Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Transparency check

I’ve come to realize that blogging effectively is sometimes a matter of repeating oneself over and over to combat misinformation that will not die. One such piece of false information is that Hoover School currently has 129 transfer students from “schools in need of assistance” (SINAs). When we finally get a waiver from No Child Left Behind, the argument goes, the loss of those 129 kids will mean that we can no longer fill the school.

The argument would be bad enough even if the statistic were true, for reasons I’ve already talked about. There is no shortage of students to fill Hoover’s seats in this densely populated area, which is one reason the board’s plan builds 330 seats of new capacity onto two nearby schools Mann and Longfellow. So maybe I shouldn’t get riled up about that one statistic. But the statistic is blatantly false. There were 129 transfer students at Hoover last year, but only a fraction of them were SINA transfers. Most of the schools have 50 or 60 ordinary intra-district transfers – kids who want to stay at a certain school after the family moves out of the attendance area, for example. Those transfers will still happen even if we get a No Child waiver, and even if some SINA students are redistricted into newly built schools. The actual number of SINA transfers must be significantly lower than 129.

So I emailed the school district to get the correct information:
Hi – I’m wondering if you can tell me how many of the 129 transfers into Hoover last year were from SINA schools. People keep throwing that 129 number around as if all of the transfers will disappear if we ever get a waiver of NCLB (or if some are redistricted into a new school), but I assume that some portion of those transfers were ordinary open enrollment transfers. I’d like to clear up that piece of information if possible.

Thanks for any information.
The district’s chief operating officer replied:
Hi, Chris. I don’t believe the district keeps data on who is attending a different school on a SINA transfer versus any other sort of transfer.
Really? Surely the district knows the addresses of the students who attend Hoover. Moreover, the intra-district transfer form even asks the parents to fill in the following information:
If this is a SINA transfer request, do you want the district to assign your child to another school if your desired school(s) is not available for transfers? __YES __ NO

School Your Child Currently Attends (or School where you reside, if your child is not yet in school: ________________
So it’s hard for me to believe that the district doesn’t know the accurate number of SINA transfers at Hoover, or couldn’t easily determine it. But instead, the question goes unanswered, and the false statistic takes on a life of its own in the facilities debate.

UPDATE: Part 2 here.

No comments: