After researching my neighborhood schools on GreatSchools and on the California School Dashboard, would I be excited to learn that my son was going to attend a low-quality school with an overall rating of 4 or 5? Absolutely not. It’s actually depressing to think of sending your child to what you would consider a subpar school compared to schools outside of your neighborhood or district.
Why should any parent be okay with it? I attended schools with extremely low rankings as a child and as an adolescent, and I also lived in underserved cities my entire childhood. And sadly these two correlate, bad city bad school, nice city nice schools. We call it free public education, but we’re actually paying for the quality of the schools that we attend by the price tag on the home that we can afford.
My son will be starting Kindergarten this year. It’s a bittersweet part between you and your little one on that first day of school, but knowing you are leaving your child at a low performing school can make matters even worse.
I have been following schools in my neighborhood for the last 2-3 years. I periodically check in on the 3-4 schools I’m eyeing to see if their rating or anything else changes about them from year to year and nothing has. I began early on something I already knew I wanted for my son, a quality school for when the time came because time passes and a lot of our good intentions go to waste if we don’t act on them. It did feel funny having a 2-year-old and researching elementary schools, but it also felt right. I have a 20-year-old daughter, and I learned a lot about parent advocacy and about not putting off for tomorrow what can benefit your child today. And now the year has come and thankfully, I’m feeling confident about the schools that I have followed and are in the running.
Are these schools in my neighborhood? No, we missed the elementary schools that scored 9 and 10 on overall school quality by just a few blocks. This means that if I’d let it be (if school choice was non-existent), my son would attend an elementary school with an overall quality rating of 6. We live in the same city as the schools that scored 9 and 10 but we are assigned to lower quality schools. (Not to say that there can’t be amazing teachers at those schools). But as I was saying to a friend recently, “The overall environment of the school matters a great deal to me.” This is the reason I’m opting to send my son to a school outside our neighborhood. This is why school choice is so important to so many families just like mine. Families who are simply seeking the best quality education for their children.
This whole process is scary and a bit frustrating and overwhelming at times. But it needs to be done and it needs to be done right if I want to start my son off with a great school that will challenge him, help him grow, and prepares him for the next phase of his life. And I’m also ready to partner with a great school to help in my son’s educational journey.
Monica Luna Gonzalez
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