Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Luck, Reprised

Here is the link to get to the Community High School lottery list.
If you didn't get in, remember: there are lots of other good schools out there.

The rest of this post is reposted from 2/17/10.

The year my oldest got into Community High School, he was #6 in the lottery. I remember this because people talked about it as if drawing this number was a result of something we did.
"Wow, that's so great. He got number 6! You must be really proud." 
Sure, we did go to the orientation. We did fill out a couple of sheets of paper. But other than that, nothing separated him from the 200 or so other kids who applied and didn't get into the school.
Except luck.
The Community High School lottery list came out today. 
Congratulations to the kids who got in. I think it's a wonderful school.
For the rest of you, those of you now on the waitlist, remember--it's not about you. It's about luck.

The odds of getting into Community are still better (much, much better) than buying a ticket in the lottery. Ironically, if you buy a lottery ticket, you will be supporting the state's schools. . . one dollar at a time.


  1. Thanks for the reminder that its merely about luck, but as the parent of a child who has been educated in an 'open school' format since kindergarten but who did not get lucky enough in this lottery, it feels like I must have done something wrong! There were over 300 students in this year's lottery, perhaps considerably over 300.
    Why can't Ann Arbor meet the demand for open education?! Why must there be luck, or ability to wait in line for a scant number of spots, involved?!

  2. There were 330 applicants this year. This is consistent with past years.

    What I didn't say is that Child #2 was not so lucky, and had a higher number. When her number finally did come up, she had a hard time deciding. Ultimately, she felt she would enjoy the academics more at Community, but she elected to stay at Skyline because she didn't want to lose touch with her friends.

    I don't think she is unique. Many kids want to go to Community, but end up being very happy at a different school. And there is the possibility of dual-enrolling, at least at Pioneer and Huron, which lots of kids really like.

  3. Thanks for that story too, it is encouraging to feel that kids who do not get in to Community find other places to be happy.
    In my child's case, one of the deeply disappointing aspects of the current bad luck is that he had the good luck of his number in the lottery for Ann Arbor Open's K-8 program. Thusly, most friends applied and many were lucky. I wonder: what about the 'academics' at Community was appealing to your daughter? Is it something we can reproduce at other schools so that students don't have to chose between friends and academics?

  4. Anon, that is a question that probably deserves more than a quick comment, and some of the non-academic things (like having an open campus and being downtown) probably affect the academics, but--to me--there are a few things that have a huge impact that could, in fact, be replicated, even on a closed campus.
    1. Block scheduling, every other day, encourages project-based learning and less homework, and the homework tends to be less make-work. (And I just wrote about the trimester system's pros and cons.)
    2. There is much more choice built into registration for classes. Students control the registration, and often know who the teacher is going to be. If they had John Doe as a teacher last year, and hated him, they can try to avoid his class. They also have more choice of classes in English and Social Studies. Only one class in English (9th grade, 1st semester) is required--after that you can choose--do you want American Literature or Creative Writing? [Yes--certain classes are associated with a college prep program--but you have some choice.]
    3. There are no no Accelerated classes. If you are taking Spanish 2, you are taking it with the best and brightest as well as the least talented language-learners. Some people think that is a bad thing, but I think it's good for the most part. The teachers become proficient at teaching mixed-level classes.

    And last--but not least--teachers and kids are all choosing to be there. THAT has made all the difference.

  5. Thanks Ruth, those are very interesting points.
    Don't you think, then, that your last but not (at all!) least point about chosing to be there indicates that "Luck" shouldn't be part of the equation? That is, for instance, students from AAO, many of whom who have been doing open-school education for their entire public school lives, have *chosen* to live in a certain kind of educational atmosphere (e.g. project-based learning, multiple abilities/grades! in the same classroom, etc). Why should their getting to continue that choice for high school be merely about 'luck'?

  6. Sorry, Anon, for taking so long to respond, but I've been on vacation:)

    In an ideal world there would be enough space for all who want to go, but our world is far from ideal.

