I lived a block away from LAUSD schools. But as I was looking for a school for my daughter, there was no way that I would send her to the same schools that failed me and most of our neighborhood kids.
Picking the right environment is important in all aspects of our lives. As adults, we strive to live in safe areas, look for job security and opportunities to improve our lives. As a Mom, I wanted the best environment when my firstborn started kIndergarten 13 years ago.
We lived in Huntington Park which is part of LAUSD. I attended LAUSD from elementary to high schools. I was not prepared for college. In my senior year, I got pregnant. Even though I was a teen mom, I knew I wanted better for my daughter. I researched elementary schools in the area. I found our neighborhood didn’t have any Blue Ribbon public schools. In fact, all of the neighborhood schools were failing schools. The reality was harsh and unfair. I found lower income communities lacked quality schools. As I researched elementary schools in Huntington Park today, the outcome was similar, no Blue Ribbon Schools.
I knew my little girl and every child deserved a winning environment. I knew that back then. I’m convinced that I made the best decisions and sacrifices for her in 2002.
What is a Blue Ribbon School? “The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program is a United States government program created in 1982 to honor schools which have achieved high levels of performance or made significant improvements in closing the achievement gap in schools where at least 40% of the student population is classified as disadvantaged.”
I share my experience in case it helps you to seek the right environment for your children.
My Options: I couldn’t afford a private school.
I looked at my neighborhood schools and all of them were in Program Improvement Status 5 that meant that they had not met the federal minimum standards under federal No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) for at least 5 years. Basically: I was surrounded by schools that were failing students.
I found the nearest decent schools were in the city of Downey which has its own school district, Downey Unified. I found that their schools were not in Program Improvement status, and their kids did well on Standardized tests and had high graduation rates. They were not a blue ribbon school. However, they had a much higher “Great Schools Ratings” than those in our community.
I made the decision. I would not enroll my daughter in LAUSD schools and my daughter would attend a school in Downey school district. I feared for my daughter. I feared that she would be in a failing school environment. I wanted better for her than what I had.
I got creative. I found a way through the support of friends and family. Daily, my mother and I would drive 7 miles each way to school. I can affirm now, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My daughter was challenged and succeeded through elementary and middle school. The schools provided great parent engagement and a supportive environment. She was motivated to learn and earned excellent grades that led her to promote as six-semester honor roll student in the eighth grade. She learned to ask for help and got tutoring when she struggled. The constant acknowledgment, communication and encouragement played important roles in her winning school environment.
A strong academic foundation was built early, which helped her overcome high school challenging times. Obviously, I don’t know how things would have turned out if she went to one of our neighborhood schools because it was not a risk I was willing to take.
If you find yourself doubting the school your child is assigned to or currently attending, I encourage you to research what options you have. Engage in daily conversation with your child and if any red flags come up, address them with the school quick. Seek communication with teachers and get involved. Get to know the in’s and outs of the school. Your child deserves the best education; this is a once in a lifetime experience.
Now, you have other options: Charter Schools There are far more options now than there were 13 years ago- specifically there are more charter schools available to us parents. Charter schools are public schools that have “charters” or contracts with local school districts. LAUSD has the most charter schools in California so there is likely one near you. You can find one with the link below.
Comadre, I’m using these websites as I research the best options for my son who is starting kindergarten next year. Maybe they can help you too.
Blue Ribbon Schools: http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr15/yr15rel74.asp
Public School Review: http://www.publicschoolreview.com/compare-schools/stateid/CA
Charter Schools: http://www.ccsa.org/schools/
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