A couple of weeks ago I experienced one of those reality checks that woke me up from a deep sleep and onto my computer at 2:00 AM. My baby is starting kindergarten this fall and I’ve got to find a great school for him. As I was panicking, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I have done all of this once before. I made wise choices for my daughter 13 years ago, and now I get opportunity to use my experience to make better decisions for my son.
The following days after my panic, I started my research, and I realized there are a couple of great public schools in my neighborhood this time around. It is a bitter-sweet reality. We no longer live in the neighborhood my daughter and I grew up in. This is when my heart was torn. I realized not all kids will have the easy access options my son has; he has access two Blue Ribbon public schools. I wish all neighborhoods had these options.
As Parents in Los Angeles, We Have Options Now The great news is you do have options as parent. The key is to start your research early and be persistent in finding what your child deserves. Do not settle.
When I reached out to some of my comadres for school recommendations, they asked why I was planning on enrolling now. They reminded me the school year starts in September, and it is only February. I quickly explained I wanted to be ahead of the game and have options to choose from.
I found information about our neighborhood schools and charter schools- which are public schools that are contracted with LAUSD but managed differently than LAUSD. These charter schools are open to everyone but you if they have more students applying for the school than there are seats, they have to go into a lottery. I found out some Charter Schools such as KIPP LA, started giving out interest packets/applications last year in October and although most the deadlines are over, there are a few that are due the first week of March. Their lottery dates vary and I want to make sure I still have time to apply to the one I am considering. And, I learned that you can always be put on a waitlist which still gives you a chance to get in to that school.
After I told them what I learned, my friends understood I was on the right track.
If you have a child starting a new school this coming September, I encourage you to start researching what the best options for your child are now. In case of you were unaware, the date cutoff for Kindergarten changed some time ago. If your child is born after September 2nd through December 2nd of 2011, he/she will be eligible for transitional kindergarten (TK) and not Kindergarten. I did not know of this change until recently.
Starting your research now allows you to research your neighborhood schools. If they don’t fit your needs, you don’t have to send your children there. We can’t settle on this quest. We have options as parents and we have rights. As Comadres, we are here to help you. Let us know if you need advice.
Here are some of the websites that helped me consider my public school choices:
I found myself comparing neighborhood schools on: www.greatschools.org. This website provides a ranking and reviews and you are also able to compare.
Another website I have found helpful is www.publicschoolreview.com/ It allows you filter by Blue ribbon schools and you can sort by distance and district. Comparing the schools of interest can be done quickly.
If you are interested in learning more about KIPP visit their website for more information: http://www.kippla.org/
You can find more information about other local charters here: http://www.ccsa.org/schools/index.html?location=&school-name=
Learn more about transitional kinder or TK: http://www.tkcalifornia.org/
Questions to think about before contacting a school:
- Will my child start TK or regular kindergarten?
- What is my my child’s learning style? Independant or social?
- Is my child shy or very social?
- Does my child have special skills in any particular subjects?
- Where does she need extra help or support?
- Environment: Where will he fit best? Highly structured environment or something more open and flexible?
- Most importantly, what kind of school will work both for me and my child?
- You have rights to enroll your child near your job as well as near your home. You might have to jump through some hoops but you can.
- You also have the right to request a transfer to another school if your neighborhood school is considered a failing.
Questions to ask of the school staff:
- Does the school have Two-Way Language Immersion?
- What are their Parent engagement programs?
- What is the Teacher to student ratio and how many students in the classes? (Studies have shown that younger children learn best with class sizes of 17 or under)
- Does the school have a particular philosophy or educational approach? Some philosophies are play-based in the early grades, introduce reading and math earlier than others.
- How balanced is the curriculum? I look for a balance in all the three A’s: academics, athletics, and the arts in a three-part program.
Above all, remember you are your child’d best advocate. Act like you’re their attorney. You must advocate for them and remember you have the power to choose.
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