It is interesting to watch the school district attempt to answer this question. Perhaps the biggest issue is attempting to communicate a concept that is for all intents and purposes totally foreign to most people, using loaded words like “choice” and “proximity” and “priority”. Another interesting thing is that there are SO MANY different attempts to explain choice, it’s quite crazy. For instance, the title of this blog post is taken from one of the hand-outs at the Community Forum tonight. However, I cannot find that hand-out on the Unit 4 website. Instead, I found 6 others of varying degrees of aesthetic appeal:
- Champaign Controlled Choice
- Choice Brochure
- Application Process
- Schools of Controlled Choice
- Controlled Choice InfoSheet
- Registration website
And you wonder why parents are confused. *grin*
I have blogged about these Choice Community Forums several times in past years (2010, Jan 10 2012, Jan 26 2012). I am glad to see some small improvements like the FAQ (“What is Controlled Choice?”) – they capture some of the key questions, most of which were also asked tonight during Q&A. As I mentioned last year, the video is much better than the previous incarnations, but I still think we need another spokesperson to emcee. Dr. Zola got up at the end of the presentation time and did a great job of engaging the audience and basically putting on a show. I suggested to a few folks that Dr. Zola should kick off the entire thing. Even with these improvements, it is obvious to me that parents still struggle mightily with the concept of “Choice”, “proximity” and “priority”. The pro tip on the FAQ is killing me: “Let your priorities work for you!” What in the world does that mean? Don’t get me wrong, I know what it means; but a new parent?
So one big improvement waiting on the wings is the fabled integration with EduLog. Doretha mentioned this nifty little tool (the interface, not EduLog directly) at the meeting, and I could just hear curiosity being sharpened. Without a working demonstration (or at least screenshots), it seems like black magic, like “Wizard of Oz” stuff. In fact, I laughed out loud when she mentioned that folks could write down their address and that the FIC would mail them their proximity schools (keep in mind this is the current way to do it). None the less, having talked to Doretha, Dr. Zola, Stephanie and Dr. Wiegand, I hear the interface is truly almost done. And I believe it. As much as I was quite disheartened that Dr. Alves won this year’s contract to do the school assignment software, I am glad that at least we have some nice online interfaces coming out way which will help folks feel a little more at ease with “proximity”.
During Q&A there were some statements that I take issue with. Michelle Brown said that if you choose 5 schools and you do not get into any of them, you are wait-listed on all of them. It has been my understanding, and the documents listed above support this, that you are only wait-listed at your first choice. I had never heard of being wait-listed at all schools. But hey, maybe I am simply misguided and thought wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time. Another statement was that all school AYP test scores are listed on the Unit 4 website. Really? Where? I can’t find them. They are indeed listed on the Illinois Interactive Report Card (aka, IIRC) hosted by Northern Illinois University, but Unit 4 doesn’t even link to it (that I know of). Another person asked “How do you know which schools are overchosen?” I love that one. *grin* Because the district typically gives a non-answer like “the schools change” or even the more-technically-accurate-but-equally-unsatisfying “we don’t know until the computer runs the program.” The question was asked after the parent realized that choosing a popular school without any kind of priority is “bad” (meaning, a wasted choice). The district has chosen not to make historical data easily accessible to parents in an attempt to eliminate bias. I personally disagree with this approach, but I can’t say my way is better for everyone. It is conceivable that, armed with more information, certain schools would become less chosen and thus possibly make a different school “overchosen”. My perspective is that you give all the facts to those who are seeking it.
One other major thought. There seemed to be a number of parents of various internationalites. What if some of those parents do not speak English as a first language? I wonder how much information they are able to absorb from a meeting like this.
Tomorrow morning I will attend my first “Controlled Choice Committee”; it has been running for a little while already (so I believe). I am hoping to raise these issues and learn more about where this committee is going.