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October 3, 2005

Shopping for schools shouldn't be this complicated

When Columbus Board of Education President, Stephanie Hightower, puts her son in a private high school because the lottery wasn't good to her, things can't be good.

Frankie's 2 1/2 and we're shopping for a nonreligious education for her. Tougher than it sounds. Tomorrow night, we'll be investigating our first school, the local public, Medary Elementary. It's a "School in Improvement", or, in other words, failing, according to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Not enough kids passed the 4th grade reading and math proficiency exams. It's not high on the list, unfortunately. We're going to the open house to learn as much as we can and hoping it sounds better than we expect.

October 24th we have an appt with St. Joe's Montessori in Italian Village. If it's a winner, Frankie will actually start school there next year! We'll be hashing out what it means to opt out of a "religion" class (Catholic indoctrination we fear) that will start when she's only 6 years old. We're not terribly optimistic on this one.

In November, we'll be taking a tour of Clintonville Academy which is nonsectarian and seems, at the outset, to be the frontrunner but doesn't start until kindergarten.

Our final option is to get in a lottery when the time comes (kindergarten) and wait until just before the start of classes in suspense to see if Frankie can get into one of Columbus' alternative schools that will accept kids from districts with "Schools in Improvement". Lottery statistics don't bode well for getting the school of your choice.

Do you have to move to a suburb in this country to get a good public education? We'll find out.


Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I can tell you that the most important factor in your child's education is you. The school doesn't matter if the parents are involved in their child's education. Typically schools that "need improvement" have lower parent involvement than schools that don't "need improvement."

I've always worked with special education students. The students who made the most gains had parents that were involved. They had parents that taught their child that school was important. They worked with their child as well.

The students I've worked with that made little or even no growth all had one thing in common. The common factor was uninvolved parents. These were the students whose parents never came to meetings about their student. Who never helped them study for tests. Who never made sure they did their homework.

I beat that if you checked with your nearby school and asked them about parent involvement you'll find that the percentage of parents involved in the school is low.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment Mulligan, a good question to ask indeed. It's killing me to give up on my local school so early. Maybe I should go in with a bit more positive attitude and try to campaign around the neighborhood for more locals (with participating parents) to attend.

Thanks again for your insight.

Anonymous said...

Mulligan, I appreciate your experience, but it's not just a factor of parent involvement, but also of school resources and academic options within the school.

Things that are important to us include foreign language introduced at kindergarten, and a gifted/talented program. Music and art need to be there from the start, too. Most public schools (seem to) have eliminated "tracks" for children of differing abilities, and while I understand why this might have been done, I don't think it's fair to the children who need a more challenging academic environment.

In a Montessori environment, there is also a reduced emphasis on test performance, and the concept of a family group, which encourages cooperation and helping behavior.

As Dave and I have discussed, we will be very involved regardless of where we eventually send her. And there will be "good" kids and "bad" kids (there are no bad kids) wherever she goes. But we want her best friends to have parents who appreciate that education is primary in importance, and that every child has the potential to do great things. If she goes to Medary, as nice as that might be, her friends will not have parents that share our philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Schools that need improvement arnt bad either.
Case and point would be my school. It was just this year taken off academic watch but served me fine. I scored a 28 on my ACT, and something like a 1810 (outta 2200) on the new SAT. I feel that the education I'm getting at my school is just fine, I'm challanged in the AP courses I'm taking and overall feel well prepared to handel almost anything that comes my way. Whether or not it was due to my parents involvement as an earlier commentor may have suggested I dont know, but all I can suggest is to do what your doing, and go and visit them.

Lisa the Waitress said...

I speak with no authority whatsoever, except half of a neglected education degree, but what about Indianola Informal? Is that even still around? I know that my cousin's children were very creative and artistic and they started out there and really liked it. (I thinks it's elementary only) It must be hard to find something good but not religious, as many of the good private schools are religious. I'm a product of religious education, and while I did get a good education, it made me never want to step into a church again! I don't know if that's good or bad. As a highly creative and active child, I wish my parents had chosen to send me to Montessori school, as they originally intended. There's also a Montessori next to Yoga on High, although I can't remember the name.

