School Lottery: Students Suffer

Could the public school lottery system leaves eager yet under-qualified students in poor learning environments?

A recent NY Times article suggests that the public school lottery system leaves eager yet under-qualified students in poor learning environments.

In New York City, competition for the top public schools is incredibly fierce. Parents are supposed to rank their choices for the district lottery, but the guidebook is vague about what each school is looking for. Under "Selection criteria," every school says the same thing: "Review of grades and test scores."

Most of the top schools have strict cut-off points for test scores, ignoring the important distinction between the student who works very hard for an average grade and the student who has no interest in school. Therefore, many eager learners are being put in schools where their desires will not be met.

For example, compare the numbers at a less prestigious institution (Charles O. Dewey Intermediate School 136 in Brooklyn) and a well-thought of public school middle school in New York City (M.S. 51 in New York City):

Qualify for subsidized lunches:

Dewey: 90%

M.S. 51: 39%

English is a Second Language:

Dewey: 39%

M.S. 51: 2%

Average Language Arts Class Size:

Dewey: 40 students

M.S. 51: 29 students

The education environments are not equal, leaving intelligent students who do not get lucky in the lottery in a tough situation. There is an appeals process, but many say it provides false hope as very few appeals are successful.

Is there a better system to create equity among schools than the lottery?

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