Microsoft Corporation opened the School for the Future in
One of the concerns that members of the community in West Philly had was whether their kids would have access to the school or not – a typical concern when highly publicized, big money, marquee schools are injected into poor, predominantly black and Hispanic communities. Will the white kids and the rich black and brown kids end up taking all the spots? Will the school simply crème the crop and claim success? The school’s admission policy is set so that students from a broad swath of
Several high achieving neighborhood schools in white communities are very clear about the geographic exclusivity of their admissions policies. If you do not live within specific boundaries, you simply cannot attend or your chances are relegated to an often unused lottery. One of the consequences of this practice is that the communities are directly vested in the schools. They are schools for the children of those neighborhoods and the parents and children have a vested interest in their success. The policies do not declare that for reasons of justice and fairness the school must make slots available to students from broad swaths of a city. The clamping down on bussing programs confirms this philosophy. The success of those schools and the intimate relationship with the neighborhoods is important enough that it trumps the call for distributive justice. It is the concentration of concern and resources that strengthen not only the schools, but the communities in which they reside.
One might argue that white students who are excluded from such schools do not face the damning probabilities of under-education, ignorance and poverty that so many black students face. They do not, so the stakes associated with admission are lower. White kids in metropolitan settings will generally be fine regardless of where they go to school. Blacks kids, however, are often faced with the options – admission to the marquee school or drowning in ignorance and bad education. Here is the savior’s dilemma. Is it morally acceptable to forsake some to save a few? Can the merit and benefit of drawing strict neighborhood boundaries around these schools trump the sense of fairness associated with more inclusive admissions policies?
Limited boundaries concentrate efforts and resources such that they can be more efficiently leveraged to improve education. They could even go further and put a cap on the incomes of families whose children are eligible. If you do not live within radius r and you have an income greater than i, you are ineligible. Poor black and Hispanic students are the most isolated set of students in the country. No one wants to go to school with them, no one wants to live near them, no one wants their children to be influenced by them, they are vilified at every turn and their isolation is complete. Every societal unfairness and capital market failure has been heaped upon them. As such, their school solutions should be equally concentrated, focused and exclusive.
Limiting the boundaries of access increases community involvement. The importance of involvement and sense of ownership by a local community cannot be overstated. That parameter, next to the school’s staff, may be the most critical determinant of success. If the vast majority of students attending one of these savior schools come from the local community; the local community will take note, care and be engaged. It is that simple. There are innumerable implicit and explicit advantages to that reality. Indeed, it makes the life raft more effective. Those on the raft can lock arms with those in the immediate vicinity and thereby stabilize the raft. The consequences of this brand of morality are brutal in the near term, but the potential for long term success is far greater.