Study: Low-income achievers aim low

Low-income, high-scoring students usually don’t apply to selective colleges and universities, even though they’d qualify for financial aid, according to The Missing One-Offs: The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low-Income Students, a working paper by Caroline M. Hoxby and Christopher Avery. Those who do apply are as likely to be admitted and graduate as high-income students.

Among students in the top 10 percent on college-entrance exams, but the bottom quartile in income, those in large, urban districts were the most likely to apply to selective colleges. Larger districts can offer selective or magnet high school that expose disadvantaged students to classmates and teachers with high expectations, Hoxby and Avery speculate.

“Open selective public high schools in more areas to reach more high-flying students,” suggests Amber Winkler on Gadfly.

 

LA charters prosper

Los Angeles’ charter schools are thriving, reports the LA Times. High-performing charters have formed a coalition called ICEF. Philanthropists Eli Broad and Bill Gates have poured in money to start new schools.

Mike Piscal, ICEF’s tough-talking founder, runs 13 schools in South L.A. and has set a goal of effectively taking over the district’s role in that part of the city.

He sees no future for a district that, he says, sends only about 5% of its students in South L.A. schools to college.

“They’re like an airline where only one in 20 passengers arrived at the location where they’re trying to go,” Piscal said. “They’ve lost the moral right to have a monopoly on the public schools.”

Los Angeles Unified is trying to develop schools with “charter-like flexibility” that will compete for students, reports the Times.  The teachers’ union is talking about organizing its own charter schools.

Los Angeles charter students outscore students in nearby schools but below magnet students, reports the Times.

* Charters and magnets do especially well with African American students, who on average are the district’s lowest achievers. African Americans are far more likely to seek out charters or magnets than students of other races and ethnicities, and once there, they achieve higher scores than other black students. For instance, 57% of African Americans in charters — and 76% in magnet programs — score proficient or better in math in elementary school, compared to 40% in traditional schools. In English, across all grades, 40% of African Americans in charter schools scored proficient or better, compared to 56% in magnet programs and 29% in traditional schools. (One consideration: Anecdotal evidence suggests that the black students in charters and magnets are more prosperous overall than those in traditional schools.)

* Charter students performed better on standardized tests than students in traditional schools at every level, with the most striking difference in middle schools. There, 43% of charter students scored proficient or advanced in math and 47% in reading, compared with 25% and 30% in traditional schools. Again, magnets scored better overall than any schools.

One fifth of LA’s magnet schools admit only gifted students, while charters must admit all applicants, using a lottery if too many apply.

Who gets in to magnet schools?

Chicago’s highly regarded magnet schools will change admissions rules  to drop race as a criteria. Instead, there will be more places for siblings and neighborhood children; socioeconomic status will replace race as a diversity factor.

Only 12 percent of all applicants won admission to elementary magnets this year, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

According to sources, CPS officials hope to look at annually updated census tract data reflecting several socioeconomic variables of the area in which applicants live. That could include the area’s median family income; adult education level; percent of single parents; the level of owner-occupied homes; and the percent of children living in homes where a language other than English is spoken.

Via the Ed Next blog.

With most magnet schools located in “nice” areas, neighborhood admissions will favor affluent whites and Asians, writes Alexander Russo. Of course, such families are a very small percentage of public schools’ enrollment.

Who gets in? Feds probe Chicago schools

Chicago’s top public schools are supposed to admit students on the basis of a lottery (magnet schools) or aptitude (“gifted” and selective-enrollment schools).  However, some parents charge that money money and connections open the schoolhouse doors to less-qualified students. Now federal investigators are looking into enrollment practices in the district, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Competition to get into the city’s premier selective enrollment schools is fierce. Every year thousands of students apply for hundreds of openings at the schools considered the crown jewels of the city’s public school system.

. . . The district has long allowed magnet school principals to handpick up to 5 percent of their students. Last year, they extended that right to principals at the nine selective enrollment high schools, even though some principals acknowledged they were already doing it. The principals can consider only extenuating circumstances such as a special talent or family crisis, not the applicants’ political ties.

But whispers have long swirled that some students get spots in these top-flight schools not by chance or merit, but by whom their parents know or how much money they make.

Responding to the Tribs’ Clout Goes to College series, federal prosecutors also are seeking evidence that former Illinois “Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his power brokers” demanded and received special treatment for well-connected applicants to the University of Illinois and other state universities.

‘Best high schools’ are charters, magnets

Charter schools do very well in Business Week’s list of America’s Best High Schools.

Working with GreatSchools, the magazine identified the highest performing and most improved high school in each states, the best high school serving a low-income population and the public and private schools rated highest by  GreatSchools visitors.

According to Charter Blog, only 5 percent of high schools are charters, but 14 percent of top performers and 14 percent low-income top performers, 21 percent of most improved and 18 percent of the favorites are charter schools.

Many of the non-charter public schools use admissions tests to choose students. Charters aren’t allowed to screen students, but they have the advantage of being schools of choice: Parents have decided that’s where they want their kids to be.

You have to click on the pictures to see the best in each state, which is annoying. It took me five tries to find California. My daughter’s alma mater, Palo Alto High, is listed as “best improved,” which is odd.  It didn’t have much room for improvement. I guess science scores went up.