September 13, 2013
Today’s editorial, “Another reason for RCSD to reassess, Charter school welcome but raises concerns,” discusses a fundamental issue as increasing numbers of RCSD enroll in charter schools: brain drain. As Van White suggests, more and more academically focused students are leaving the district, which only reinforces the negative. Another reason for RCSD to reaccess
I am also deeply concerned about brain drain. Once the migration begins, a trickle becomes an exodus, and the District’s downward spiral feels inexorable. We lose too many students to private schools, or to the suburbs where parents think they must move. Now to the charter schools.
The editorial briefly mentions one District response: the creation of specialty or niche schools like the School of the Arts, Northeast Prep, Leadership Academy for Young Men and Robert Brown School of Construction and Design.
More likely, we need something more drastic to reverse brain drain. Right now, there is no RCSD school that selects its students through an academic examination process. SOTA does have an artistic audition process, which may be necessary given its unique format. Creating a second School of the Arts?
Perhaps that something is a rigorous academic oriented academy based on the NYC model. In New York, for decades students have lined up to take difficult placement tests in hopes of gaining entrance to prestigious schools like the Bronx School of Science. Maybe the RCSD should consider a mini-version. Ideally, this academy would have its own campus where—unlike Wilson IB—the staff’s full attention would be on these students only. Ideally, academically focused students (who often feel they don’t fit into mainstream schools) would gladly forgo charter schools, which can never offer the range of resources and opportunities available to all district students.
Of course, there are ample drawbacks to this idea. First, the RCSD has always been a very democratic institution. Equal access for all students is a powerful principle. One could even make a case that any student interested in the arts should have the chance (maybe via lottery) to try SOTA regardless of proven talent. Second, logistics, feasibility, and sustainability are always determinative factors.
At the same time, in the coming years the RCSD may be hemorrhaging students. In this environment, all options must be on the table.