Monday, June 21, 2010

Feeder pattern w/ open enrollment

On the May "Start a new post," Annette Werner wrote:

At today's education committee meeting, one board member had an interesting idea: to the extent there is space in a school, why not open enrollment to others in the district?

The point was made that Milliones is a feeder pattern school with open enrollment to the extent there is space; why not do the same with other schools in the district?

June 21, 2010 11:27 PM


Mark Rauterkus said...


The board member who said that was Sherry H.

I gave a cheer for the statement.

Then the asked questions brought forth only two objections from Mr. Lopez: First, it would be 'complicated.'

Next, it would be hard to get the word out to all the families of the students.

The NYC example also came to light from Mr. Lopez. Each student there makes 5 choices. We can do better.

And, we can get the word out said the board member.

Plus, Skip Mc, board member asked a similar question too. What if a South Hills student wants to take the 3 year program? Can't they enroll too? Think about it.

So, there are TWO strong voices for the "NO FEEDER PATTERN policy for HS kids."

Questioner said...

Several Board members were concerned about kids that would prefer to go to programs other than their feeder or an existing magnet. But don't get your hopes up. Administration seemed concerned that not enough students would choose the options they are pushing- the single gender academies and Milliones, which doesn't have anywhere near its planned enrollment.

The explanation is that comprehensive schools are a model that doesn't work; and yet there are no plans to scrap comprehensive schools Allderdice, Brashear and Carrick, which many attend as feeder pattern schools.

From WPXI: "It's bad for kids to be underenrolled. They don't have full course offerings. They don't have access to a lot of what kids deserve too have access to. It's bad for taxpayers, it's bad for kids....Roosevelt said."

The idea seems to be that they will force enrollment by drawing ever larger feeder pattern lines (Milliones) or denying students the option of attending more popular schools even if there is room (Allderdice for example is only at about 70% capacity and could take quite a few more students). But market forces have a way of overcoming this type of central planning.

Maybe those in favor of the "open enrollment" strategy could contact Mark Rauterkus and join with him to support this option.

Anonymous said...

There's a big difference between being able to enroll in empty slots at schools in addition to your feeder school and "open enrollment."

With open enrollment there's the chance that you will not be able to attend your neighborhood school -- and we all know that's not going to fly at a place like Allderdice.

It also can lead to big swings in enrollment which can be difficult to plan for -- as the administration seems to have learned -- they used to be very much in favor of open enrollment.

Parents choose good schools. If it's really good they'll send their kids far away on buses. I'd say we have very, very few really good choices right now. CAPA. Used to be IB.

Questioner said...

It would be a big step to permit enrollment at open slots at schools. Right now the only open slots students are welcome to fill are at schools that relatively few students want to go to, such as Milliones and Westinghouse. Students are pushed toward those schools rather than more popular choices.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Big swings in schools can be buffered.

And, closing a school by force is much harder than seeing everyone just depart by choice.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Lots of slots are at lots of schools now.

Kids from all around the city already go to Allderdice.

Brashear will take students if there is a good reason to do so.

The single gender schools at Westinghouse will need to attract some students from elsewhere in the city to really thrive.

Questioner said...

Kids from around the city go to Allderdice if they get into a magnet. Feeder pattern/ open enrollment would allow them to attend, space permitting, without requiring them to participate in the magnet.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Let's think again. I see different meaning in these statements.

Quote: "Several Board members were concerned about kids that would prefer to go to programs other than their feeder or an existing magnet."

I did not hear that. I heard that many were excited to have kids and families pick schools with choice so that the students feel more ownership of the decision / school.

The Administration is pushing ALL the schools. Look at the hype they gave to Sci-Tech. Even CAPA did not get the amount of students it expected from outside the city that it had planned for. Up to 1/3 of the CAPA students were to be from non PPS students paying tuition. Never materialized. No big deal.

Quote: "The explanation is that comprehensive schools are a model that doesn't work; and yet there are no plans to scrap comprehensive schools..."

Hold on. Peabody is a comprehensive school and just scrpped. Same with Oliver. Same too with the constitution of Westinghouse. They don't want to scrap the better comprehensive schools, I hope.

