Thursday, March 08, 2007

Lottery Answers . . . and Questions

Transparency is key if the Buist Academy controversies are ever going to die down, so I (and presumably others) appreciate Jerry Adams and Janet Rose's quick response to my previous questions. [For these answers, check out the comments on my March 5th blog.] I now have a clearer idea of how the lottery operates. Maybe the Post and Courier will stop calling it a "drawing."

I do have many questions about pre-kindergarten testing, but I need further clarifications on some of the lottery answers.
  1. If the computer program and the process used for the Buist lottery are the same for admission to St. Andrews Elementary, Charlestowne Academy, and Garrett Academy, why is there no controversy over what happens at those three schools? Is there not a waiting list at each? Or is part of the process different at Buist?

  2. The answers regarding if "registered applicants for each of the four lists [are] checked for status prior to the lottery" are confusing. Here is the answer: "Applicants are checked, but verification is done prior to enrollment. . . . The children's names are placed on the appropriate lists, with their addresses used to determine the proper lists. For instance, the constituent district will verify that an address is in the attendance zone for a low-performing school, . . . [etc.]"

  3. First of all, who is placing the names on the appropriate lists? When? When are eligibilities checked? When are addresses checked? If addresses are not checked before the lottery, then what is "checked"?

  4. In answer to, "When do the applicants find out what [their numbers on the registry lists] are?" the response is "There is no reason to give them this number." Why not do so in the name of transparency?

  5. If the numbers generated by computer are called out in order and the "name of the applicant whose name corresponded with name on the registry," is announced, I assume you have mistyped? Do you mean "number" on the registry?

  6. Assuming that to be true, why is there a privacy issue with making the results public when names are called publicly as the numbers are read? What right protected by privacy laws would be violated that is NOT violated by calling out the names?
  7. Once all of the lists of applicants have been assigned lottery numbers, what happens to the lists?

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

More questions. Why are students on the waiting lists for the upper grades (4th and higher for this year, 2006-07) not given the opportunity to be included on 4 lists instead of 3? Since all but one downtown attendance zone are tied to "Low Performing" schools, that means virtually every Dist. 20 applicant to Buist (for all grades) should be entitled to be considered on 3 lists out of 4 instead of just 2. Who made the decision to leave Dist. 20 kids out of this opportunity to be included on a "Low Performing Schools List" in the lottery for upper grades? When CCSD offered to settle the case involving a challenge to its use of racial quotas in the Buist admissions process, CCSD argued that the use of a "Low Performing Schools List" might open the door to more minority applicants without using racial quotas. If that was truly their intention for using this 4th list, then why did they not immediately apply its use across the board for all grades? Sounds like they weren't being honest about their intentions in the first place.

Anonymous said...

What list did Janet Rose's child enter Buist on? Was she in charge of the lottery that year?

Anonymous said...

What about Greg Meyers from the school board? Didn't he have five children at Buist? What are the chances when you live in Mt. Pleasant?

Anonymous said...

Similar questions could be asked about just how a lot of kids where able to beat the odds and get into Buist over the years. Their parents names would read like a listing of "Who's Who" in Charleston. Not a single county board member's child has ever gone without seat at Buist if they wanted one.

Anonymous said...

who are these people? manay of you out there seem to know. why not name names?

Anonymous said...

Yes, but don't print the names of the kids! It's not their fault! I heard that the Buist entrance exam includes remembering your address. Did these people teach their children a false address?

Stephanie said...

I've been thinking about this who's who of Charleston, especially since I'm one of the people who've pointed this out. It definitely raises questions, but when it came time to put my son's name in the lottery a couple years ago, I encountered a lot of parents who chose not to bother— they cited the competitiveness, the stress, the pressure of having their kids tested. For a lot of people, the whole process is a deterrent.

Here's a question for Jerry Adams: how many incoming kindergarteners are there countywide each year? Buist gets about 250 applicants — there must be a bunch more incoming kindergarteners than that. The people who choose to go through the process must be eager, well informed, and aware of how the system works.

I definitely felt completely freaked out when it came time to think about kindergarten, and I spent countless hours researching, querying friends and strangers, and generally doing my own personal investigation on local schools.

