There is another related quote in Sunday AA.Com from WISD superintendent Bill Miller. He talks about schools having to distinguish themselves and market their brand. This frightens me tremendously as I have already observed this going on both in a charter school and in AAPS high school. No one wants to be branded as "the school for average kids, the school for kids with social/learning problems, the school for kids whose parents don't care". Everyone wants to be the school/program/teacher for the advanced and there is a huge temptation to devote more and more resources to the students that can perform at the elite level. I hope that every parent that experiences this phenomenon speaks up and continues to speak up until the concerns are addressed (that may take a great deal of persistence).I think this is a really interesting comment, given that the way our state statutes are written, your local public school is considered the default, and expected to serve everybody. How do you market that? It's much easier to market a specific idea.
For instance, I hate the Ann Arbor Public Schools "Excellence" campaign. A picture of a smiling teacher with smiling kids? How does that prove excellence? What are the chances my child would get that teacher anyway?
I like the Ypsilanti Public Schools "Strong from start to finish" campaign, because it communicates a specific idea. However, based on graduation rates, I think there are probably holes in that education, at least for some students.
In that sense, private schools have an easier time of it.
For instance, take Huron Valley Catholic. Their ad on a board on West Stadium drew my attention because (I can't remember the slogan right now) it uses the word "heart" and connects learning with warmth and emotion. I like that it immediately conveys a sense of the school. Their web site uses a different slogan, "Passion for learning, passion for Christ." That, too, conveys a sense of focus. Parents should know immediately if they would like to investigate further.
On the other hand, Huron Valley Catholic gets to choose who comes in their doors, and their admissions policy states,
1. Student must have a C+ or better (or equivalent) grade average in academic subjects during the past two years, with no failing grades (or equivalent), and an acceptable conduct/behavioral evaluation.Note, I am not calling out Huron Valley Catholic about their requirements regarding behavior and grade level achievement. Lots of private schools have the same kinds of requirements. I'm just pointing out that it makes it unlikely that they will be educating a lot of kids with trouble learning because of learning disabilities, or poor prior educational circumstances, or severe attention deficit problems. I'm just pointing out that public schools don't get to pass on those kids.
2. All new students entering grades 1 through 8 must take a math and reading test. Kindergarten students must take a readiness test as part of Kindergarten roundup. Students must score no more than one grade level lower than current grade. For example, a student in the 7th grade, 5th month of school should be able to perform at a minimum of 6th grade, 5th month level. (Emphases added.)
And yet, a public school campaign that started "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses..." would probably not work. (Apologies to the Statue of Liberty and Emma Lazarus, but you get the point.)
Which leads me to this question: What, exactly, is the brand that public schools are trying to achieve? On the one hand, my experiences with Community High School lead me to believe that a lot of people want a school with a "brand." I personally don't need a brand, but I like the idea of having a choice of schools. In Ann Arbor, I would love to see an arts magnet, I would love to see an immersion language magnet, I would love to see a science magnet. On the other hand, the mandate of the public schools is to serve the public. And don't we hope that all public schools will be excellent?
Really, how do you brand that?