Home > Uncategorized > Does your momma pick watermelons?

Does your momma pick watermelons?

October 25, 2013

:ast night the HB 90 task force began to sharpen its focus, taking a look at specific information charters and VoTechs request on their admission applications. Co-chair Kim Williams read out a list of questions she had gathered from actual applications.

When read out loud the whole list seemed to go on and on, with each question odder and more inappropriate than the last. Jaws dropped when she read: “has a parent or guardian worked on a farm, in the fields or in a factory with fruits, vegetables or animals; has the parent or guardian every worked with watermelons, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, apples, chicken, or shellfish,”. Remember, this is information parents must provide in order to be considered for admission. Here’s the whole list:

The questions that were asked on the applications: race of a student, specifically if the student was Hispanic/Latino, student’s social security number, photo id, IEP or 504 Plan, citizenship, what languages are spoken in the home, place of birth, place of parent’s employment, health problems, parents married, separated, has your child repeated a grade, where does the child live: with both parents, mother, father, grandmother; does your child receive services: inclusion, occupational therapy, hearing support, speech therapy, or counseling; does your child take medication, wear glasses or wear a hearing aid; has a parent or guardian worked on a farm, in the fields or in a factory with fruits, vegetables or animals; has the parent or guardian every worked with watermelons, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, applies, chicken, or shellfish; has your family changed homes in the last three years? Schools asking parents if they need transportation. Please check if your student has any area of interest in these sports. What ways do you feel that this school will serve your child?

Copies of the items requested on the application: birth certificate, copy of the parent or students social security card, medical records, proof of residence, most recent report card etc.

Once the discussion resumed, the charter and VoTech representatives were unfazed and were full of justifications why their school needed extra information. But then Rep. Williams asked “That’s fine, but why do you need that information BEFORE the admission decision has been made? Why can’t you collect it AFTER admission?” And the silence was deafening.

You might think that requiring a common application form would solve these kinds of issues. Kilroy has the form; go take a look.

The problem is although charters, VoTechs and magnet schools are required to use the common form, they are still allowed to ask whatever supplemental questions they want. All they have to do is staple the common form on the front of the supplemental questions, and they are compliant. Even on the online application, the supplemental information were just added “as is” with no questions asked. Nobody is checking to see if the supplemental questions are fair or even legal.

One of the dodges offered by the charter folks was “That information is not used in the admission decision,” and sometimes it says so right on the application. But I’m not impressed. As Rep. Williams noted, “Most applications state that you must return all items requested, if you do not, your application will not be processed.”

I say the surest way to make sure information isn’t misused is to not collect it in the first place.

The discussion went around for a while longer, but didn’t get much further, which is fine because the issue had at least been unmistakably laid on the table.

The problem is asking these questions will remain legal until some parent challenges them, which leaves enforcement up to parents, probably only after a denial. That is wrong. It is an opportunity for leadership from the Department of Education or our district leaders.

So as the task force moves toward its directive of producing recommendations this January, here’s an idea: An application should not contain any questions that exceed your charter (or whatever documented admission criteria they use). If it’s not in your charter, it’s not on your application. That would be a piece of real charter/VpTech reform that can be accomplished within the scope of the Enrollment Preferences task force.

  1. Eve Buckley ("Citizen")
    October 25, 2013 at 10:31 am

    That list of questions reads like satire–hard to believe DE is actually allowing public schools to collect such info, esp. PRIOR to the process of “choosing” which students they would like to offer places to. Our school choice system needs to preference parental choice, not choice by the publicly funded institutions of which “types” of students they prefer to serve.

    If charters are not making nefarious use of this information, they should be happy to delete those questions, at LEAST until after the child has been granted admission (in some cases, it’s unclear why the questions need ever be asked by the school). If the charters are using this info to weed desirable from undesirable applicants, this is a field day for anti-discrimination lawyers. Good grief.

  2. John Young
    October 26, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    This makes me more certain the ever that the lotteries are for show only.

  3. Joanne Christian
    October 28, 2013 at 12:24 am

    ANY demographic data should only be collected retrospectively in a public school choice institution (of legal residency area of course). No need but a contact name and number needed in my book—for the child of grade picked. But hey, I’m just one of those crazy federal law abiding citizens.

  4. October 31, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Thanks SO MUCH for attending. And reporting. This is where I was hoping the direction would go after listening to the deaf-toned responses of certain charter and vo tech reps whose schools are absolutely abusing any idea of equity with this kind of enrollment process.

    I will be sure to be at the next meeting. And I will thank Kim Williams for her determination to make a difference. We’ll have to change the law….er….the Assembly will have to change the law.

    What if anything did David Sokola say about Kim’s presentation?

  5. Publius e decere
    December 6, 2013 at 12:02 am

    Please be sure to observe the facts. ONE charter school is asking the “watermelon” question and SIX traditional districts are asking the exact same same question under Choice. Those districts probably have a common reason, hence the common wording, so before putting anyone in the pillory let’s examine why the question exists in that exact worded form and THEN ask whether it is an appropriate question to be asked by a traditional district and then, after that, ask if the one charter school should also be asking it.

  6. December 6, 2013 at 5:55 am

    let’s examine why the question exists in that exact worded form and THEN ask whether it is an appropriate question to be asked by a traditional district

    The AG’s office is scratching its head over that very issue right now. Glad you asked.

    Anyway, the collection of questions didn’t name any specific schools, so there is no pillory. That’s just your own guilty conscience talking.

  1. November 10, 2013 at 3:00 am
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