Investing in Public School

by This is Carrie on March 22, 2011

It’s that time of the year again for me to republish my piece on our choice to place our children in our local (failing) public school.  It’s one of the few subjects I will devote more than just a few sentences.

“If You Care About Your Child’s Education, Don’t Send Them to Public School“

When it was time to enroll our oldest daughter in Kindergarten, the loudest buzz in my town was saying “don’t even think about sending her to public school”. This was not a premise I was willing to accept without some personal research. With a little persistence, I found a small but determined group of amazing parents who were working hard to rebuild the public school system’s bad reputation and replace it with hope. They strongly advocated parent and community involvement in the schools. They also encouraged parents who were deciding where to send their kids to school not to base their decision solely on the “talk” regarding public schools or the greatschools.com rating or test scores, but invited them to actually step inside the public schools (including their neighborhood school) before making the final decision.

When I followed that advice and began touring various schools, I had the opportunity to talk to teachers, principals other parents with children attending public school, and I decided public school was the only way for us. I mentioned it briefly before, but Princess now attends our local public elementary school–a school that from the outside, does not have a good reputation or test scores and it gets only 4 out of 10 stars on “greatschools.com”. In fact, when people find out where she goes to school, I get one of two responses – either “so sorry you didn’t find out how bad that school is before you enrolled” or just a stare of complete shock. No one actually believes we made an informed choice to send her there. While it’s true her school is struggling in some ways, we have found a whole community of parents who truly care about their children and have only been impressed with the teachers, principal and the education Princess has received so far.

And so, I have become a huge proponent of public schools — even the struggling ones with poor test scores. I do not believe that we have made any extraordinary sacrifice in the quality of our daughter’s education (in fact, there have been countless unexpected benefits she and our family have realized by attending our neighborhood school). I truly believe that making an investment in the local school is an important investment in our community’s future. I often hear people lament the current state of our communities (I hear the world is going to hell in a hand basket, you know). But it seems to me that sending our children to public school and then getting involved in their education is an easy way to contribute not only to your own child’s education, but also to help other children who may not have the same opportunities in their home as our children do.

I don’t mean this post to pressure or guilt anyone into making the same choice we did (okay, maybe a little pressure wouldn’t be bad). I realize each family has different circumstances to deal with when making education choices for their children. But, with Kindergarten registration going on all over the country, I challenge all parents out there to actually step into your local public school. Sit through a class, talk with the teachers, and speak to the principal about your honest concerns. You may be surprised. But at the very least, you will be starting a dialogue that will help bring hope to the public schools, instead of simply smearing them with a “lost cause” mentality. I also think these discussions can help you sort through your ideas of what a “good education” means to you and your family.

You may even realize you have the time, energy, resources and desire to invest in a not-so-perfect school, recognizing that even the modest efforts of individual parents will go much further toward fixing our public schools than waiting for the government to get the schools back on track.

2011 update: My oldest is now in third grade and my second child is in Kindergarten.  Because of continued low test scores, our school got bumped into the “School Improvement” program under the No Child Left Behind Act two years ago.  Still, we have never once regretted our choice to send them there.  The average test scores of the school (if you care about test scores) do not represent my own children’s scores not what they have learned from their excellent teachers.  They are both thriving socially and educationally to say the least.

Does our school have problems? Of course.  I believe all schools have problems (though many problems aren’t as easily broken down into numbers and graphs). The open dialogue I’ve created with teachers and administrators has resulted in solutions to many of my concerns.  I’ve also learned not to underestimate the ability of my children to learn, grow and succeed under imperfect circumstances.

Do I put in a lot of time at the school? Yes. But I’ve found so much joy and satisfaction knowing my time is going towards helping my children and 500+ more.  To paraphrase Ghandi, “I am trying to be the change I’d like to see in my public school”.