How many people do that? Not everyone is going to navigate such a confusing, convoluted system as our local magnet schools. They all have different application processes, different deadlines, different requirements. It's pretty ridiculous. You literally have to track all that down yourself as a parent.

So, maybe it should be no surprise that a lot of people simply make sure they buy a home in a school district that's decent (hey, that's why I live in the Harborview district — I had no guarantee my kid would draw a good number or pass the test). And maybe the people who apply are simply the competitive ones, the "who's who." Be sure, there are just as many average Charleston residents who drop their kids off everyday at Buist.

As for the racial quota, I know that Buist administrators, after the quota was struck down, went out themselves and tried to educate downtown's minority population about the opportunities at the school. The quota was a way of reserving spaces for those families and making sure the school worked hard to fill those spots. They took it very seriously and I think they still do. Buist and the school district were sued by a group of Mt. Pleasant parents who wanted better chances for their kids to get in.

The year Mr. Dixon was vice principal was their most successful at attracting minorities. I think the fact that he was black had everything to do with it. A white woman from a school is not going to encourage trust among a group of people who have been mistreated by the education system for generations.

Anonymous said...

People outside of downtown have said "who cares? The false address crowd is stealing from the rich! I can't afford to live downtown. If they do then they can pay for private school." These people refuse to believe that there is a middle class downtown and obviously care nothing for children with even fewer resources.

Actually, the middle income and lower income groups are the ones affected. Ashley Hall and Porter Gaud expected over a thousand dollars and a contract for Kindergarten two weeks before the Buist lottery even happened.

Middle class parents can't afford tuition at these schools to begin with. I believe those schools are up to $15,000 a year. These parents certainly can't afford to forfeit the huge deposit they made in case they manage to get into Buist.

In addition it is well known that the false address people are almost all very wealthy. One man last summer that the Post and Courier found out about lived at Sullivan's Island but owned 16 rental properties downtown. What was wrong with Sullivan's Island Elementary?

Anyone that was zoned for a failing school could have tried their luck on the Buist failing schools list.

Clearly, everyone that used a false address took a spot at Buist from a real downtown child. That child very likely is stuck in a downtown school or the parents are paying for private school tuition they can hardly afford.

The school board, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, and the principal at Buist are guilty of letting the false address parents get away with a morally indefensible action. By the way, "stealing from the rich" is still stealing. What kinds of lessons are they teaching the children? Get ahead at any cost? Step over society's most vulnerable if it gives you a slight edge?

Anonymous said...

Does anybody believe that MT. Pleasant parents would put up with a Buist in MT. Pleasant that few of their kids could get into? How would they feel about downtown parents taking up slots by pretending to live in their neighborhoods?

They already have access to good public schools. What sort of neighborhood schools are in downtown Charleston? They are all racially segregated and populated by children with Title 1 status.

Parents that applied for a No Child Left Behind transfer
last year did not find out where their child would go to school until late July. Something tells me that CCSD transferred few African American downtown children to the "excellent rated" MT. Pleasant schools.

Anonymous said...

What great dialogue! To the last person: Please do a FOIA request to Michelle English-Watson at 75 Calhoun St. and ask her how many African-American kids were transferred to Mt. Pleasant under NCLB? It's a great question, that deserves an answer. And I'm sure the Office for Civil Rights in D.C. would be interested as well.
Keep up the great questions - it's time we get some answers!

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting on the question regarding Janet Rose and the rest of the crew's children...Are you working on this, Jerry?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps every time a child that is zoned for Mt. Pleasant Academy, Jennie Moore, Belle Hall, or any of the other great Mt. Pleasant schools gets into Buist their Mt. Pleasant seat should be given to a downtown child.

Obviously the downtown education system can't handle the children they currently have. Why can't these children transfer to a better school that is racially integrated and better staffed? CCSD isn't going to make any changes to the downtown system anytime soon- not as long as important people like Toya Green are taken care of.

Plus, are our tax dollars paying for these children to be bused into downtown when they have decent schools to go to near their homes? If you "hit the lottery" the least you can do is provide the transportation yourself.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone been following this Buist situation over the years? What about past school board members? Did any of them live outside of downtown while managing to get their children into Buist?

Before the minority lists were taken away it was even more unlikely for a non-minority person outside of downtown to get a kid into Buist. What were the chances? Shall we name more names?

