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Rockford Board votes for zoned schools – it’s time to move forward

The Rockford Board of Education, after a year of investigation with focus groups, open houses and parental surveys, voted with the overwhelming majority of their constituents Tuesday night when they  voted for option 2 – zoned elementary schools based on geographical boundaries.

Excerpt from the Rockford Register Star:

Kindergarten students will attend the elementary school closest to their home next fall, after the Rockford School Board voted 5-2 Tuesday to implement an assignment plan based on geographic boundaries.

Board members Lisa Jackson and Jeanne Westholder voted against the plan. Their primary argument is that at-risk students need to attend a school of choice to have an equal opportunity to succeed in the Rockford schools. The data does not prove out that concept, as I have posted previously.

Zone supporters who attended the meeting and board member Bob Evans spoke of the new zone plan and its positive effects on the neighborhoods, such as making it easier on parents to get involved in their children’s school. Also, neighbors helping neighbors with common problems since their children attend the same school. It is intangibles such as these and predictability, certainty, etc. that will enhance education, unlike choice which didn’t help education after a decade and a half for at-risk students or anyone else for that matter.

Opponents said the zone plan will further divide the city, as if the modified choice lottery brought individuals on both sides of the river closer together. One reason Jeanne Westholder didn’t like the plan was the fact that during implementation, families could be split up. Families were split up under choice too. If an older sibling, in a choice school wants to go to the new zoned school, they will have a choice to do so.

The zone plan will be implemented slowly over a five year period with grandfathering so as not to interrupt the current children’s education. The five year implementation will mean the Rockford School District has been subjected to almost two decades of busing, that seldom helped those students for whom it was intended!

Demographic school zones do not equate to “segregation” nor is it “separate but equal” nor a “thing of the past,” as referred to by Ms Jackson. She also said, “It’s time to embrace diversity and equality.”

Most people have embraced diversity and each zoned school will include all the students within its boundary – all the races and ethnicities – there will be no segregation of students. If space is available, students not meeting NCLB requirements at a zoned school, may also attend a school not in their zone, if space is available.

Finally, every student must be given an equal opportunity, equal resources in each school, but no one can or should guarantee equal outcomes or results. That ultimately depends on the efforts of the students involved and the courses offered by the district at multiple achievement levels that each student is capable of attaining. That would necessarily and properly guarantee that all students would not achieve the same results, since they are individuals, not a groupthink experiment.

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