Is the county school system's program to reduce crowded schools through redistricting an effective method given projected shifts in population growth, housing development plans?
Miller: Given our present structure, redistricting is the most effective way to reduce crowded schools. There are other initiatives that could be helpful, such as dual-enrollment programs like JumpStart, career and technical education programs, and/or world language immersion magnet programs. Other types of “magnet school” arrangements could be options, but though they can look appealing on the surface, they can carry with them a number of liabilities, such as issues related to transportation, feeder schools, community stability, after-school activities, lotteries, overspecialization, etc. Furthermore, they can result in non-magnet schools becoming “repel schools.” Redistricting can reduce crowded schools and, if done judiciously, could also help to equalize demographics and promote diversity while keeping feeder systems and communities reasonably intact. That said, in order to minimize disruption, we should enhance public awareness that the quality of a school, and the suitability of a school for an individual student, cannot and should not be determined by test scores, and that highly successful students graduate every year from every Howard County school. After 34 years of teaching in our school system, I have experienced several instances of redistricting, and I have found that for the great majority of students who are redistricted, after three weeks of school if they were offered the choice of going back or remaining, they would remain at their “new” school (though publicized options should exist for very special circumstances). Though redistricting can be challenging, it should remain our primary way of addressing overcrowding.