The WPXI quote supports the idea of closing Peabody and making chages to Westinghouse.

I'd love to see them make a strong statement to those who are on the books as Freshmen to be at Peabody. That class should be told the truth and they should start elsewhere.

PPS is shrinking the size of the pool with the closing of Peabody. And, the expansion of 6-7 and 8 grades at high schools (Westinghouse, Sci-Tech, U-Prep, IB/Obama) gives more support / students to the HS buildings. Easier to change a K-8 to K-5 (again) and a middle school than another HS.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time jumping on the open enrollment bandwagon. Go to "better" schools with magnets or even elementary schools with a great reputation. With magnets you will find some kids who apply and get accepted just to go to a better school while they have only slight interest in persuing the magnet offered as a career. Hopefully, they get hooked and motivated. Kids can attend a school outside the feeder pattern, with permission, that might allow them to thrive. In my limited observation magnet and "non-feeder" school kids benefit from having extremely supportive parents who minimize the transportation burden by getting their kids back and forth to school, almost eliminating the public transportation issue.

Mark Rauterkus said...

If a school is popular, then the school can be more selective. That's good competitive pressure.

For example, at Allderdice, -- as a way to make a case -- they could say, you can go to Dice if you have less than 5 days absent in grades 7 and 8.

There are many ways to be more creative and in turn more selective. Sibling pref, legacy pref, transportation need (or not) - based on carbon footprint, etc.

Of course, grades, interviews, test scores, recomendations from prior teachers, auditions and the like are fair game too.

The magnet attraction is going to continue, I dare say. And, they might have more pressure to open more slots as demand increases, within the magnet and beyond.

I'm in favor of less force, more choice, more weight on merit. If you don't do your homework, you can't stay here in program X.

Down the road, with more choice and options, everyone will be much happier and have a better fit for a school matching wants and needs for the family/students.

This happens already among many families. I know a family with 3 kids in HS and all in a different building. Nothing to do with a home address. All to do with the student and the experiences desired. But, it may not happen with some segments of the city without the capacity to shop around within the PPS as required. AND, many others do shop and get into charter schools instead.

Annette Werner said...

Re: Quote: "Several Board members were concerned about kids that would prefer to go to programs other than their feeder or an existing magnet."

- Yes, I heard Floyd McCrea say that there are students in the Oliver feeder who would prefer a comprehensive HS but are assigned to Oliver. And Theresa Colaizzi said she was concerned that a student in the Oliver feeder might not want to be in CTE at all, but all Oliver students must enroll in CTE And at least 2 board members mentioned students from the South Side who might want to attent CTE or early college at Oliver, but Oliver would not be available because it is not their feeder or a magnet.

Annette Werner said...

Re: Quote: The explanation is that comprehensive schools are a model that doesn't work; and yet there are no plans to scrap comprehensive schools Allderdice, Brashear and Carrick, which many attend as feeder pattern schools.

- Remember, this is in the context of an open enrollment option. Someone asked whether students should have an option to go to a comprehensive school, and the response was that comprehensive schools weren't working for many students. So, non feeder students don't get to attend even "the better comprehensive schools," even if there is space, unless they fit into a magnet offering like engineering.

For anyone interested in hearing the meeting for themselves- there was an announcement that audio copies are available by contacting the Parent Hotline ( You could listen while driving, etc.

Annette Werner said...

Mark, I think the discussion in the second quote was fairly early in the meeting so it may have been before you arrived. But it will be on the audio.

Questioner said...

PG article:

"Board member Thomas Sumpter worried that the plan limits the distribution of current Peabody students only to Westinghouse and Milliones.

How about allowing the Peabody students the option of attending Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, Mr. Sumpter asked."

Read more:

- Both Westinghouse and Milliones are 6-12 small schools that are expected to require uniforms and which will have single gender classes for some (Milliones) or all (Westinghouse) grades.

Anonymous said...

School Board members are now hopefully realizing the "unexpected" results of aligning themselves with the administration's first proposals made as reactionary decisions- starting with the closing of Schenley High School. The decisions then set the stage for last night's proposals. They have themselves to blame.

Mark Rauterkus said...

I'm in favor of pinning blame. Not so much for credit. <:?

Yes, I want "open enrollment" -- also can be called the elimination of all feeder patterns for high schools. I think the nuking of feeder patterns in PPS could later continue to all K-12 schools -- but let's start at high schools.

There would be other ways to choose to enroll in schools -- such as individual requirements: CAPA auditions. IB kids need to have decent grades. Transfers into Sci-Tech need to be with kids at "proficient" at grade 9 and better for later grades, etc.

When a school is with a high demand, then the school can expand. Plus other filters can be put in place to curb expansion when the building size can't 'grow' with the popularity.

When a school is in low demand, it can close naturally -- or -- it can be re-tooled with new programs, staff, and focus to keep and attract new students.

Let people vote with their feet and move freely about the city.

= = =

I dare say that there are no differences between the boys and the girls in "hearing" of school aged students. However, all would benefit with sound field amplification within the classrooms and other settings (like swim pools and gyms).

I'll ask an EXPERT the question to be certain.

But, I'm not sure where the "hearing" statement from. Perhaps I missed it and didn't hear it?!?!?!? (joke) I did get there late.

Annette Werner said...

Yes, that also was early in the meeting- Derrick Lopez stated that differences between girls and boys made single gender education a good idea, and one of the examples is that girls have better hearing and so hear (and are annoyed) by little sounds that boys don't even notice.

Anonymous said...

Discussions with a prior school board member, who was instrumental in putting the current administration in place, were that the original plan for high school reform was to make ALL HIGH SCHOOLS HAVE OPEN ENROLLMENT. Another misreading by an "influentional" board member. At this point in time, not to make this so, is exactly what Thomas Sumpter said.

Mark Rauterkus said...

I hated to hear Mr. Lopez say that there were NO problems with the 6-12 model. None! The gym and space problems at Pgh Obama 6-12 are HUGE. And, the same is going to be repeated at Westinghouse now.

In winter they'll need gym time for boys middle school, girls middle school, girls JV, girls varsity, boys JV and boys varsity teams -- for basketball. That's SIX teams. It is hard to fit FOUR. Six is impossible. Intramurals = ZERO. Baseball = zero. Wrestling matches (HS & Middle School) = zero.

We had the same problem with Pgh Obama. Getting the HS and Middle School teams into the swim pool at the same time is IMPOSSIBLE.

That's just for practice. Meets and matches really make it IMPOSSIBLE to compete at a decent level.

If the boys and girls were at different schools with their own campus -- then the 6-12 would work. But, with one school -- AFTERSCHOOL Programs just got a guarantee to FAIL.

And, the best vision and dream for this school is all about wrap around services. Community and school partnerships for the benefit of the kids just got SUNK with the 6-12 boys and girls format.

I think it is prudent to fight to put one gender into Reizenstein and the other into Westinghouse.

Questioner said...

Former Board member Patrick Dowd was a strong proponent of all-choice. There is such a dichotomy between our city and school government that we hear nothing from him at all on the topic of schools now, except for some support for charters.

On another topic, to recognize positive efforts as well as problems- the board members are deliberating to some extent on the choice issue, although the strict "around the table" approach for comments impedes the discussion somewhat.

And, the PG reporter sifted through a very long meeting to pull out some of the more interesting comments and write an insightful article.

Annette Werner said...

When Open East End panel members met with Derrick Lopez, a parent/panel member described incidents where middle school students were exposed to inappropriate HS behavior. The response was a flat denial that this sort of exposure had taken place (although how any one person can know what has gone on in every restroom at the 6-12 schools is inexplicable). Instead we are assured that older students will want to be good models for younger students. It seems more likely that some will and some won't.

Stephanie Tecza said...

I was also at the meeting last night. Did anyone catch when Mark Brentley asked the district solicitor for clarification about the single gender schools and that it is illegal to force a student into going to school there and they would need to get parent permission? The solicitor confirmed that Mr. Brentley was correct.

As a side note.
I don’t know about the rest of you but if I heard Mr. Lopez state’ “Wrapping our arms around the kids” one more time I thought I would throw up. I started counting the number of times we are going to wrap our arms around the kids, and he said that at least 9 times From 8 pm until 9 pm.

One last comment I agree that ALL students should be able to choose the high school to go to. I say that ALL meaning ALL kids including those with special needs.

When students want to apply to some magnet schools there are hoops to jump through, ex: how someone tests basic or proficient etc... That is almost a guarantee that a student who has a disability will more likely not be able to meet the criteria. Such as si-tech.

Annette Werner said...

Yes, the district itself needs to live up to the standards it sets for charter applicants in making each school truly available to special needs students.

Ditto about the arm wrapping, along with the scaffolding! A couple of us began to think that mentions of arm wrapping would be good prompts for a drinking game. I wonder if we have any existing programs for students grade 6 or higher that have achieved this arm wrapping.

Anonymous said...

Isolating high performing schools and creating magnet schools is all a part of what the "broad foundation" ( Gates too, scary combo) does once they infiltrate school districts. Seattle, Portland, and many other school districts are proof of this.

I stopped drinking the Kool-aid and woke up.

Questioner said...

What do you mean by isolating high performing schools, Anon? Do you mean closing them off to students outside a certain feeder pattern?

another anon said...

PPS has had magnet schools for much longer than Broad has been around. High performing schools have been no secret....parents tell other parents where to get their kids in to, and they either get lucky in a lottery, or find an address to use to go to the school they want.

East Hills used to be all the rage,and getting in to Frick for middle school was the best plan. Sterrett was a good option when Mr Berdnik was principal, but it became mediocre once he retired. Once Schenley was wiped out, all that planning ahead was for naught. Now we all have to scramble to get in to Sci Tech or CAPA because Allderdice is just an empty shell of what it once was.

Open enrollment sounds like a good idea, but everyone cant go to the same couple of schools. We cant get all of the high achievers in one school and all of the lowest achievers in another. Shall we have lotteries for every school? what happens to lottery losers?

another anon said...

oh and I almost forgot about also must get your child tested for gifted as soon as possible...even if you must pay for a private test. Some schools have almost all the kids who go there identified as gifted. Funny how its only a mall percentage of the total population who is gifted, yet oodles of kids at a couple of schools are.

Stephanie Tecza said...

To another anon. The district does the evaluations for gifted. Parents should not be paying for anything. The district cannot just use the psychometric definition for gifted,"IQ 130" they need to look at other criteria. Check chapter 16.

Questioner said...

It used to be that parents could have an evaluation done privately, or wait for the district to do one (with pretty long waits). Now only tests done by the district can be used.

Anonymous said...

They can tell you that you can't use an outside test, but as long as it's done by a licensed professional, I believe they still have to accept it. It's like many things in the district, it's knowing who to ask and finding out the little exceptions to the rules.

Just like kids DO go to non-feeder schools without being in magnet programs. But it takes some doing -- and obviously if enough people used the same exceptions...they'd have to make new rules!

Anonymous said...

Yes, thats true. I was advised by several people to have my child independently tested for gifted so he could be in the CAS program at Allderdice.

Supposedly "everyone" does it.

Anonymous said...

Open enrollment has some positive aspects. However, what will happen in PPS(and in other diverse urban settings) if open enrollment is allowed will be a case of the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. There will be very little balance. The kids who have involved parents who care will take the time and make the effort to put their kids in what is perceived as a "good school". Then there will be a large group of parents who don't do that, for whatever reason, and the schools with those kids will continue to decline - mainly because of lack of parental support.

As many of you who have already hinted to in the previous posts - that already happens. Can't you see that it is a nasty cycle that is very hard to end?

As far as the gender specific programs, there is a lot of controversy about this issue. It is often equated to the old theory "seperate but equal".

Here is an interesting newsweek article about it:

Think about it this way...if we support the "seperate but equal" idea of single gender programs in a public school setting, then why not support single race programs. After all, isn't there "research" out there that says Caucasian and African American students learn differently? The powers that be can probably even find "research" that says other ethnicities learn differently and advocate for seperation of more than just genders( i.e. Asian, Jewish, Indian, etc.).

This is dangerous territory that I personally cannot support.

Anonymous said...

At this point Open Enrollment would be a poor choice for PPS. If the agenda was to allow for the natural shrinking of the number of schools, than go for it, but it will likely result in just the out of balance we clain to want to avoid.

Anonymous said...

A teaching moment: "seperate" is spelled SEPARATE

Anonymous said...

Consideration of research on how we l(all) learn and develop our cognitive abilities____based on cognitive theory___ will provide insight into why and how it is critically important that we purposefully and extensively infuse African American culture____ history, values, arts, and contributions to the world___ throughout the teaching, learning and assessment (education) of African American children. Post-formal thinking uncovers the importance of cultural origins, patterns, process, and contextualization to higher- order cognitive development. Consider what could happen for African American students if curriculum was African-Centered since currently, a pervasive European/American curricular emphasis exists in our schools___ that subliminally and overtly advantages students of that background.

Educational systems that do not realize the nature and development of cognitive skills and the relationship of those skills to life as well as academic success do our young people an egregious disservice.

Questioner said...

But does it make sense to offer CTE in energy and carpentry- only to those on the North Side; and early college- only to those on the North Side? Or a comprehensive nonmagnet HS experience- only to those NOT from the North Side?

As for balance- feeder patterns or not, the richer/better connected/ more involved families will still make their way to the better schools, or out of PPS if necessary. How many board members, PPS administrators or community leaders have children in the poorer schools?

Paradoxically, allowing freer movement could actually force creation of a better options.

Questioner said...

To Anon 10:22- do you believe then that AA culture should be infused in schools that are a certain % AA; Asian culture should be infused in schools that are a certain % Asian; and limited infusion would take place in schools that are over a certain percentage white? Or that AA students should be encouraged to attend separate schools that could better focus on infusion of AA culture?

Anonymous said...

Experienced Educator (E.E.) responds to Questioner:

Let me preface this response by stating that any answer/insights provided in this context and format will, necessarily, be very limited and superficial. Given that, but based on twenty plus years of research and work in the area of the elimination of the achievement gap for African American students in PPS, there are some statements that can be made.

1) A disparity of 30% to 60% exists between achievement levels of PPS White and African American students (who constitute more than 60% of our student population.) These statistics do not apply to Asians or other cultures and since I have not done corresponding research I will not make uninformed comparisons, comments or assumptions.

2) Children come to school from within a context imbued with many socio-political and cultural factors include, race, class, gender and place issues that significantly influence patterns and process of cognitive development and learning opportunities. These diverse features are generally ignored for students not of the dominant culture___ allowing assumptions to prevail that all children can learn the same skills the same way to the same standard from the same content. Cognitive theory disputes this assumption.

3) Research tells us that we have “decontextualized” education for African American students and essentially erased critical cultural differences in our attempts at unifying reform movements. I contend that the achievement gap is an aberration of our own making____and therefore can be remedied.

It is imperative that school personnel, teachers, students, parents, community, and concerned citizens be more broadly, deeply, and accurately informed and educated regarding the design and delivery of alternative instructional strategies and “thinking skills” that will directly and effectively address the existing disparities in achievement. We can and must expand the understandings and commitment necessary to provide real and doable solutions that are available. The creation and accessibility of Professional Development venues that will support and advance the insights from theory, philosophy, psychology, history, culture, education, literature, and literacy contributions of renowned African and African American scholars is an imperative. (Ex: Carter G. Woodson, Na’im Akbar, Amos N. Wilson, Molefi Asante, Maulana Karenga, Haki Madhubuti, Frances Cress Welsing, Cornel West, Franz Fanon, Marimba Ani, and others.)

How we use this kind of research to create schools where we truly provide equity and excellence in education for our African American students should be our focus, indeed, our mission in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Note: Currently 70-75% of the secondary African American student population in PPS have not been educated to “proficiency” standards. We, as educators, are not fulfilling our mission to educate ALL students for productive futures. This is inexcusable and unconscionable.

Questioner said...

All good points, but do we say then that we should educate AA students in separate schools? Or impoverished AA students in separate schools? Or can we even things out by including insights from renowned African and African American scholars in a diverse setting where all students would benefit from this scholarship?

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 9:58...

Thanks for being my spell-check!