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen Allen March 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Carrie: I just wanted to thank you for posting this. We live in WI. Our state is embroiled in a huge debate over public employees and the venom we have heard spewed at our public employees (especially teachers) has been very hurtful. My dh teaches in the 3rd largest district in the state and we live in the 4th largest. My two third-graders attend public school (proudly)… Our districts (they neighbor each other) have all the problems (but also all the successes) you’d expect in large, urban, diverse districts. Bless you for realizing that teachers like my dh cares about his students’ lives, their education and their futures…

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MelanieO March 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm

My husband & I discussed this a bit a few weeks ago. We will be moving in a year & we were talking about how difficult it is to determine what is a “good” school. The school my daughters currently attend is a pretty good school with low test scores. It is not a bad school for my girls. When it comes to deciding if a school is good or not there is no good way to determine so except by the methods you’ve described. Although, when they get to middle school and high school, sometimes there’s a safety factor that needs consideration. Children can’t learn properly when they fear for their safety. But there really are many, many good grade schools, even in some of the “worst” districts. What makes a school “fail” is so often out of the hands of the school, so that cannot be the only determination.

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Jayna Rae March 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I can completely understand your perspective. I know schooling is a difficult choice. I can say, as a former teacher, that most schools do have teachers who are good and care. There are students who succeed. However, I am actually not going to send my boys to our local school. They will attend a nearby charter school. The local teacher/student ratios are unacceptable. Also, we are more concerned with the other students who attend our local campus because we live in an area populated by many gang members who moved from Los Angeles.

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This is Carrie
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Because of CA state budget cute we have the same terrible teacher/student ratio. But, our school has worked hard (and continues to work) to find creative solutions for changing that ration. While parent involvement is low at our school, we have found amazing students from the local university, grandmas and grandpa’s from the local synagogue and other community members to come in a volunteer on a regular basis. These are things that you would not see by just looking at the numbers or listening to the dismal reports on the public school system.

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Allison March 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I live in Riverside and love our public school. My philosophy has always been that we will go there until we have a good reason to leave. So far, I have liked our teachers and next year my twins will start a dual immersion Spanish program that I am very excited about.

I am just not starting to get more involved since my younger kids will be entering school, but I admire your involvement in your school even with younger kids. I want to be more like that!!

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Nichole March 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I really appreciate your words! We are going through the process of choosing a school for our boys, (actually we are touring the public school tomorrow) and it feels like such a huge decision!

I guess my biggest concerns are will my boys be “behind” where they would be if they went to a private school? and if they do go to a private school will they then inturn miss out on other oportunities bc we wouldn’t be able to afford them after tuition?

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Allison Reply:

@Nichole – I respect your feelings, just wanted to address your question.

This is only my opinion, but I believe private and charter schools are only better because of who can afford them and because the parents are obviously involved since they made the decision to attend. In public school, test scores are dragged down by students without that type of support at home.

Your kids will not be behind, because YOU are a good, involved, intelligent parent. Sure, the overall schools test scores might be low, but I honestly believe that has no effect on your kids performance and their ability to be ahead/behind in school.

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Allison Reply:

Whoops, and the other question – “and if they do go to a private school will they then in turn miss out on other opportunities bc we wouldn’t be able to afford them after tuition.”

I also believe you can supplement public school with enriching activities, tutoring, etc. So I would say it can work either way. Either you can spend all the money on tuition, or you can do public school and make up the difference with reading programs, piano lessons, math camps, etc.

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This is Carrie
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Your worries are shared by so many parents. I felt the same way when my oldest was entering grade school. The first concern is a fear that is often exaggerated by people who don’t actually know what is going on in their local school. You definitely have to do your own research and come to your own conclusion. Multiple visits, meetings, & many questions to your local public school have to be part of the process. Also being honest about what you have to contribute to the school in terms of time, talents, money and other resources also should be in the equation as well as what you are able to offer your children outside of school education.

But, online research and gathering info from other parents in the community (who have decided not to send their kids to that certain school) is what many people rely on.

While curriculum at public and private schools is different, I can tell you that two families on our cul de sac send their kids to some of the “best” private schools around. If you compare kids, mine are definitely behind. Not in the slightest.

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Sarah M. March 22, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Thank you for sharing this! I have this battle with others on whether or not we homeschool. I have received the “Oh, you must not love you kids or care about their education enough” line more than once. I truly believe in public schools. We are fortunate that the school that we are in the district for has a great track record. I am able to help in each of my girls’ classes twice a month and have enjoyed getting to know all of their classmates and their teachers. I feel like I have a better idea of what goes on by being able to help. I look forward to Thursdays! I have the same desire as you to truly make a difference in our school, one day at a time. ☺

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This is Carrie
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“Oh, you must not love you kids or care about their education enough”

Glad I’m not the only one who’s heard this! :) Keep up the good work.

