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Experienced educator Arthur Goldstein recently visited the George Washington Campus in Manhatttan. It used to be the George Washington High School and had some famous graduates, but those days are gone. Now it is the G.W. Campus, containing multiple small schools, all schools of choice.
All high schools are now schools of choice, and there are hundreds of them. The student ranks 12 schools in order of his choice, and the school decides which students it wants. The middle schools are also schools of choice. You are not likely to get into your school of choice unless you can show your test scores.
The effect, of course, was to downplay any notion of community schools (thus downplaying any notion of community, valued by neither Gates nor Bloomberg). Parents now had “choice.” They could go to the Academy of Basket Weaving, the Academy of Coffee Drinking, or the Academy of Doing Really Good Stuff. Of course by the time they got there the principals who envisioned basket weaving, coffee drinking, or doing good stuff were often gone, and it was Just Another School, or more likely Just Another Floor of a School, as there were those three other schools to contend with. (Unless of course Moskowitz got in, in which case it was A Renovated Space Better Than Your Space.)
Last night I learned that middle schools in NYC also are Schools of Choice. I don’t know exactly why I learned this last night, because my friend Paul Rubin told me this months ago. I think I need to hear things more than once before they register with me, though. Anyway last night I heard from someone who told me that one of the schools her daughter might attend required test scores as a prerequisite. So if her family had decided to send their kid there, opt-out may not have been a good option.
I live in a little town in Long Island. My daughter went to our middle school, as did every public school student in our town. We are a community, and our community’s kids go to our community’s schools. If I opt my kid out, she goes to that school. If she scores high, low, or anywhere in between, she goes to that school.
Goldstein realized that the choice policy is an effective deterrent against opting out of tests. If you opt out, you won’t get into your school of choice. You might rank 12 schools, and get into your last choice, or end up with no school assignment and get sent wherever there is an opening, which might be an hour or more from your home, with a theme that has no interest for you.