Jones flaws exposed
10/24/2012 10:00 PM
When we first saw the boundaries for Jones College Prepís neighborhood program, we were wowed. The area covered is massive, and clearly illustrates the fact that Chicago Public Schools officials finally recognize the need for a downtown high school.
But the more we read into the plan, the more we realized its flaws. First and foremost, the neighborhood component will have a test score cutoff, below which neighborhood students wonít be able to come to Jones.
Granted, itíll still be easier for neighborhood students to make it into the school than if they tried to make it in conventionally, but the fact that there is a cutoff at all goes against the very nature of creating a neighborhood school to begin with.
Thatís probably in the interest of the current Jones population, with its selective enrollment program made up of kids at the top of their game. Keeping students with relatively high test scores together makes it easier to hire a more focused teaching staff geared towards top students.
But it completely negates the purpose of a neighborhood school. The idea of this program was that it would serve all kids from the area, providing them a place where neighbors could come and learn together and grow up together. This fosters community, and unity.
By filtering out kids at the bottom end of the bracket and banishing them to far-flung high schools, the problematic hierarchy of CPS is only reinforced. A school system is strongest when kids are unified, and students at the top of their game can work alongside kids who struggle. It helps the kids who need help the most by letting them learn skills from their peers, and it helps kids who are further ahead by giving them empathy and compassion.
But this program is still just a way to segregate the smarter kids from the more challenged kids.
Second, these neighborhood boundaries are so big that if the program takes off with any kind of success, itíll run out of space very, very quickly. Maybe this is CPSís goal ó test out the need for a downtown high school through a smaller program, and use it as ammo to build a new school later (or repurpose the old Jones, maybe). But it seems more likely that, with the districtís track record, itís simply kicking the can down the road and inviting controversy at a later date.
We shall see. This is the first step. But itís hard to tell if itís actually in the right direction.