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Sarah M. Reply:

You and me both. Heehee. Thank you, Carrie! ☺

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Julie
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March 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm

My son goes to public school and we have had no problems. No matter what the school scores are, or the grade the school is, you always have to have parent involvement. Because I’m involved I get more information ahead of time about school events, etc. Knowledge is power.

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LobotoME March 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Love this post! And I totally agree…I was apprehensive at first when enrolling our daughter but we went and had a tour and had such a warm welcome that it made a world of difference. Of course, they have funding problems and things aren’t perfect but we have implemented amazing programs – a school garden, healthier food in the cafeteria, fundraising programs, etc. Involved families make a world of difference in my opinion.

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This is Carrie
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I am so glad you saw the potential in an unideal educational situation. What you have been able to implement is awesome! We are working on all the same things. It takes time and patience, but it’s well worth the effort for all the children involved.

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Kristen Howerton
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March 22, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Amen! I know so many amazing teachers who work in low-testing schools. We have had a great experience in public school so far.

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jonita mortensen March 22, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Well said, and well done. You walk the talk and that says everything about the success of your children.

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Kristina L March 22, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I too am a firm believer that test scores do not accurately measure learning. I work in our local school and see amazing evidence of learning, creativity, and intellectual curiosity every day, despite our school’s “at risk” rating.

Poor nutrition, stress at home, lack of parent effort (i.e. not putting children to bed at a decent time the night before testing), and a lack of familiarity with test-taking methods (they’re taken on the computer) all adversely affect children’s test scores, even if they are familiar and competent with the tested content.

I appreciate that your involvement in the school benefits many children, not just your own. You are making a difference in the big picture, even if it’s not always so visible right now.

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This is Carrie
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You have pinpointed many of the situations you can find at our school that effect the test scores. It’s only when you enter the school and really get involved that you see the “evidence of learning, creativity, and intellectual curiosity” that occurs.

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Kristen March 22, 2011 at 6:03 pm

LOVE this. As a former public school teacher and a mama of two (soon to be three) public schoolers I say AMEN! Investing in our children’s future is more than the money we can spend on private schools!

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siobhan March 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm

see, our root problem was never with the teachers… it was the disinterested and uninvolved parents. they didn’t create an environment we felt comfortable sending our kids into, despite looking at schools in three different districts (ours, our parents’, and the one my teacher sister worked in).

instead, we chose a small parochial school. it’s a financial sacrifice, but we wouldn’t have it any other way (and we’re not even catholic!). it’s a pre-k through 8th school with about 160, for an average of 16 kids to a class. we feel our over-achiever gets the challenges she needs (the top-performing elementary school we visited actually said, “we’ll put her in the corner with extra worksheets while we take care of the troublemakers!”) and our extra-sensitive one gets the attention she needs.

we’re require to volunteer 60 hours a year, which creates a great environment and relationships between the parents, teachers, and kids. i’d LOVE to save hundred of dollars each month, but we can’t allow our kids to suffer for the sake of trying to improve our dismal local school system. it’s hard watching friend’s put in the same effort we do without experiencing the same joys and benefits. i wish our district were as good as yours must be!

that said, our kids will likely go to the local charter school for high school. not a regular ol’ public school, but not private, either. it’s another school with high parent involvement, which makes such a difference.

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This is Carrie
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I am so glad you have found a situation that works for your family because you are right, parental involvement makes a HUGE difference. But, you are assuming a lot of things about our school.

When my daughter started at the school 3 1/2 years ago, parent involvement at the school was very poor. For too long the tradition, culture and expectation of parent involvement did not exist, but I believe that is something that can be changed starting with just a few dedicated and patient parents. I have witnessed it first-hand at our school. It is a process that takes time and is often hard and frustrating, but there will not be many children who truly suffer while the new traditions and expectations are taking root.

