I'm going to spare you my whining. In fact, I'm going to try to spare myself my whining, and change how I think about December to just be grateful that we have so many friends, filling our weekends with parties and jobs, filling our weekends with software releases and other "fun" things.
Tonight, I am going to write about our upcoming decision about where to send Pumpkin for Kindergarten. She will start next fall. We have decided to start her in a public school- or at least we will start our decision making process by assuming that she will go to public school. I suppose that if we are seriously unhappy with what we see when we look at our public school options, we would consider private school for her.
We are considering three public schools: our neighborhood school, a Spanish immersion magnet (all instruction is in Spanish for the first few years), and a Spanish enrichment magnet (they study Spanish every day, but the main instruction is in English). The emphasis on language is for two reasons: (1) she likes learning languages and seems to be good at it and (2) we think kids should get the chance to learn a language young, when it is easier and they are more likely to be able to master the new sounds. The Spanish immersion magnet is our closest school.We have to make a decision by February 15, 2012.
I looked up the test scores for all three schools. Our local school has the highest test scores, but also the richest students- so that didn't tell me much. I didn't really expect it to, and I don't have the patience to go spelunking through the data like Bad Mom Good Mom did. Test scores, particularly as we currently use them, are actually a rather poor indicator of whether or not I want my child to go to a particular school. And yet I felt compelled to look at them- compelled enough to spend several hours one night finding the scores and printing them out for comparison. My husband says it was so that we could be sure that nothing truly terrible was lurking in them. I suspect it was so that I can tell the parents who are shocked that we are considering such "rough" schools for our children that the test scores aren't bad.
So, if the test scores are no help, how will we make our decision? First of all, the decision isn't entirely ours to make. We are deciding what schools to put as our first and second choices on a lottery form. The fates will decide whether or not we get our choice. But obviously, we only want to try for one of the magnets if we like them. And if we are really unhappy with what our local school can offer, we will need to think about what we want to do about that. Go to a private school? Enrich with a tutor? Enrich with specialized after school programs? Decide we just need to get over ourselves and accept what is on offer at the local school? I think I have listed those options in descending order of both expense and ease of implementation.
Anyway, we will be going to visit the schools, to hear about their programs and ask some questions. Here is our current list:
Questions to ask all schools:
- What is discipline policy?
- What is homework policy?
- What happens to kids who excel (GATE)? What about in early grades, before GATE kicks in? How are kids who are performing above grade level handled?
- What will happen with a kid who is already reading before Kindergarten? (Umm, and who knows how to add and is figuring out multiplication on her own?)
- What happens with kids who are struggling in a subject? (Let's not assume that our child will be universally brilliant, right?)
- What extracurriculars are offered? Music?
- What are the after school care options? (All three have some sort of program, but I want the details.)
- How are kids helped into the immersion program? What will happen with a kid who doesn’t really speak any Spanish before kindergarten?
- Do children learn to read in English in kindergarten/first grade? Or in Spanish? Or both?
Questions for our local school:
- Are there any foreign language programs available to kids at all? (I fear the answer is no, there are not- even though a lot of schools in the area have after school language programs that you pay for. So I guess the follow up would be: what would it take to get an after school language program in place?)