A bill that addresses several education-related topics, including charter schools and so-called “neighborhood schools” is expected to make its way through the Kentucky General Assembly during the short session that convened this week.
One part of Senate Bill 3 sets forth rules that would enable Kentucky students to attend a “neighborhood school” — defined as one nearest their home.
The concept of “neighborhood schools” sounds good. But is it really in the best interest of students?
The term “neighborhood school” gets used these days as if it is some cure-all for what plagues public education.
And why would anyone oppose “neighborhood schools”?
That would be akin to speaking against apple pie and motherhood, wouldn’t it?
I mean, can’t you see Beaver Cleaver strolling down the sidewalk of his neighborhood on his way home from school. It’s the American way, right?
Well, in my book, the “neighborhood school” concept is about as relevant today as black-and-white TV with June Cleaver wearing a dress, heels and pearls as she fixed dinner.
While I do not think there is anything wrong with going to a school in one’s neighborhood, I think it has nothing to do with assuring children a good education.
But riding a bus for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon has got to be detrimental to a child’s development, you say?
Well, both of my kids did it through elementary school, and they turned out quite well. In fact, odd as it may sound, their school bus pals provided a good source of socialization.
Back in the day, we chose to have our children attend Lincoln Elementary, located on East Main Street downtown.
Our daughter started there in 1992 — the first year of Project Renaissance, in which parents could choose a school from a “cluster” of about six schools.
She had passed the test to be in the Advance Program, which still was available for first graders then.
Lincoln, as it turned out, was the only school in our cluster that offered the Advance Program for first graders. So we decided to give it a shot.
I admit that, at first, the long bus trip was disconcerting. And I admit that on the first day of school, I followed the bus that picked her up in our neighborhood to the place where she had to get onto another bus and then followed that bus to school.
Lincoln turned out to be a terrific school with dedicated, engaged teachers back then. It was evident that they believed they were on an important mission when it came to educating children.
And the school was only a mile away from my office, which made it convenient to visit the school for lunch and programs.
In that same era, friends of ours had their three children attending their East End “neighborhood school” that was just down the block from their house.
The mother, who picked her kids up at school every day, told me with chagrin that their eldest daughter’s teacher would, without fail, tell her how many days until the next holiday or day off or end of the school year every time she saw the teacher.
That’s just one illustration of how disgusted she was with this burned-out teacher’s lackluster effort.
Since they didn’t want their two younger children to encounter that teacher, our friends pulled their three children out of the public school and enrolled them in what is now Whitefield Academy — located on Fegenbush Lane, a good 30 minutes from their house. So much for that “neighborhood school” experience.
Granted, the school situations I’ve related date to the 1990s. But I think they indicate that just going to the school closest to your home is not a panacea.
So, I hope our legislators will think through the reasons why this part of Senate Bill 3 is essential.
And the legislators, most of whom do not live in a large, urban area, need to understand the implications the law would have on the Jefferson County Public Schools system, which is an enormous, complex organization that has operated under the rulings of federal court orders related to desegregation orders for much of the past 35 years.
I hope that legislators who are proponents of this bill can articulate the reasons why they believe the “neighborhood school” law is a necessity. Because I don’t get
Sure, the new student assignment plan introduced by JCPS this year has flaws that need to be addressed.
But mandating the “neighborhood schools” concept is not the answer.
Friday, January 07, 2011
‘Neighborhood schools’ sound good but are not panacea
This from Carol Brandon Timmons at the Louisville BizBlog: