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Educating...

Posted 5:46 PM by

 

Once again, the IPS Board has caused a bit of local furor due to a proposal before that Board to relocate both the proposed International Baccalaureate program tentatively set to open next fall in Broad Ripple High School, and the current Gambold Prep program, currently located on west 38th St., to Shortridge High School.

 

The argument, if I understand it, in support of locating both these programs at Broad Ripple High School instead of at Shortridge, is that it would increase ‘community participation at the local high school.‘   Presumably that means that more students from the ‘community’ would attend BRHS if these programs were relocated there, than would atend Shortridge HS if the same programs were located there.  The basis for that argument is that the ‘feeder’ schools for those programs are located closer to BRHS than to Shortridge. That’s where the argument starts to fall apart.

 

There are, in fact, three pre-International Baccalaureate K-8 schools in Indianapolis.  One is located at 57th & Central, another at  725 N. New Jersey, and a third at 545 E. 19th St.  All are magnet schools, which means that in order to enroll, one must apply and be chosen in a random lottery.  If it were even a remotely valid argument that all students who graduate from those K-8 programs would choose to enter, and win, another lottery to attend a high school international baccalaureate program within IPS, it’s worth noting that only one of the three is in fact closer to BRHS than to Shortridge, and, that admission to the high school baccalaureate school is in no way preconditioned on attending one of those three K-8 schools.   More important, however, since it is entirely possible that some higher percentage of graduates of those three schools might choose to apply to high school IB programs, none of those three schools are in fact places where their students actually live.  All return home to parents who also do not live in those schools.  Taken as a whole, only a tiny percentage of the students of those three schools even live in the Washington Township portion of IPS.

 

Admittedly, the percentage of students at CFI 84 at 57th & Central from Washington Township is somewhat higher.  That’s true because when people who actually lived around School 84 noticed that the school at the time contained only 6 students from Washington Twp., and was about to be substantially enlarged, their initial suggestions that the school be burned down were resolved both by creating the pre-IB program there, and offering a preference in the lottery to local students.  Since the preference isn’t absolute, the majority of its students still don’t live in Washington Twp., and under the current system, never will.

 

Since the majority of students in pre-IB schools in fact live closer to Shortridge ann BHRS, and since it’s presumed that both they, and their parents, would prefer shorter bus rides, you have to assume most would prefer to attend Shortridge.  Even among Washington Twp. students, it’s worth noting that Shortridge is in fact closer to most of Washington Township than is Broad Ripple. 

 

Now, the schools that are supposed to be ‘feeder’ schools for the Gambold program (which could seemingly also include all of the pre-IB schools, include the IPS Montessori Schools, of which there are three.  School 356 is located at 2353 Columbia Ave.  School 367 is located at 653 Somerset Ave.  School 391 is located at 5111 Evanston Ave.  Only that last school is in fact closer to BRHS than to Shortridge.  All, as with the pre-IB schools are magnet schools, none have a majority of Washington Twp. students, and in fact all of my previous commentary relating to pre-IB schools applies here as well, except that none were able to negotiate a preference area.

 

The last ‘feeder’ is the Merle Sidner Gifted Academy, located at Kessler & Keystone.  It is very, very close to BRHS.  It’s roughly 300 students in 8 grades come from everywhere in IPS, and, unlike other magnet programs, carefully chooses its students.  As with BRHS, it sits on the outer edge of the IPS District, and if local news accounts are to be believed, there is some complaint among its parents that it is located too far from their homes.

 

Finally, it’s absolutely worth noting that very few Washington Township students attend Broad Ripple High School.  In sheer numbers, very few Washington Twp. students attend any IPS school.

 

OK, so what’s going on here?  My best guess is that, at least in the northern part of Washington Twp. IPS, there’s a decent sentiment in favor of neighborhood schools.  There are also, living within Meridian Kessler, more than a few people who attended schools here some time ago, back in the era of purely neighborhood schools, so there’s a strong instinct towards protecting places like School 84 and BRHS, especially from alumni.  There are also a lot of parents of younger children who want their kids attending school that are closer to their homes, and who would also rather bank some of the tuition they’d have to expend to achieve that goal without going the provate or parochial route.  All of that seems perfectly understandable.

 

My guess is that, in the poorer areas of IPS, there’s some equally strong instinct towards getting children out of their neighborhoods for school.  That would seem to explain the popularity of both magnet schools, and of charter schools, and also why there was substantial opposition to the only charter ever proposed in Meridian Kessler.  At a minimum, it’s safe to say that there are some really diverse constituencies within the IPS District, and that trying to please all of them makes being on the IPS Board a really difficult job.

 

There’s a raw materials aspect to public education that’s awfully difficult to discuss.  What IPS lost over the past few decades were families that could give their children tremendous advantages.  They went either to the suburbs or to local private and parochial schools.  Advantages are, after all, advantages, and you can still see those advantages playing out in the test score of the places those kids landed.

 

There’s also a need, in urban areas to attract families with advantages back again.  Advantaged people can pay more for their homes, and that means increased property taxes.  It also means jobs, since there are probably more advantaged job creators than there are disadvantaged job creators.  That’s a part of the IPS experiment with magnet schools, since pre-law, pre-med, and performing arts magnet schools  at least offer the fantasy that your child will become a doctor, lawyer, or famous performer.  (there are too darn many layers these days, but that’s another article altogether).  But magnet schools, inherently, run contrary to neighborhood schools, and there’s some truth to the fact that the further away from your child’s school you live, the less likely you are to be involved with the school..

 

It took a few decades to muck up public education, and, it will likely take a few decades, at least, to make it work well again.  One of the positives of having reached an advanced age is having children of a (somewhat less) advanced age.  That means I don’t have, or remotely claim to have, solutions, just a perspective on the problems.  It’s going to be an interesting, albeit bumpy, road.

 



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