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Sunday, August 7, 2022

Educational equity at risk in Redwood City

Mothers call on Redwood City Board of Education to make fairer proposals

educational equity in Redwood City

Opinion. Concerned Redwood City parents.
The recently proposed policy by the Redwood City Board of Directors disallowing students at School of Choice (SOC) specialized programs from transferring to other SOC programs is another blow to educational equity in our city.

At the heart of the policy, outlined hereis the attempt to solve for shrinkage in SOC program enrollment due to transfers in third grade to North Star Academy, the top-rated public school in California, which starts in third grade. 

Indeed, Redwood City’s other SOC programs have been decimated at the third-grade mark due to North Star Transfers, and programs and students alike have suffered the consequences.These consequences are especially dire for Redwood City’s award-winning immersion programs: Spanish immersion at Adelante Selby and Mandarin Immersion at Orion, because students at higher grades are not able to fill empty spaces without language fluency.

If the new policy passes, attendance priority to North Star Academy would be given to students in neighborhood schools, followed by students enrolled in private schools. Students in other Redwood City public Schools of Choice would not be eligible for transferring to North Star.

While this policy would serve to reduce SOC third-grade class shrinkage, the policy as currently outlined would reward parents with enough resources to send their children to private schools above parents who may not be able to afford the expensive Bay Area tuition, as those children would be given enrollment slots at North Star, while public SOC students would not. 

The policy could inadvertently lead to reduced public school enrollment in Redwood City, as affluent parents who would otherwise choose SOC programs decide to send their children to private schools to keep the door open for potential North Star Academy spots.

Parents interested in language immersion who aren’t able to afford private schools may find themselves penalized if their students are not thriving in language immersion, because they would be unable to transfer to North Star along with their neighborhood school and private school colleagues.

This is especially concerning given that the demographics of the Spanish Immersion and Mandarin Immersion schools have a higher percentage of Latinx and Asian students. While the California Education Code section 35351 prohibits the assignment of students to a particular school (or exclusion of students from a particular school) based on actual or perceived race or ethnicity, this new policy skates the line of precluding students from majority Latinx and Asian campuses from attending North Star Academy.

While we laude the School Board for realizing the toll transfers to North Star Academy have on Redwood City SOC programs, this solution pushes the needle further away from equity. There are several other options that could both solve for SOC program enrollment decline in third grade while still supporting educational equity.

For example: 

North Star Academy could start in 6th grade, rather than 3rd grade, and resources currently supporting those lower three grades could be reallocated to neighborhood schools to improve their chances of testing into the North Star program in middle school.

North Star Academy could start in Kindergarten, with universal testing for all students in Redwood City.

SOC programs could give weighted enrollment priority, starting with students in neighborhood schools, followed by students enrolled in other SOC programs, and finally students attending private schools.

The Redwood City School Board of Trustees claims that this new policy is an attempt to “formalize what has always been an unwritten rule in RCSD--families who choose a School of Choice specialized program are agreeing to commit for the remainder of the program.” However, Redwood City parents disagree that they should have to prioritize loyalty to their school program above doing what is right for their child. This policy would have dire consequences for equity in the Redwood City School District, which already struggles with bimodal test scores and uneven resource distribution among schools. 

Take this one back to the drawing board, RCSD Board, and renvision a solution to this problem that doesn’t sacrifice equity.

You may be interested in: Learning Mandarin, a valuable tool for the future

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