Geography Matters for Students
Seeking Better Schools
The Chicago Public School
system this year closed
50 low performing pubic schools and opened a number of new
charter schools on the theory that a free market approach to education would
aid students and encourage poor schools to get better.
Scientific American blogger Kama Gowda,
a Northwestern University graduate student in math, thinks
the approach has promise, with a catch.
reports that network mapping based on a vast collection of student history and
shows there are subdistricts
within the city where if students do change schools, they are likely to switch
to one that is only marginally better.
As an example, he presents two unconventional maps, redrawn
to show travel time as experienced by students in North Lawndale and Old Town,
two city neighborhoods.
Kids in Old
Town, home of Walter Payton College Prep,
a highly selective magnet school, have much faster and easier routes through
the city than their peers in North Lawndale, the site of the closed
underperforming Mason High School, who will have a longer and harder challenge navigating
a route to any better school. Not all neighborhooods are well connected by public transportation, and some gangland territories and violent areas create "impassible" travel barriers, Gowda says.