Anonymous said...

Stephanie,
In reference to your earlier blog on the City Paper web site the "90's Rock Star that lives in MT. Pleasant" did not get his child into Buist on the downtown list. I don't know if you were trying to imply this about Mr. Rucker but it was interpreted that way by some.

anon said...

No one's implying that some special people get into Buist only by using the District 20 list fraudulently, but the Buist Foundation is also known to have received gifts in advance of some admissions.

POPS said...

interesting discussion. as a Buist alumnus, I will say Buist helped shape me into the man that I am today; one without regard for the usual lenses that deter people from seeing the bigger picture. there were kids of all shades and socioeconomic status in my years there and we came from all over the county. and as a matter of fact, some school board members used to hate on us regularly. go figure.

alum45 said...

Buist, and a lot of other public schools that once thrived on the peninsula, offered their students a very good educational experience. The trouble is we now find our downtown kids are being prevented from enjoying those benefits by those who completely control these schools as part of the county-wide public school system. I agree, they certainly have long put "a hate on" on both downtown public schools and the people who live on the peninsula. Buist is in no danger of being closed as long as friends of the county administration have exclusive access to it. Despite its early success, the values of the school have changed because Buist no longer includes a significant number of students from the neighborhood as it once did. More fundamentally, as long as those who shape local education policy have alternative schools like Buist guaranteed for their children there will be no effective demand for restoring success to the other downtown schools. These other schools have been abandoned most notably by those who direct our schools and determine whose children will be assigned to what schools. Children today living in District 20, with the exception of a token few, do not have the opportunity to receive in a downtown public school anywhere near the quality education as "pops" says he received. Maybe we should ask where have our community leaders been all these years? In the years since just before Buist Academy opened as a magnet school, our city schools have been systematically dismantled by those in charge. Perhaps it is ironic, but the existance of Buist proves that the failing results of so many downtown schools were not inevitable. Only a lack of will by past and present county school administrations have stood in the way of the Buist "experiment" being repeated and other downtown schools becoming just as successful. Again, where do our community leaders stand? Comments from a few more alumni might help, too.

Anonymous said...

If these "cheaters" are so wealthy and connected why don't they put their kids in private school? It's hard to believe someone would put themselves down on a downtown or especially be part of a "failing schools list" when they knew they were stealing from poor kids. If this is true it's really outrageous.

Anonymous said...

If the Post and Courier had the names of all of the people that lied about the Buist downtown and failing schools lists why didn't they print the names? The tv news named some names. How powerful are these folks? Also, why didn't the paper follow up to see if any of the cheaters were kicked out or finally had a sense of shame and sent their kids to another school?

Anonymous said...

First of all, Buist is not about serving "poor" or "rich" kids, it's about serving all kids who meet the academic qualifications that is supposed to be open to a cross section of the community. Just as public schools are not just for "poor" kids and private schools aren't just about "rich" kids. Maybe that's what some on the county school board would have us all believe. From a practical perspective, regardless of your financial status, if given the opportunity for your kid to receive a great education at a public school, why would anyone want to plunk down from S12-$18 thousand in annual tuition if they didn't have to. Besides, it's a fact that a lot of wealthy people who live here and who also attended public schools are starting to ask questions like, "Why are our schools are so bad if our property taxes for schools are so high?" So don't say if they can afford it, they should go to private schools. There was a time when both rich and poor people here went to public schools and both got a good education. But I doubt if the Newless Courier management team has ever made itself aware of that fact.

Anonymous said...

If somebody is number 1 on the Buist waiting list (for however many years) and they really live downtown they should sue either Charleston County schools, that principal that didn't check on addresses or the people that falsified their addresses. Maybe they could sue all three!

It makes sense that a parent that has been paying for private school (because the only other option was a failing school that was likely dangerous, we have all read about guns in some of the downtown schools) is owed money from somebody. The real downtown parent tried to play by the rules and was a victim of these cheaters possibly for years. Someone should look into this with an attorney.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of that failing schools list? Isn't that part of the Buist recipe to serve the poor? People in Mt Pleasant don't have failing schools.

Stephanie said...