Just a piece of trivia for you... it is the second most mis-spelled word on internet! Misery loves company. Next time I will work from a word document that can spell-check me.

Anonymous said...

This blog has gotten far from the "Parents" part of PURE reform. It seems to have been hijacked by teachers lately.

Questioner said...

We are happy to have teachers and other interested members of the public comment! Teachers' perspectives can greatly add to parents' understanding of what is happening in PPS.

Mark Rauterkus said...

When freedom enters, the slaves are the ones that benefit the most. Yes, the poor get richer.

Same too with "open enrollment."

It is CRAZY to say that the rich will get richer with choice among schools in PPS. CRAZY.

Presently, there is very little balance. Balance isn't the goal anyway. Fight for balance and then find all at the bottom.

BTW, the real rich (as a class) are not in PPS at all.

With this plan, ALL the KIDSs are put into good schools. NOBODY will go to crappy schools. Now plenty are forced to go to bad schools and with choice, the bad schools will need to do a better job -- or else die.

There will NOT be a large group of parents who choose to send their kids to NO SCHOOL -- for whatever the reason. Think again.

The REAL nasty cycle that is very hard to end is FORCE. We end force with CHOICE. We end slavery with freedom.

BTW, we do do single race schools in USA -- its often found in suburbia. The dangerous territory is silly talk that makes little sense.

Anonymous said...

It would be good to know how open enrollment affects attendance and tardies and using high school magnets could be a starting point to judge that in PPS. That could mislead too since at the high school level many kids in magnets get rides from parents which gets them to school on time. Then there are those communities offering street parking to kids going to magnets. (OK, maybe "offering" isn't the best word to use.) The point to all this is that students who have a strong support system are afforded the opportunity to take advantage of what PPS has to offer. Is Open Enrollment similiar to a PS-6 situation where the student/family is fully responsible for transportation?

Questioner said...

Open enrollment should include transportation. With options so often not available anywhere near a student's home, it is reasonable to provide transportation. Students needing dropout prevention services will presumably be given transportation to the North Side, so it makes sense to take reasonable steps to engage students before they are about to drop out.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Generally, high school kids (grades 9-12) are given transportation. They get it in the form of a bus pass. The monthly PAT bus passes are given out at the schools each month to the students that qualify for them based on home address and distance from school. If you live within 2 miles, you gotta walk.

Those in grades 6-7-8 are given yellow buses from their neighborhoods to the school. So, a school bus rolls from South Hills for Obama, as well as for Sci Tech, etc. Same with after school and after after school too.

Sure, parents can give the kids a ride.

I do think more kids that live next to PERRY HS, for example, or Langley, or Carrick, etc. - are going to choose to go to that school over another with all things being equal in their mind's eye.

Transportation is a bit of a problem. It is costly. But, it is NOT a deal breaker.

Mark Rauterkus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Rauterkus said...

Recap (fixed):

If a HS student that lives in the east and wants to go to Langley -- or in the North and wants to go to Allderdice -- or any which way from home to school, FINE. They get a PAT bus pass and go. There are not any additional costs to the PPS for this extra transportation, except a few more monthly bus passes.

There is a cost on the kids for minutes in travel. There is a cost of being late if the system is tardy or the kids don't show up on time, etc.

There are HUGE advantages to having schools on bus lines, downtown, in Oakland, or in other easy to get to locations.

Brashear HS runs a shuttle on all school days at any time from the school to the T-stop / junction in the S.Hills. A van driver is on standby. Kids call when they are at the T-stop and they get a pick-up to the school, pronto. Nice accommodation.

Questioner said...

Students get paid transportation (such as a bus pass) to their feeder school if it is a certain distance away or to a magnet- but the PS-6 is a little different. Families are responsible for transportation and the cost for a bus pass is definitely a deal breaker for many families. At the same time, the school district views the bus passes as a real added expense. A decision would have to be made on whether to treat open enrollment where there is space more like a magnet, or more like PS-6.

Anonymous said...

I suspect Mark makes it sound a bit easier getting to Brashear than it is in actuality.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Gondolas sound easy. I want em for Pittsburgh. Your miles may vary.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if the PA School Code addresses open enrollment in any way?