Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Question for the Day

What makes a public school a good school?

As I've been researching elementary schools in Tallahassee, I've looked at so many numbers, grades, and percentages that it makes my head spin. What is it that really makes a school a good school? Some schools may not score well on State mandated tests but may turn out students who later become doctors, lawyers, or engineers -- so in choosing a school for next year, what should I really look at?

Autumn is smart and I am dedicated to making her school experience a good one and supplementing the education she gets in school - so what do you think? Does it matter where she goes?

This is open-ended and I would love to hear your thoughts! I haven't made a decision and am still collecting information at this stage.

By the way...I am not ruling out homeschooling as an option either.

7 Comments:

  1. Debs said...
    A good school depends not only on the teachers, but also on the parents and the other students in the school. Especially for younger children (in my opinion), parent involvement is key--is there a PTA? What kinds of programs are available (art, music,...), and who is helping with those programs?

    Also, the other students in the school makes a difference. Is there much diversity? (more diversity gives kids more opportunities to learn about different ideas and cultures) Are there so many students that are ESL students that most of the attention is focused on addressing their needs? Are kids who are "advanced" given opportunities for further learning, or are their needs ignored, perhaps being kept back with the rest of the class?

    In college, the quality of the in-class discussion and the quality of the questions asked depends largely on the "quality" of the students. In high school, are the students expected to finish and go to college, or do most of the students just graduate and find work? Do they talk about college and help students get into college?

    Obviously a lot of this has to do with what you value most. Good luck with your decision!
    Christopher said...
    Very cool blog, Abby! What an awesome gift to give. It must have been so fun to give it. Thanks for inviting us to your blog!

    love,
    Trish
    Lynness said...
    Hi Abby! Thanks for emailing us your blog link...great minds must think alike: I've read over half of the books on your recommended list (and will have to try out a few of the others) and am also trying to figure out what to do about Isaiah as far as starting Kindergarten. I have registered him at the local elem. school, but also have not ruled out homeschooling. (Most likely he will be going to school- my new calling will make it difficult to have him home all day) But as far as deciding about schools, I would try to contact mom's groups in the area you're moving to (the Church makes that easier, hopefully) and see what they have to say about area schools. Personally, I think that state-mandated testing and school ratings, unless scores are abysmal, are not necessarily good measurement criteria. A good education, especially at the kindergarten level, and when you are planning to supplement at home anyway, has less to do with testing scores than the individual teacher. It is teachers that make the difference when it comes to students' attitudes toward learning. I don't care how much Isaiah's kindergarten class learns about letters and reading and writing and math, etc.. We've already passed kindergarten academics on our own, and will continue to work on various things ourselves. But I do want him to get access to programs and resources we don't have at home, learn to listen to someone other than mom (since he's been at home with me for 5 years), learn to associate with his peers in larger group settings, and I want to make sure that he's excited about learning all sorts of things and knows how to go about it on his own. A student that is motivated and eager and wants to find answers and is given the tools will be always learning and excelling, no matter the school's scores.
    Abby Hanson said...
    Thanks Debs & Lynness! I'm with you guys that it's really about the teachers & the parents. And even though I've felt that way, I didn't think until reading your comments that I ought to call the schools and find out more about their Kindergarten teachers. I've already talked to a mom who's very knowledgeable about the schools in the area so I think talking to the schools will be my next step! Lynness, I love what you said about the things you want Isaiah to learn in Kindergarten - that's exactly how I feel with Autumn.
    Rachel said...
    Seriously, Abs? Do you ask a teacher this question? I've been teaching public school for the last 5 years (crazy!) and here's my opinion. I agree with Debs and the quality of student comment. I worked in Title I Schools (low income) for 3 years and now I work in a middle-upper class school. There is a huge difference! The lower income schools do not have a lot a parental involvement and the overall achievement is lower. I totally had to change the way I teach when I moved to middle-class schools. The students catch on quicker and you can push them more. If you want Autumn to be pushed I would definitely not go to a Title I school (this should be on the website). The teachers at Title I schools work harder than others but they're dealing with so many students who have home/family issues. Test scores are better in middle-class schools and it doesn't neccessarily say the teachers are better but the quality of students are and so the learning is increased.

    Charter schools are also a good option. Here, it's like public and private school and it's still free. You just have to investigate the curriculum and see if you agree. Usually behavior issues tend to be minimal because it's easier to kick kids out of Charter schools than public schools (although Charter schools may disagree).

    In my opinion, I would only homeschool as a last resort. If my child (and future ones) get into dangerous situations socially then I would consider it. I feel there's a lot learned in school that's not at home (of course things are learned that you don't want them to know either).

    I also agree with whoever said to talk to other moms out there and your ward. They've been there and they'll know what issues schools have.

    Have fun! The day Sophia goes to school will be bittersweet. (Just so you know, I wouldn't send Sophia to our public school. There's way too much overcrowding and learning doesn't happen with 40 5th graders in one classroom. I'd probably send her to the Franklin Arts Academy - Charter School.)

    It was so fun to hear about your life! I hope all goes well in the move!
    Abby Hanson said...
    Rach! I'm so glad you wrote something about this, I was hoping you would! I really really wish Autumn could go to a charter school actually - but it won't work out for this year. They've already done their "lottery" to draw names for the TWO charter schools in Tallahassee. We didn't know we were going there until well after the charter school deadline. But if she doesn't end up in a school we like for Kindergarten, we'll see if we can get her into a charter school for 1st grade.

    Thank you SO much for the info on Title 1 schools and your experience with them! I really wasn't sure how much stock to put in what I was finding with test scores but it makes a lot of sense that the schools with lower scores would have students who aren't very motivated and likely have family problems.

    Everyone'll just have to pray really hard that we get the apartment we want the most! It's in the school zone of one of the better schools in Tallahassee and I really don't want to homeschool but it'd be better than some of the schools I've been learning about. (Can you imagine? One kindergartener, one preschooler, and one toddler?!).

    By the way Rach -- I love popping into whereswares every once in awhile to check up on you guys and Sophia. What a CUTIE!
    Creative Catharsis said...
    Wow!! Your last blog--and the discussion it seems to have inspired--has got me thinking fast like a hamster on a wheel! Reed should be going to preschool in August, but I'm kind of mulling it over, a little unsure of how I feel about the whole thing. When I told a friend that I was worried because Reed is just now starting to learn to write letters, she said, "Oh, they don't expect those kids to know much of anything. [This preschool's name] is for the kind of....white trash of Cedar City." And something just caught on fire inside of me, because why DON'T they expect him to know anything? Shouldn't they ask more of our children? Well, the answer I decided on is kind of two-sided. Yes, they should ask more of our children. But we should also ask more of ourselves as parents. And this is where I am so on the same page as you, Debs, and Lynness. It is VERY much up to the parent to provide those more academic aspects of education, and we shouldn't expect the schools to pick up the entire responsibility. Man, Lynness hit the nail on the head with what she said about why she wants Isaiah to go to public school! The whole social aspect, the learning to respect other adults. So I think, Abby, that you should just find a school where you know she'll be physically safe, and where she'll have good opportunities to make friendships and have a good teacher. I agree that if she has a good teacher, it might not be so bad if the school isn't as great as it could be. And take it from a former off-and-on homeschooler....the social aspect of school will be sorely missed. There are opportunities that I'm often really sad that I missed. Okay.....I'm done. I think I used way more words than I needed to. But I was all fired up. :)

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