Response to earlier question posed to me: yes, the Ruckers have a Mt. Pleasant address which was used to apply to the school. I didn't mean to imply that they had falsified their address in any way. I was simply pointing out the "who's who" aspect of it all. But, like I said above, maybe the who's who shouldn't be so surprising.

However, to respond to another poster, wealthy people are not the only ones guilty of using false addresses. I think it's more middle class folks in the suburbs who can't afford private school who are doing this. Ask any Buist parent and they'll admit to knowing people — average, ordinary income people — who used whatever advantage they could to get their kid into the best school in the district.

It's a nationwide issue — as the ABC report showed. Parents will do what they can to get their kids into the best schools. It's up to the school district to make sure it's not easy to cheat the system. Whatever lame address verification system they've been using has sure let a lot of people through with falsified addresses.

I think downtown middle class parents have every right to feel frustrated by the education system — the only good school located downtown is Buist — and it's not open to everyone. It's a selective, competitive school. (Side rant: The only way to change our education system is to elect legislators who care about funding the schools — and not pandering to people with unrealistic, short-sighted and poorly thought out property tax breaks).

I heard from another Buist parent that the number of District 20 applicants was actually less than the total number of kindergarten slots (40), which means that most of the downtowners looking to get their kids in, will probably get the chance to test.

The crazy part is when kids don't pass the test! That's when everyone starts complaining about the testing process and it being done behind closed doors, etc. etc.

Charleston County needs to decide if it wants an academic magnet, and then it needs to decide if Buist should continue to be that school, and then it needs to solidify and clear up the application and testing process.

The whole concept behind the school is not equal opportunity — it's let's find the smartest kids in the entire county and put them in a school where they can push each other to excel.

It's a school that even wealthy people with unlimited options would want their kids to go. I know several parents who had already enrolled their kids in P-G and Mason Prep who won the lottery, passed the test, and got into Buist. You think they'd choose to spend $15K if they could get just as good an education for free? They probably didn't get rich by being that stupid.

In fact, the wealthier families give generously to the Buist foundation, which has funded the IB program and a ton of other things at the school. They look at it like this: even if I give the school $5K a year, I'm still saving the $10K I would have spent on private education.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie, You just described what the Academic Magnet High School really is. Buist is not that. A test at the age of five does not determine who is necessarily the best and brightest. A closer look at Buist will show you that. However it sure is great for the parental ego when the child is admitted!

Furthermore, on the high school level there is not the terrible inequity. Compare what Buist is given (four foreign language teachers, SAIL for everyone without having to qualify for it and the IB program) to the other five or six downtown elementary schools. Every high school has foreign language and AP opportunities. Magnet schools don't make sense on the elementary level.

Perhaps if the Buist began in second grade the best students would be chosen and placed in the school accordingly. However until children attending the neighboring schools are given access to a decent education why are the privileged given so much more?

There is an all black "magnet" school (Charleston Progressive) less than a mile from Buist. It lacks so many things that Buist has.

Charleston Progressive has no foreign language, no assistant principal (Buist does of course), and does not offer SAIL to the entire school. Sounds like a law suit waiting to happen.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps some of those school board members that have had and will have children at Buist don't want a school competing with Buist. Why would they want Charleston Progressive or any other school to be as prestigious?

Anonymous said...

Those school board members have an obligation to serve all Charleston County residents fairly and to see to it that constituent districts like downtown aren't treated unfairly. They have failed to do that for years. The current board is no different than the jack legs that preceded them.

alum45 said...

The fault about funding, at least in Charleston County, is with the county school board, not the legisature. CCSD has actively chosen to make Dist. 20 look worse than the Corridor of Shame. Where is our praiseworthy newspaper on reporting this?

Anonymous said...

Charleston county schools are rolling in cash but the board has chosen to spend the money unwisely on expensive outsourced programs, failed education models, top heavy administration and not really in the classroom. Why fund 4 foreign language teachers at Buist and none at Chas. Progressive Academy, a magnet school with exactly the same grade set up at Buist? PS: It's only 4 blocks between these two schools but by the county board's funding and staffing standards they might as well be a thousand miles apart.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie, How do you know what list the Rucker child came in on? If you have that information then your paper must also know the names and addresses for District 20 and the failing schools list.

A quick on line search of property tax records would have shown you that it was primarily wealthy people cheating. Most of the cheaters had beach houses or other expensive water front property listed as their primary residence.

