A Better School Plan In 1896, the first traffic accident happened in the United States when a Duryea motor wagon collided with a bicycle in New York City. The man on the bicycle was sent to the hospital. The driver of the car was sent to jail. It must not have been easy to adjust to the changes brought on by the auto. Britain initially struggled. In 1895, the country passed a law that all autos must be accompanied by a person walking in front of the vehicle, blowing a horn and carrying a red flag. The nascent British auto industry suffered for years as a result, falling behind their German (Benz, Daimler) and American (Oldsmobile, Ford) competitors. America did adjust, however. Today we have an elaborate transportation system that handles an incredibly complex set of problems for drivers with very different needs. While NYC commuters might still complain, no one would argue that the traditional model would better handle today’s traffic (nor would anyone want to walk along I-95 with a flag and a horn). But that’s exactly what we’re doing with Stamford’s public schools. Stamford, the city, has changed greatly over the years. Today we reside in one of the most affluent small cities, but also one with a large number of families needing financial assistance, and a growing number who speak a different language at home. Our school system simply hasn’t changed enough to serve both constituencies: Families who need additional English language instruction and those who want their children to learn Mandarin. Why We Need A Change
A Better School Plan The evidence of our problems is overwhelming. Thirteen of our seventeen elementary and middle schools are classified as “failing.” This designation comes despite spending 21% more money per student than the state average. Stamford spends more per student than Darien, our neighbor. Yet we get much poorer results. Middle-class families have fled the public schools in large numbers. Our student population is falling, and we’re being forced to close schools. The achievement gap between the economically disadvantaged children and their middle-class peers remains stubbornly high. Yet, despite evidence that the economically-disadvantaged students perform much better at the magnet schools, we’re closing one magnet (Rogers) and considering redistricting plans that would take seats away from the others. I would argue that it’s time to rethink our entire approach to how we educate our children. In the following pages, I advocate that Stamford adopt a system where all schools are K-8, and all are magnets. I believe that such a move would lift the achievement level of our students, particularly those coming from economically disadvantaged homes. Furthermore, the higher test scores and the popular parental choice feature would attract middle-class families back into the system. Thus bringing an end to the vicious cycle of sagging achievement levels, middle-class flight and declining enrollment. Why We Need A Change
A Better School Plan I am not an expert on this matter. I have tried to take into account all of the variables I could think of, and to base my proposal on the available facts. My goal here is not to push an agenda, but to open a dialogue with other parents concerned about the direction of our schools. I would welcome any thoughts or comments, and would be thrilled to see alternative proposals. Some day soon, I would like to see many of our collective ideas become reality. Why We Need A Change
A Better School Plan I A Better School Plan II How it Would Work III How to Transition IV How to Achieve Balance V Students with Special Needs VI A Word About… VII Appendix Table of Contents
(I don’t know if a middle school is slated for closing)
Schools Grouped into 4 Zones.
Zones determined by geography.
Each Zone has 4-5 Schools, each with a different Curriculum.
Families Choose Among Schools Within their Zone Via a Lottery.
A Better School Plan Raise the level of achievement for all students. Goals Close the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students. Foster closer neighborhoods by bringing families back to the public school system.
Each school in a zone would be K-8, and teach a different curriculum.
Families would choose among the schools in their zone via a lottery.
North Zone ( 4 Schools ) Possible schools: Northeast, Scofield, Davenport, Roxbury Central Zone ( 4 Schools ) Possible schools: Springdale, Rippowam, Newfield, Turn of River, Dolan Southwest Zone ( 4 Schools ) Possible schools: Stillmeadow, Hart, Cloonan, Westover Southeast Zone ( 4-5 Schools ) Possible schools: KT Murphy, EMS, Stark, Toquam, Dolan
Families would initially be districted to a school within their zone.
Families would swap, via the lottery, spots in their respective schools according to their preference (subject to availability).
Scenario: A family districted for Roxbury would rather attend another school. Options in the North zone (proposed): Northeast – “Westover” program Scofield – Math & Science Roxbury – Bank Street Davenport – IB
Rules: Families should only apply to schools that they would attend.
Rules: 2/3 choices should be within the districted zone.
Goal would be to get everyone into one of their top two choices.