There! Some advice and you don't even know me!

Anonymous said...

Renegade, be careful. You make Dave's point for him. For future reference:

arnt -> aren't
case and point -> case in point
served me fine -> served me well
outta -> out of
challanged -> challenged
well prepared -> well-prepared
handel -> handle
parents -> parents'
commentor -> commenter
dont -> don't
your -> you're

Anonymous said...

Lisa, thanks for the suggestions. Indianola Informal is now Indianola alternative and we'd have to apply to get in via one of two different type mechanisms both with poor probability.

I'll have to look into that other Montessori near Yoga on High, never saw it before.

Thanks. I guess test scores aren't everything.

Anonymous said...

I thought I'd comment on my Medary impressions. The visit was interesting, but ultimately uninformative. The teachers were great, as I knew they would be. The new principal seems really dedicated. The kindergarten room was wonderful, and Frankie loved it. She loved it so much we didn't get to visit any of the other rooms! They have a gifted/talented program, but only one teacher for the whole school.

The building is a mess. There are boxes of crap and janitorial supplies lining the walls. The restrooms, while clean, had no toilet paper in any of the approx. 10 stalls. Is this really how they want to present the school on open house night?

While there was a reasonable turnout for open house (about 20 families), the kindergarten teacher confirmed that there was almost no parental involvement in the school. No parents volunteer in any capacity, and the turnover rate among the children is very, very high.

There is only one instructional assistant for the whole school. Of the 18 kids in the kindergarten, 10 are ESL kids. This alone I think is pretty cool: I want Frankie to be in a diverse population. However, with only 1 instructional assistant and 1 G/T teacher, I wonder if the teacher will really have any time for Frankie.

In sum, both my best expectations and my worst fears were confirmed. The teacher was so great, but... What do we do now?

Anonymous said...

Dave and Trish -

If you want a truly progressive education for Frankie, you're not going to find it in Columbus - unless you are willing to spend A LOT of money. The only schools that come close to your criteria are Wellington, The Columbus Academy, and Columbus School for Girls.

I had to chuckle when I read your concerns about "Catholic indoctrination." Indoctrination aside, Catholic schools don't have what you want. My daughter attended a parochial elementary school and is now a senior at Bishop Watterson. I think people would be amazed at how much these schools accomplish with limited resources. It wasn't until my daughter was in 7th grade that her school finally had art and music rooms - prior to that, teachers carted art supplies and keyboards from classroom to classroom. Watterson is FINALLY expanding to add much needed space for classes in art, computer technology, etcetera, but it will be too late for my child. The one thing Catholic schools do have is a sense of community, due to the HUGE amount of parental involvement.

Here's something to also keep in mind: no matter how challenging an academic environment may seem, the sad fact is that school curriculums now revolve around those damn proficency tests - which prove everything and nothing.

Good Luck in your search...All the best - Kim

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the suggestion Kim. I'm afraid it's still a bit too Catholic.

Anonymous said...

Dave -


I wasn't suggesting parochial schools at all. What I meant was, that even if religion wasn't an issue, you wouldn't want to send her to Catholic schools. They don't have the programs you're looking for.

You might have more luck in a suburban school district, but of course, you will have to pay for that education with higher taxes.

I'm afraid it all comes down to how much you are willing and able to spend for a decent education. It shouldn't be this way in America, but it is.

All the best - Kim

Anonymous said...

Oops. Didn't read quite carefully enough Kim, sorry.

I fear you might be right about the suburban public education, but I actually hear a lot of grumbling from my coworkers with kids in those systems too.

The funny thing is it would take only a few kids (maybe 5 of similar age with their parents occasionally helping out) to make the local school a potentially viable option. Instead, all the kids on the street bailed and went all over the city (I don't blame them, we may do the same). It's just kind of sad.

Anonymous said...

You might also want to check out Fifth Avenue Alternative. It is a mixture of lottery and neighborhood. Since your designated school is on the NCLB listings, you should get priority in the lottery.

Our son goes there and there are some very good teachers and some exciting programs on the horizon. They are more than glad to have parents drop in and check it out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip. I never heard of it before. We'll be looking into it. Thanks again.