Thompson: What If Schools Only Served Kids Who Applied?
The Boston Foundation's Charters and College Readiness concludes that their city's charters produce "substantive differences" in their students' outcomes. Boston charters do not increase the percentage of students taking the SAT or attending higher education. But, they improve the scores of their SAT-takers, and their graduates are more likely to attend four-year universities, as opposed to community colleges. The Foundation did not find evidence of pushing out their lower-performing students. But, the selection process produces a more favorable "peer composition" for incoming students.
That raises the question of what our public schools would be like if they also were application-only. If public schools did not have to take all comers, they would have never been seen as broken. Most poor children would have gained. We could have created school cultures that attract and retain great teachers. We would have never had these destructive "reform" wars.
If schools only served students who entered a lottery, they would often be praised as examples of American institutions that excel.
We should heed the lesson of the Boston study. If schools start with a culture that encourages more positive peer interactions, that creates a foundation for further growth. The single best way to do that would be high-quality early education that stresses the socio-emotional and reading for comprehension.
In the interim, I suspect we would need a system of in-school and out-of-school alternative slots to serve between 5 to 10% of low-income secondary students. They would require the same high quality as the best early education efforts, and they would be much more expensive.
I know that such a policy is dangerous. High quality implementation of new policies is not something that schools have been good at. We would have to continually push to integrate as many of the difficult-to-educate kids as possible into schools that welcome all comers. And, if we failed to keep up that effort, the result could be terrifying. We could have systems where all schools, de facto, were application-only. - JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.