Sample Lottery Card Districted School: Roxbury Districted Zone: North Secondary Zone: Central Choice 1: Davenport Choice 2: Scofield Choice 3: Northeast Any other siblings in the Stamford public schools? If so, where ________? Do you qualify for a lunch program/ELL/assisted housing? Y __ N__ Does your child have any special needs? Yes ____ No_____
Balance entails moving disadvantaged SE students northward. And vice-versa.
Southwest and Central need limited balancing, if at all.
(for ‘estimates w/out busing’, see Appendix)
The district average is 46.5%. Acceptable range is 36.5% – 56.5%. North Zone Economically Disadvantaged %: 41.7 Estimated w/out busing: 36 % Central Zone Economically Disadvantaged %: 43.6 Estimated w/out busing: 38 % Southwest Zone Economically Disadvantaged %: 43.6 Estimated w/out busing: 49% Southeast Zone Economically Disadvantaged %: 56.1 Estimated w/out busing: 61%
Achieve balance by busing less than 9% of the students between zones (see appendix).
Families in the N, C & SE zones would have a 2 nd chance at a curriculum.
Shorter bus rides. Fewer families leaving the public schools.
If we attract non-district, middle-class students to the EMS (SE Zone), our busing needs fall.
Bus 274 disadvantaged students from the Southeast to Central. Return 274 non-disadvantaged students from Central to the Southeast. Bus 163 disadvantaged students from Central to the North. Return 163 non-disadvantaged students to Central. (see appendix) North Zone Estimated economically disadvantaged %: 36 New target %: 42 Central Zone Estimated economically disadvantaged %: 38 New target %: 42 Southwest Zone Estimated economically disadvantaged %: 49 New target %: 49 Southeast Zone Estimated economically disadvantaged %: 61 New target %: 51
We already bus a significant portion of our students across zones to achieve balance (have you seen our district map?), attend middle school, or go to the magnets.
Better balance within the zones lessens the need to bus between them. Springdale has 52% of its population economically disadvantaged, while Newfield only has 31%. The schools are just 1.1 miles apart.
A Word about Busing
My numbers show that balance between the zones can be achieved with limited busing.
Longer bus rides, if need be, would be worth it. Especially if it was only temporary because of a transition period.
The need for busing declines as we bring in out-of-district students.
Appendix Busing for Balance My guess. School regions without current busing Original Data from Stamford BOE. My guess is my own. (cont. on next pg.) My Guess (ex- busing) New New New DisAd MC DisAd MC Net Chg Actual Actual Guess Guess Tgt Tgt Students Students Students Students Students +/- North Enrollmt DisAd DisAd DisAd DisAd DisAd Moved +/- +/- +/- +/- +/- Scofield 604 34.3% 207 Northeast 814 40.7% 331 Davenport 514 52.5% 270 Roxbury 651 41.2% 268 2583 41.7% 1077 36.0% 930 42.3% 1093 163 -- -- 163 -163 163 Central Springdale 567 51.8% 294 Newfield 630 31.4% 198 Rippowam 811 47.0% 381 Turn of River 612 44.2% 271 2620 43.6% 1143 38.0% 996 42.3% 1108 113 274 -274 -163 163 111
Appendix Busing for Balance My guess for the school regions without current busing, cont… Original Data: Stamford BOE. My guess is my own. Guess ex-busng New New New DisAd MC DisAd MC Net Chg Actual Actual Guess Guess Tgt Tgt Students Students Students Students Students +/- Enrollmt DisAd DisAd DisAd DisAd DisAd Moved +/- +/- +/- +/- +/- Southeast Toquam 453 38.2% 173 Stark 591 59.9% 354 KT Murphy 545 68.8% 375 Rogers/EMS 527 64.8% 341 Dolan 624 47.2% 295 2740 56.1% 1538 61.0% 1671 51.0% 1397 -274 -274 274 -- -- -274 Southwest Hart 417 61.8% 258 Cloonan 594 43.3% 257 Westover 633 32.0% 203 Stillmeadow 586 43.4% 254 2230 43.6% 972 49.0% 1093 49.0% 1093 0 -- -- -- -- 0 10173 46.5% 4730 Students Moved 874 % 8.6%