I do want to address your school’s ridiculous response regarding your high-achieving child (“we’ll put her in the corner with extra worksheets while we take care of the troublemakers!”) not so much for you, but to use it as an example for parents just entering in this crazy educational system. Schools need to be held accountable. Teachers and Principals need to be held accountable even in difficult circumstances. If I had a teacher say this to me at my school, I would be more than appalled. I would let them know their solution was completely unacceptable. Hopefully, working together, we could find a solution that we both could agree on and implement. When Teachers and staff know you are truly invested in the success of the school (and not just your own child), problems can be more effectively and efficiently. You then become an effective educational advocate and not just a bitchy parent (and I’m not calling siobhan “bitchy”. She is a lovely, lovely woman. Once again, this is just a little piece of advice for parents of young children entering into the educational world).

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Kathy (aka Eunice) March 22, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Amen! You don’t know me but I’ve been following your blog for a couple of months. I was a public school teacher in the inner city for 14 years. We had amazing teachers who were extremely dedicated but alas, it was never reflected in our test scores. We were always at the bottom of the heap. The kids were capable of learning but a lot of them had language issues and tough lives. Additionally, many of their parents didn’t know how to be advocates for them. It would’ve been so great to have parents like you in our school to be advocates for all the children and their education. If anyone is looking for a way to serve the community, this would be a phenomenal way to make a huge difference!

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Tasha March 22, 2011 at 7:17 pm

I couldn’t agree more. Truly. Thank you for the post and what you have said. You are amazing.

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Kristen March 22, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I totally agree. Thanks for taking the time to write this. It is somethign everyone should think about. My personal opinion, test scores don’t say everything. Public school is way misunderstood.

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Elizabeth Esther March 23, 2011 at 6:22 am

Carrie:
You are such an inspiration! Thank you for your commitment, dedication and involvement. I *love* this post and think you are a shining example of the kind parent more schools need. Thank you for being the change in this world.
XO,
EE

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carey March 23, 2011 at 9:16 am

Thank you for the reminder that “failing” schools don’t necessarily have bad teachers. There are a whole host of reasons that a school can be “failing,” and lack of parent involvement and community support can be a huge contribution to that status. Low test scores can be discouraging, or you can choose to feel inspired to do something about it. With my daughter starting Kindergarten next year, I am excited to get involved and work with other parents and the community to see what we can do to help improve our schools.

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This is Carrie
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Good luck next year Carey! I’m eager to hear about your experience.

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Gail March 23, 2011 at 10:02 am

This is a fabulous post. When my son (now a h.s. sophmore) was in first grade we put him in private school (much to my dismay). My husband bought in to the “public schools are bad” rhetoric and was convinced that my son would receive a much better education in private. I, on the other hand was firmly on the side of public, but was willing to give private a try, if only to appease my husband. I won’t say that my son did not learn very important skills in private. The downside was not about the education. It was his social and emotional spirit that suffered. The rigid structure did not fit in well with my son’s personality, and I found the teachers to be inflexible and the parents to be standoffish. My husband quickly decided that maybe we needed to give public a try. We did look for a “good” public school, checking API scores and such, and both my son and my daughter (a first grader) are doing great. However, I want to say that the API score of a school means nothing. Although we looked for a high performing school, our children have flourished because we as parents have been involved in their education every step of the way. I firmly believe that the parent’s level of involvement is the best indicator of a child’s academic success. Too often I come across parents who think that their responsibility, in terms of their child’s education, begins and ends by taking them to school every day. We, as parents, have to do more if we expect our children to succeed.

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Hillary March 23, 2011 at 10:51 am

Bless you for standing up for your children and their education! Very inspiring! I love that Gandhi quote too. Very nice touch!

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Brittany March 23, 2011 at 11:15 am

I love it when parents get involved in their kids’ education. Sometimes I envy the free time I imagine other mothers have when they send their kids off to school and leave it at that. But their education is important enough to me that I’m going to give them my time. The nice thing about what you do is that when you give your time to your kids’ education you helps other kids with theirs, too. That’s one thing that doesn’t happen naturally by homeschooling my kids. But I believe we (my kids and I) can help people out in other ways, at least, and even make it a part of our curriculum. (That’s one of the beauties of homeschool–I can teach them whatever I want!)

