it ends up preparing none for acceptance into technical university programs. Listed below are the stats from the U of Illinois Champaign and what candidates accepted into the engineering program look like. Pretty tough criteria for admission. If a charter school is going to training students for careers in math and science fields then the course demands, even beginning in the middle school, is going to have to be fairly demanding or it will all be for nothing.Admission to the College of Engineering as a freshman is based on several factors (see Freshman Admission Requirements, U of I Office of Admissions and Records). The middle 50% of students admitted for Fall 2008 had the following characteristics:• ACT 30-33 • SAT 1880-2140 • High School Class Rank 90-98%
Frustrated: What you want to achieve, technically was once and should still be accomplished through the enriched programs in the high schools. The primary and middle schools don't provide "enriched" classes for those who are ahead academically--except for the few who go to Washington. Waiting for high school to offer advanced classes is really too late. You hit on the truth in an earlier post--I believe all classes at every level have been watered down in the last 20 years. Again, read "Dumbing Down Our Kids." As far as charter schools are concerned, I thought their claim to fame is that they can do whatever better than the regular school can--not because the students can be removed if they don't succeed.Emerge--you do put out some really thought-provoking posts. I hope you gain more readership (at least responders). I have recommended your site.
Thank you Sharon. I appreciate your comments as well as the comments from the other posters. Opening up the dialouge can make a difference in people being involved.
Sharon - I am making my summer reading list and I will read the book that you have suggested. Thanks!Emerge - you are a smart writer. I really like your style. Keep it up.
Lets not confuse 'On Target' with being 'Gifted'. There is a big difference. I think the two get muddied up a great deal. This muddying goes for Washington Gifted too. I have known some kids who have gone there, I wouldn't consider them 'gifted'. But when you surround them with under performing kids, they might seem that way.As far as the U of I requirements go, there is a lot more to being a successful engineer than what you cited.
Mahkno:You are right on with your assessment of the students that attend Washington Gifted. Most are "on target." They have the academic abilities to go on and be successful in college but the majority of the students do not have exceptional intellect. These students still benefit from being pulled from the regular classroom because as you suggest, there are many under performing kids within the District's classrooms which cannot help but compromise the curriculum the teacher is able to deliver.I agree that there is much more to being successful as an engineer that the U of I stats that I provided. But those are the requirements to gain entry into the best State school for engineering and as far as I know, most companies seeking engineers these days expect them to be degreed. And any MST charter school established in Peoria should be geared to helping students meet this criteria.
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