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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

A magnet lottery, kind of, sort of

Hillsborough teachers don't want to have to wait months to find out if their children got into magnet and choice schools.

Hillsborough teachers don't want to have to wait months to find out if their children got into magnet and choice schools.

27

July

Ever wonder how students are chosen for magnet schools? There's a lottery, right?

But it's not the kind where someone pulls numbered balls out of a jar.

The district uses "a race-neutral weighted lottery process" outlined in this document.

Extra points are given if you live in a certain neighborhood, speak a certain language or belong to a certain income group, all in the interest of maintaining diverse student populations.

There are also points given to children whose siblings are in the magnet schools'; and children of school district employees. The rationale for the last weighting is plain and simple: "To support Hillsborough County Public School employees."

Teachers union leaders raised the issue during Wednesday's bargaining session, which did not go very far as the union wants more money and the district didn't really offer any.

As the two sides were discussing when to meet next -- the idea being that the district will be in a better position to bargain once it closes out the books on the 2015-16 school year -- executive director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins offered up an idea that will not cost anything at all.

She wants assurances that teachers can get a quick decision on whether their children get the slots they want under magnet and choice.

"The magnet department is basically treating teachers like everyone else in terms of the lottery," Baxter-Jenkins said. And while the teachers do not object to having to fill out the required forms, they don't want to have to wait months to find out if their children were accepted. "You're putting them through the stress of the lottery," she said. "This is a benefit that, for parents, is a huge thing."

District officials seemed agreeable, and suggested they might be able to resolve much of this through conversations with magnet and choice office officials.

The lottery does not apply to programs that have entrance or audition requirements, such as the International Baccalaureate programs. The teachers said it's perfectly fine to require kids to compete. In fact, the weighting system is used only for elementary and middle schools.

Talks continue, as well, about how much time guidance counselors get to be guidance counselors and not test proctors; and how the district pays retirees who come back to work. 

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 27, 2016 2:07pm]

    

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