Anonymous said...

If a parent wins the Buist lottery from a certain list, why aren't their names made public? What would happen if multi million dollar Lotto winner claimed under privacy laws that their name couuln't be revealed? How long do you think it would take for the public to claim the lottery was fixed?

Anonymous said...

Keep the kids’ names private, but publish the parents’ names and the list they appeared on. We might be surprised at just how quickly the problem of address cheats at Buist would correct itself. The beauty of a self regulating system becomes obvious when complete transparency is the expected norm.

Anonymous said...

So what if the lottery is fixed? It's good for a public school to have wealthy,famous, and even elected officials as parents in the school. A public school needs all the help it can get in South Carolina. If that means they occasionally bend the rules for people that could benefit the school is that so bad?

Anonymous said...

Exactly, being on the school board is practically a voluntary job. The least we owe the school board members and hard workers at Charleston County schools like Janet Rose and that IB teacher is a slot at Buist for their children.

Anonymous said...

The idea that Buist is an ACADEMIC MAGNET on the same level as the Academic Magnet High School is a fallacy. Everyone, including Janet Rose, knows that testing 4 and 5 year olds does not give you the most academically qualified children. To do that the school would have to start in at least 2nd grade according to Rose. This is apparent by the fact that most of the children at Buist do not even truly qualify for SAIL - the Charleston County gifted and talented program. They all receive it, but most of them do not even qualify. There are some smart children at Buist, but many are prepped to do well on the test or "helped" to do well on the test. Lets stop pretending all the children who get into Buist qualify for an advanced studies program.

Anonymous said...

Darius Rucker raised many thousands of dollars over the years for Charleston County schools and I'm sure that none of that went to Buist.

Anonymous said...

You people have always tried to knock out Buist. It's just sour grapes. That crazy Buist task force doesn't know what can of worms they have opened. Buist parents won't let you destroy our school.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately some at Buist feel it's better to hide the truth instead of making improvements. Last time most of us checked Buist was still listed as a public school. I thought it belonged to everyone, not just to those who were lucky enough to get in. What's with the defensive seige mentality of its supporters and just because some questions have been raised? To be considered loyal to the cause, you're not allowed to raise questions?!!! Sounds like a cult.

Anonymous said...

Downtown schools are seperate and unequal. By Buist keeping out downtown children it further segregates District 20. If most of the children at Buist somehow live in Mt. Pleasant why not move it there? Then maybe the school board and Maria would be forced to recognize the condition of downtown schools.

Anonymous said...

As a CCSD teacher and parent of children in the public schools, this whole blog makes me very sad and discouraged. Some of you seem to have quite a lot of free time on your hands to obsess and speculate about Buist and it all sounds like a bunch of sour grapes. No wonder so many kids think they are entitled. They learn it from their parents.
It is a great school, but with a specific mission. It is an academic magnet. Not all children belong in that environment. And it wouldn't be the school that it is if it wasn't small. Obviously not everyone can get in. Some of your questions are reasonable, but many imply improprieties that simply aren't true. You are slandering good people including the dedicated, hard working staff of the school. The school does not have an admissions staff. There is not a team of researchers assigned by 75 Calhoun to look up every address and make house calls. Maybe there should be, but don't blame the school or the principal because 75 Calhoun doesn't provided adequate resources. I put my children's names in the lottery and they got terrible numbers. So be it. I didn't start accusing people of lying and cheating as a result.
What would be a productive use of my time and yours would be to research best practices and the individual needs of each school. Build more Buist Academys and Ashley River Creative Arts Schools or whatever kinds of programs are neeeded in each area. Stop trashing a good school and dedicate yourselves to building up others.
EFF

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Mrs. Germain said...

My family has just moved here from Michigan, and unfortunately we live in an area where the schools are not good. I want more than anything to make sure my child has the same or better level of education she had before we moved....that being said I wanted to send her to buist. After reading the previous comments im left with this feeling that may not be a possibility. Can someone please clue me in on the problem here? In MI NCLB applies to ALL not just if you live in a neighborhood where the school failed two years in a row. I could send my child to any school I want I just have to transport her there. At this point my husband and I are left with no choice but to put her in private school. So what are my choices?