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This is Carrie
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Oh Brittany. I love you, but when you say “But their education is important enough to me that I’m going to give them my time”, you come so close to making an assumption that I, as a public-schooler, just hate. I’m sure you didn’t mean to do it, but I’m going to address it anyway, because I think it’s an important point to make.

Assuming that public school parents choose public school because they don’t care enough about their child’s education to put in the extra time of homeschooling or the extra money of private schooling is erroneous and annoying.

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Brittany Reply:

I can see how that would be annoying. You’re right that I didn’t mean it that way. When I said that at the beginning of my comment I wasn’t really talking about homeschooling exclusively. I was talking about parents getting involved in their kids education in any setting. Like spending time to volunteer in the classroom, do PTA and school fairs and fund raisers and all that, and of course to carefully make a decision regarding where to send the kids. I suppose I should be more careful because I don’t really know what it’s like to be or to have a public school parent, as I was homeschooled until college and I’ve only ever homeschooled my kids (my oldest is Kindergarten age). I’m not saying stay-at-home parents sit around watching soap operas all day. But I do assume they have more time for sewing, reading, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, etc. When I wrote my comment I was perhaps presumptuously grouping myself with anyone, like you, who sacrifices a substantial amount of that time for their kids’ education. Perhaps there’s no one outside of that group and so what I wrote is irrelevant (and naive). My purpose was just to express my admiration for attentive parents. I look at my mom and all the time and effort she sacrificed for me–in general as a mother raising me and specifically as my school teacher– and I’m just in awe. I’m sorry if I offended you or anyone.

To move on… I’m curious. Are you planning to extend your public school investment by encouraging your kids to attend a public college/university as well?

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Todd March 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Carrie usually bans me (her DH) from commenting on these types of posts, but I had to respond to one comment:

“we can’t allow our kids to suffer for the sake of trying to improve our dismal local school system”

I think it’s just wrong that kids who attend public schools suffer, but I have a larger, perhaps more controversial, point: we *should* be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of improving our local public schools. We have a moral obligation to the communities in which we live to ensure that those who cannot afford private schooling have great opportunities to learn. The absolute best way to meet that obligation is for involved parents to choose to keep their kids in the public schools. If that means our children end up attending UCLA instead of Harvard (and I’m not convinced that’s the necessary outcome), that’s a sacrifice we ought to be willing to make.

Too often we overestimate the supposed negative impact public school will have on our children, and underestimate the positive impact our children can have on the public schools and the community at large.

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linsey Reply:

No, I think Siobhan’s overall comment is right. Her responsibility is for her children first. There are certain necessary sacrifices one must make but in this case her children’s education isn’t one of them. Considering these kids are away from home for 6 hrs a day 5 days week the parents must feel comfortable and confident where they send them. She sounds like a very caring and involved mother and that in return will produce children who are caring and involved. So the community will ultimately benefit.

“we *should* be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of improving our local public schools.”

And, um, no we *shouldn’t*…for the sake of our children.

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Todd Reply:

Our responsibilities may start with our own children, but they don’t end there. And I don’t think those responsibilities extend to ensuring that they get into Ivy League colleges, regardless of the consequences our decisions have on poorer children in our communities.

To be clear, I am not impugning the character or motives of any parent who currently chooses to homeschool or to send their kids to private school. But I am suggesting that we challenge the all-too-easy assumption that our kids somehow deserve the absolute, very best, regardless of the cost that might impose on others.

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This is Carrie
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Hi Honey *wave*,

I never banned you from commenting. I just think you being a lawyer makes you kind of an unfair arguing opponent.

We have chosen to sacrifice the “ideal” school education for our children right now in favor of the opportunity to create a more ideal school education for our community over the coming years. In the end, it was an easy decision to make because we honestly believe our children do not need an ideal situation at school to grow up to be happy, healthy, smart, successful, and compassionate members of society. They have parents who care about them & work to provide all sorts of educational experiences, a safe home where were learning beyond the classroom takes place, a church community who are also invested in their future, and so many other resources at their fingertips.

When my youngest son attends our local school many years down the road, I am confident it will be a better school than it is today because it is a better school than it was three years ago when we started there. Will my son be smarter and more successful than his older sisters? I don’t think it will really make a difference, but a better school in our community will make a difference to hundreds of other students who walk through the doors who aren’t lucky enough to have the same support system and resources our children have.

linsey Reply:

“Our responsibilities may start with our own children, but they don’t end there.”

