lundi, juin 13, 2005

Where to Send Her

So, I've been having this internal debate for a long time.

Should we send TinyE to a public school or a private school?

My default setting is public school. We are committed to supporting our community and to being a part of our community. We live in St. Paul on purpose - we prefer to be in the city with its various diversities. We like being close to where we live and work (not contributing to sprawl), and we like living in older homes with mature trees and access to parks and public transportation.

With school choice, here are two things I want to point out: first, I didn't even think about private schools until I went to a school fair, and my favorite school, the one I felt would most suit TinyE, just happened to be a private, affordable, Quaker school very close to our home.

Second, we plan to pick schools divorced from private versus public. We want to select schools that we think will work best for her, visit them, and make the best decision we can. The majority of the schools we will consider will be public (I'll predict we consider 2 0r 3 private schools, tops).

Here's why I favor public schools:

Our public schools here are just fine. There are underperforming schools, and there are excellent schools, but, on the whole, our schools here are pretty darn good and will prepare a child from a supportive home for the rich world with all its options and challenges.

Our (interracial) daughter will be in a more diverse setting and will see herself as a part of a larger and varied community. I want her to know that people are wealthy and poor, have many different skin colors, have different physical and mental abilities, and come from different kinds of homes.

We have open enrollment, and she can go to any school including one of three foreign language immersion schools, math, sciences, computer or arts magnet schools, schools that promote the environment, music magnets, and so on and so on.

Our friends who are part of the public schools really liked them. Though not all have had completely positive experiences.

No tuition expense.

As a citizen in a community, I feel that if there is something in the community that could benefit from community support and attention, I should offer support and attention rather than just walk away from challenges or walk around them.

Here's why I favor private schools:

I'm concerned about the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act on curriculum. Put simply, I don't want to prepare TinyE to pass standardization exams, and I don't want her to attend a school where that is a primary or prominent academic goal. When I think about sending TinyE to a private school, this is my number one reason.

We can select a school with small classroom sizes. I have looked at three private schools, one has 15 students per class, one has 17 and the other has 18. Average classroom sizes in St. Paul Public Schools is in the mid-20s to lower 30's, and I think TinyE will do well in a small school with smaller classrooms.

I find it hard to consider the public schools divorced from my own experience as a student in them. It seems they, like the world at large, are not quite what they used to be and that the differences are for the better and for the worse. In those instances where it is worse, I'm not sure I've come to peace with it. I may just need some time to do that.

I also have this flat earth mania thing going on (which I know is completely insane). In my work, I often sit in rooms with people from all over the world. This manic side of me feels compelled to prepare our little 3.5 year old for a world where she will complete for school places and jobs and promotions and etc. against kids from anywhere. And yes, I understand that she needs to just be a kid and learn to love school and all of those things - I know the last thing she needs is pressure from Dad to be valedictorian or something or other.

The whole idiotic evolution thing. I'd just as soon dodge ignorance where I can.

I want the best for my little girl, not just good, but excellent. If a private school is the best, wel then...

Anyway, dear readers...have you made this decision for a child or two? Have you thought about it? What should I consider as I make my choice?