I don’t care what your friend’s neighbor’s sister-in-law told you about my child’s school. I don’t care that everyone who’s anyone is moving out of the district because of, obviously, the schools. I don’t care about the sensational headlines decrying the failing school system.
To be entirely honest, I don’t really care where you choose to send your own kids to school.
I do care, though, that the public schools have become a last resort, immediately undesirable, and not even considered by many families. The truth is there’s a lot of awesome stuff happening in these “bad” schools. These schools could potentially be great if more families who were passionate about ensuring a quality education chose the public school over an already advantaged school.
But their test scores are bad. I hear this one a lot. I looked up test scores when looking at schools. The first site I visited said that our neighborhood school had a dismal, 3/10 rating. Umm, ouch. The next site I visited said that it was the third best elementary school in the Wichita area, sharing the top ten with highly regarded suburban schools. Yay! Then, straight from the Kansas State Department of Education I looked at the full numbers for myself. The truth lies somewhere in the middle – somewhere in-between an embarrassing failing grade and the best of the best. I value test scores in their limited role as just one measure for evaluating an aggregate group year over year for administrative appraisal and adjustment. At the end of the day I’m not going to judge my child’s success or worth off of just one test, nor will I judge the school. There’s so much more to consider.
But their class sizes are huge. I got this excuse directly from a neighborhood mom who picked a private school over our public school. She was floored to find out that her son’s kindergarten class was 30% larger than my son’s. Tour the schools, ask your questions. A lot of the “facts” out there for parents that scare them away from the public schools are misinformation or, at best, incomplete.
But the teachers aren’t as good. Baloney. There are exceptional and less desirable teachers in any school. I personally think all teachers are heroes and those that have truly been called to teach are angels on earth. I’d hate to see a great teacher leave our district because they weren’t supported or valued, and I believe preventing that is a worthy endeavor. Truly, I feel for you if you’re having a rough year with a not-so-great teacher, and I hope that you’re empowered to make appropriate modifications – but I don’t think this is strictly a public school phenomenon.
So, what do I care about?
I care about an environment that is challenging and positive for my child to thrive. I care about a campus that welcomes parent involvement. I care about a school culture that promotes and practices inclusion, diversity, and acceptance. I care about an administration at all levels that values constructive feedback and is willing to innovate for the advantage of students. I care about opportunities beyond the ‘three R’s’, exposure to art, music, physical education, technology and language. I care about teachers and staff who are passionate about fundamentals and make learning and intelligence cool for my kid.
As parents we all want what’s best for our children. There’s likely not a parenting choice more fraught than picking schools. It feels as though decisions made for your five year old carry enormous weight. And, every family has the right to pick the school that’s best for them. Your list of priorities might look different than mine. Maybe for you, private, parochial, rural, or homeschooling is a better fit. But, if you’re willing to take a second look and challenge your perceptions, I hope you’ll consider a “bad school.” You might just find what you’re looking for.