Ouch! No one said that. Is that what they taught you in law school? ;) I kid because it seems as though certain comments are being twisted around, or assumptions are being made. I don’t know? But if you go back and look at Siobhans comment you’ll find it is a mother making what she feels is the best for her family. She has two daughters who have different needs that need to be addressed. She found a school she feels confident about. That is awesome! See? Simple.

Now, having worked in the Placentia-Yorba Linda school district and my sister-in-law currently working in the Newport-Mesa school district we talk education ALOT. We have talked test scores and we both know they are not an indicator of how “good” the school is nor is it a true representation of the education each child is recieving.
I am now on the parenting side of this issue, no longer a paid educator, so I can respect all the various comments made. And I love that we all agree that parental involvement is the main ingredient to raising smart and sound kids. The best I want for my kids has absolutely nothing to do with test scores or some swanky university.

*this comment brought to you by a sleep deprived,one-handed-typing nursing mom. sorry for the typo/bad grammar/rambling.

lynnette Hoffman March 24, 2011 at 10:19 am

Hi there, I am a chronic blog lurker, who incidentally, is single without kids, and doesn’t sew (I do, however, mountain bike) :) . I have no idea how I even found this blog, but this post, and in particular, Todd’s two comments, really struck a chord with me… I completely agree, and although my issue de jour is public health/health care, mainly because I’ve been writing about it for the better part of a decade, I believe the same issues apply. When you empower/improve/raise the socio economic status of a community, the entire community benefits in the long run. There is tons of epidimiological research globally to support this, but too often we forget that, and focus only on our immediate short-term best self-interests. As someone else said, Carrie, thanks for being an inspiration to pay it forward on a wider level. :)

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MelanieO March 24, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Okay, I have to admit I’m confused. How/when did sending children to public school become a sacrifice or sacrificing them or something? I simply don’t get it. I hate to bring up “back in the day”, but seriously, “back in the day” I went to a high school that I hear nowadays no self-respecting parent would send his or her children to. (Back In The Day = mid 1980s). Were there “test scores” way back then? Did my parents know they were sacrificing me, or whatever? Did people just send their kids to school and expect them to do the best they could and understand that some children will be high achievers, some middle and some low? Somewhere along the way did the parents of high achievers decide they shouldn’t be in school with the middle and low achievers? Is that what happened? Because I’m SO confused. I know you’re not tackling the “why” but I guess I’m just curious as to what happened.

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Todd Reply:

MelanieO,

I accept that there are some elite private schools out there that provide their students a “better” education (in some sense) than the public school, if for no other reason than that those schools get to pick and choose their students and can force misbehaving students to leave. So (again in some sense), if you choose to send your children to public school rather than those private schools, you are “sacrificing” something.

But your overall point (to the extent you were making one as opposed to just asking questions) is a good one. I am a proud product of the public school system, went to a good college, and then did just fine at a top tier law school. I don’t think I really sacrificed anything (at least anything important) by attending public school.

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Teacher's Pet March 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

As a teacher in a school in a “failing school” I really appreciate your post. If more parents took the time to keep an open mind and consider what they have right in their neighborhood, then we may not be in the position we are in. We have very little parent involvement. With more parents like you, it would surely make my job little easier. Thank you for taking the time to consider your public school and recognize that while there are some major education issues going on in our country, you have found a diamond in the rough.

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Corrina
Twitter:
March 24, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I think this is a great post! We chose to send our daughter one neighborhood over to a school with more parental involvement…but had she not gotten in at that school (lottery), I have no doubt she would have learned just as much at the school down the street. this was so well written.

