On WBEZ's most recent program of the series Schools on the Line, Chicago Public Schools' (CPS) CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and Project Manager Katy Ellis were discussing charter and magnet placing for students -- in a phrase, selective enrollment. These schools typically require students to meet certain criteria and test in. Schools such as Whitney Young, Peyton, North Side College Prep, to name a few, are some of the best schools in the state -- and they are in Chicago proper. However, the vast majority of schools in Chicago are mediocre, or outright bad. I made a visit to a school earlier this year. Let's say that the school has has great teachers, but they also had RtI posters in the hallways, metal detectors, and when I went to the local store to buy something, a woman bursts in talking about her friend who had just been shot up the street -- in the direction of the school. So great, we know that there are great schools and terrible school in Chicago. This is no secret.
The thing that really got me thinking was this notion of finding schools that "fit personalities," or seem like the best choice for personal other than academic reasons. If you can "choose" where you want to go in terms of your personality, that's fine. I take no issue with that. But the problem is what about the student's who don't have this choice. The student's who won't test in, or reach scores above the cut rate. Do we not care that their schools may not fit their personality and may also be academically suboptimal? Are they just supposed to deal with it?
The answer of how to make schools perform better is one that is beyond anything more then, for me, personal philosophy at this point, but I will say that there is a lot of waste and pork in CPS, and the majority of it seems to stem from the decentralization. This is an issue concerning the administration and the amount of schools the administration is supposed to cater to. The same is seen in Los Angeles, and Detroit, and New York City. Why are these districts so large? Would it not be simpler and more effective to break the districts down into smaller units and then administer them? I think yes. And I think this would create many more opportunities for schools in large districts to be more student friendly in terms of fit and academics.