    There are all kinds of kids who didn't get the chance to go to Ann Arbor Open, but would still like to go to Community...
    ...because they moved into the district too late to apply to AAO
    ...because they went to Honey Creek, a Montessori, or were home schooled
    ...because they didn't win the AAO lottery
    ...because the transportation across town was too difficult
    ...because their parents didn't know anything about open education when their child was in kindergarten or first grade

    And--there are things about Community that attract people not because they are open, but for other reasons--such as Dance Body, Jazz Band, or the size of the school.

    Around the country, competitive magnet schools rely on testing, essay writing, etc. And I don't think those are necessarily fair either. I prefer the lottery.

  7. Yes, luck it is. My daughter received a really high number and has no chance of ever getting in to Community so has been at Pioneer. My advice to others is to look long and hard at alternatives if your child does not get in. Going to one of the big schools can mean 4 years of unpleasantness. I think the big schools like Pioneer are fine for those that excel at sports, music, or academics. But there is a large middle group of solid students that are not served well there. I regret not looking more closely at private schools.

  8. Well, I have to disagree about 'fairness' and the lottery really. The children and parents at AAO have in many cases committed themselves to open education pedagogy for the *whole* of their children's education. Then, when the acknowledged-to-be-critical transition to high school happens, suddenly many many of them (most of them indeed) are denied access to the one high school in town that also follows these educational principles. How exactly is that 'fair'? Even if *all* AAO families were to be offered a spot--and as you point out, some will decide that one of the comprehensive high schools are a better fit for their child--that would 'take up' about 50 at the very most of the 100 or so spots available. It would also reduce the number of people participating in the lottery by that number, presumably, right? So, then, instead of 300 people vying for 100 spots, there would be 250 people vying for about 60 or so spots--a reduction of the chances for 'getting lucky' from about 1 in 3 to about 1 in 4. I'm happy with that level of 'fair chance' for those who came late to the idea of open education, or for those who really aren't committed to it as an idea at all and are merely interested in the smaller school or the jazz band program. After all, at least for those who are really merely interested in say 'dance body', there is the option of enrolling specifically in that class only, right? Same for the jazz program and so on. What is *not* reproduced in other high schools in Ann Arbor, so far as I can tell, is the open-school philosophy. While I'd surely prefer the creation of more open schools and more or a bigger open-school program for the high school level--i.e, *meeting the demand that clearly exists for it!*--I truly believe that it would be 'fairer' to continue to serve the families who have opted all along to do open education. At the middle school level, indeed, there are clearly aspects of the larger-school resources parents and children 'give up' in order to stick with the open education program at AAO. If we want to consider Community a 'magnet' program that somehow is not "really" an alternative based on open-school ideas, then perhaps it should be better defined as such and then 'tested' or 'counseled' into, rather than "lucked" into, I think.

  9. We did not have the opportunity (luck) to be part of AAO. I'm sorry your child did not get the opportunity (luck) to go to Community. I don't think your previous "luck" that let you be a part of the AAO community should put your child any higher on the list to get into Community. My child deserves a chance too.

  10. I agree with anonymous above that getting stuck at Pioneer can be unpleasant for some kids. The classes at Pioneer are very segregated. Kids who are in the accelerated track are with each other for most of their classes for 4 years. The other classes can be pretty dumbed down and some of them did not seem college prep. My daughter did love one thing at Pioneer, Theater Guild. Of course, as soon as school is out the CHS kids flock to Pioneer for theater and often knock out the kids who actually go there for key roles. That is one thing that I do think is unfair. I would prefer a policy of picking a school and going there for everything. Open up 100 spots at each of the big 3 and let kids pick. Then, that is where you go for all activities.

  11. Actually, students from all of the district's schools are flocking to Pioneer Theater Guild. I'm not sure why it's allowed. If anyone has information about that and wants to email me about it, the email is rlk234 at

  12. This was a big issue last year as lots of Skyline students are coming to Pioneer for theater in addition to lots of Community students. The Balas administrator in charge of the arts programs in the schools ruled that there is no written policy that forbids it so it has been allowed to continue. The Pioneer and Skyline principals were against it. Pioneer pays for the TG out of its budget and Skyline is trying to get a theater program of its own going strong. My guess is the theater guild staff lobbied for it to be allowed to continue so they can have the largest pool of candidates to select from for their productions. A lot of Pioneer parents are against it as it makes it harder for their kids to get a part.