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Don March 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Having taught at both public (alternative (students on the verge of dropping out) and traditional) and private schools, I would argue that there is little to distinguish the 2 in terms of teacher quality. I would then up the ante to say that private schools stress content over pedagogy so that students succeed in the standardized test arena. However, empathy and compassion is lost at the altar of competition. Public school teachers are better trained to be teachers but may lack the advanced degrees which private school parents demand. The cultural diversity aspects present in public schools are not replicated in private schools. Sure public schools can be “rougher” but that is reality. I now teach education (or help educate future educators) at the college level. Their enthusiasm and passion is tremendous….95% will end up in your public schools to be there for your children…

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Megan March 24, 2011 at 9:47 pm

I love that you posted this. I think perhaps what I loved most about it was in the first part, when you talked about “not accepting a premise without research” or something to that effect. I think that so many parents don’t take as much time as they should to researching it out for themselves. Whatever choice you make, you have to be able to stand by it by knowing that you knew your options. My children go to public school. We made that choice as parents. In spite of all that is upsetting about public schools. We felt that no matter where our children went to school, they would get supplemented learning from us.

Unfortunately, I think that far too many parents think that sending their children to school means they are off the hook as far as their education goes. No matter what curriculum you follow, whatever school your children attend, whatever choices you make, as parents you have to be willing to supplement. Whether this means helping with homework, establishing your own home-school curriculum, working with them in their classroom, or being an advocate for your child within the school systems, you HAVE to play an active part. I don’t know if I have ever heard someone approach it quite this way…supporting public schools for the sake of the community. Bravo!

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Beth March 25, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Carrie – I don’t know if I ever told you how much I hear your voice (or the “voice” of this post when first posted once upon a time at Tales) when dealing with Tyler and school. I, too, heard a lot of discouraging things about our school district, but I remembered what you said about visiting the school, meeting teachers, getting involved. That’s what we did and I’m so glad we did. I love his school. I love his teacher, principal. The parents and families. We are so lucky. To think so many overlook this school b/c it’s public or in a “bad” school system. Can I link to your post, on my blog or fb? I just love all these thoughts and couldn’t have said it better myself!

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MelanieO March 26, 2011 at 6:27 am

I am back again to add one more point. Here in Wisconsin we have a new ruling party that has a belief that private education is better than public. They are doing what they can to de-fund the public system and encourage private schools to take over. Here’s a link to a discussion with our current school superintendent who believes this is also true: http://greenfield.patch.com/articles/superintendents-presentation-should-be-an-eye-opener

If we keep pulling the kids with parents who care out of the public school system, will we end up with no public school system? We may see the city of Milwaukee as a test of this theory. Currently, parents in Milwaukee have 3 ways of removing children from Milwaukee Public Schools: open enroll into another district (Wisconsin has very liberal open enrollment rules), the Chapter 220 program (allows minority students to enroll in majority white schools, in or out of district), and the voucher program (allows low income children to use a voucher from the state to attend private school). This has caused a mass exodus of children from the MPS system. Now middle income children will be added to the voucher system because the governor says “private education is cheaper for the state than public”. He is paving the way to elimination of public schools. I can only wonder at what will happen next.

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Todd Reply:

If a voucher program actually gave low income families enough money to attend private school with students from middle and upper income families, then that program would essentially turn those private schools into public schools (a type of experimentation that I would not be totally against; it would basically farm out administrative costs away from government control). But I’ve never seen a voucher program that actually provided low income families an equal educational opportunity. Any voucher program that allows middle and upper income families even better opportunities than they already have ought to be opposed.

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Kathie Reply:

“If a voucher program actually gave low income families enough money to attend private school with students from middle and upper income families, then that program would essentially turn those private schools into public schools.”

Yes! That is exactly what would occur. You read my thoughts as I read that post.

I am POSITIVE that parent and community involvement and participation in public schools is the key making a positive difference in the public school environment.

I have five children ages 25 to 5. Although I attended private school throughout my childhood, I opted to put my own children in public school (much to my mother’s dismay!) It was the best decision I could have made. I got involved. Whether it was “Room Mom”, helping in the library, selling concessions at sporting events, organizing fundraisers, correcting papers – it didn’t matter what I did, just the fact that I did it made a difference. My children were proud that I was there and they were, in turn, somehow motivated by my involvement. They also knew they couldn’t pull anything over on me because I knew the real deal. :)

My oldest (and only daughter) graduated last year with an Architecture degree from Cal Poly SLO. She got through college with the help of financial aid, student loans and by working part-time. My son graduated from UCLA and is currently getting his Masters Degree in BioMedical Engineering at Cal Poly SLO. He, too, got through school with financial aid, student loans, and earned money by tutoring other students.

