Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sacrificing no one

This from C-J:

On the one hand, it's discouraging that "hundreds seek change in school assignments," as a recent headline put it.

On the other hand, as Jefferson County Public Schools student assignment director Pat Todd observed, "Out of 12,000 applications, we had about 850 inquiries" that referred to attending different schools. That's a relatively small number, given the great sensitivity of such issues. Few things, if any, move parents as powerfully as
the safety and success of their children, and both can be at issue in the assignment of a youngster to a particular location.

Overall, the JCPS administration has made a success of redoing student assignment, to overcome the wrongheaded objections of a U.S. Supreme Court majority. If there is any justice, the new plan will pass legal muster, and this community will be able to pursue its goal of preparing the next generation of local graduates, emphasizing academic achievement across a system that is diverse and demanding.

By approving the student assignment plan unanimously, the board placed its confidence in the school system to do all that's possible for every single student. Principals, teachers, staff and administrators absolutely must take seriously the concerns of parents, like Gina Gatti, who "understand the logic of student assignment" but fear their child "is being sacrificed."

It's up to our public educators, from Superintendent Sheldon Berman on down, to make sure that no student is sacrificed— that every youngster's needs are recognized and each one's opportunities are maximized. And Ms. Gatti also may find reassurance in this truth: Nothing predicts student success as reliably as parental concern and involvement.

JCPS officials should do everything they can to answer the questions and concerns of parents such as Ms. Gatti. They are predictable and legitimate. However, Mr. Berman's goal is the right one — quality in every school, opportunity in every classroom, commitment to every child.

There's a false sense of security in a school system that only puts students in seats next to those who come from the same kinds of homes and share the same benefits or deficits of history. A system that ghettoizes achievement — racially, socially, economically or on any other basis — would sacrifice the future of our whole community.

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