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The Luck of The Draw

23 Jun

HSA Lottery

…Wanting to be an astronaut seemed as far away as the moon.

These are the words of an emotional African American male teacher reflecting on his school experiences as a child, in the 2010 documentary, The Lottery. Feelings overwhelmed him as he witnessed parents protesting charter schools in NYC. I remember when this film and Waiting for Superman were released and wondered if they would make a difference…still wondering…

At issue was the public charter school option in Harlem, a debate that continues to play out across the nation. In Harlem, attendance to charter schools is determined by lottery, literally the luck of the draw. If there are many under-performing schools, acceptance into a charter can (and has) become competitive. Harlem Success Academy’s lottery is held publicly to raise public awareness; 475 slots for 3000 applicants. My city, DC, determines selection to PreK by lottery but other levels remain on a first come first serve basis. I am hopeful that demand does not catch up with supply anytime soon…

Specifically in this film, the potential second site of Harlem Success Academy wanted to move into the building of a failing school which was slated to close; it did not due to political pressure.

I was taken aback by the venomous and disrespectful response of parents and council members (African American, Latina and Caucasian) to the founder of Harlem Success Academies, Eva Moskowitz. I hate to say it, but know definitively that they would not have this response if she were not white.

On the surface, I get it. I have seen do-gooders coming into an underserved neighborhood, ignorant of the issues impacting that community and claiming to know what is best. I can understand how some may perceive the outspoken founder of this school. But it is evident to me that the parents have not done their homework (and have been intentionally misinformed) and elected officials are playing politics. Moskowitz Is a graduate of that school district and was a parent in the same district and founded a school model with a proven track record that is shattering stereotypes and rhetoric- she has earned the right to speak and be OUTRAGED. So many times I wanted to shout, how is that school performing? Is it successfully preparing your child for the world?!?

Check it out if you get the chance. It personalizes and highlights the issues that dominate the nation’s public education debate.

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