My fourth grader started this school year with straight-A’s. Last year my husband (an airline pilot) was severely injured in an airplane accident and his health has declined (no thanks to the Workers’ Comp system, but that’s another huge can of worms!) In any case, I’ve devoted much of my time caring for him and I’ve just recently realized that our son has internalized his worries since his dad’s accident. Last week he lost a tooth and left a note under his pillow to the ToothFairy that said “We are very poor. Thank you for your generosity.” It broke my heart and have since continued to reassure him! And I made a promise to myself to refocus, despite the devastation of my husband’s injuries.

During our teacher/parent conference yesterday we found that his grades have fallen from A’s to B’s across the board, even though he’s reading at the 7th/8th grade level! So it really goes to show that a very capable kid may not achieve to his potential when outside stressors are at play. Conversely, a child with a difficult time learning may benefit tremendously by having some extra tutoring by “classroom helpers” who could be parents, grandparents, or even local college students if those resources are available. Stay in touch with your child’s teacher and ask how you can help.

Test scores don’t really mean much…there is much more under the surface that can’t be seen or measured. I learned in a college economics class that “statistics lie”.

Students lives can be forever changed by parents and others getting involved in their public school in any way they can, no matter how small. Accept the challenge and never, ever, ever, ever give up. That, in itself, is a life lesson that will stay with your child long beyond graduation.

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Banana April 20, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I appreciate your point of view. I was homeschooled as a child, but now we send our 6yr old daughter to the local public school. Our public school is exceptional, however we still considered all the schooling options before making a decision. And we reassess our children’s schooling needs each year to make sure they are getting what they need (sometimes completely different from what I had planned). We have had to work through some problems, but over all I have been very happy with our choice of public school.
We will be moving to California in the next few years (AF Reserves), and I had planned NOT to send my kids to the public schools there because of the curriculum, however after reading this I think I will add it back to our list of options to consider. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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Banana April 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Also, we have let our 6yr old daughter ride the bus too (horror!). I love that we are part of the community, and that she knows all of the kids in our neighborhood. With three younger children I would have a hard time dropping off and picking up each day if we didn’t have the bus system. We have had a wonderful experience, and I have only good things to say about it!

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Laura September 1, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Funny…. I never looked up our school. I always hear what a great school district I am in. I looked up our school now, and it has 4 out of 10 stars, yet the reviews of people is 5 out of 5 stars. I have been very happy with my school. In fact, I probably like it better than I would a 10 out of 10 school, as they are probably focused way too much on getting the grade, and not on enriching a childs life. That to me, is much more important than having the best test scores!

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Florida March 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Firstly, if the debt settlement process drags on for a long time, the debtor’s credit score will be really badly affected. The more professional your service provider is, the more you can get your amount deducted to. Perhaps special attention could be paid to that investigation process as well.

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Alecia September 9, 2013 at 6:33 am

Carrie,

I came here after seeing your comment on Design Mom’s recent post about public education. After also reading your post above, I just want to give you a great big hug!!! Our family is in a very similar situation where we send our girls to a local public school with low test scores. They are racial minorities. The poverty level of many of the students and families is very saddening. To top it off, we live in the Deep South, where racial tensions still tend to be very high. People think we are crazy, but we are happy with the decision. Our kids have gotten a really great education there. The school is small, so there is lots of individual attention. I too was PTA President last year, and it was so incredibly rewarding to be able to make a *huge* difference in the school, as opposed to my friends who join their schools’ very established PTAs that, honestly, have more help than they need.

I haven’t had my coffee yet, so I apologize if this is incoherent, but I just wanted to say that there are others out there who feel the same way. Sometimes we all need that validation to know that the difficult choices we are making aren’t bad ones. I hope you’ll continue to write about your experience with the school system. Next year we are getting ready to make the decision to send our oldest daughter to the public middle school. Middle school, in itself, is frightening (boy, do I remember) without added worries, but the school is a *safe* environment that is working very hard to improve its reputation so we’ll be making the leap of faith there as well. (My only concern is that middle and high schools don’t really encourage or want parent involvement the way elementary schools do. So this really is a blind leap of faith, as opposed to the way I was in their elementary school almost every day.)

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