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Poll - help me process/choose my opinion for DC's middle school options...

Poll Results: Which school would you pick

 
  • 29% (5)
    Design - only 3 years old, low test scores, amazing new campus, progressive arts program, possible discipline issues, goes to highschool, some negative rumors
  • 29% (5)
    Leadership - girls only, indoor campus/limited PE, strong academics, strong personal skill building, rigid punishment and rewards, goes to highschool
  • 35% (6)
    Neighborhood - good all around neighborhood school, great test scores, international baccalaureate, only goes through to 8th grade
  • 5% (1)
    Traditional Charter - established charter, progressive mind-set, poor test scores, does not teach to the test, concern over low academic standards, goes to higschool
  • 0% (0)
    Public Montessori - DC would start 6th grade as the oldest in a 4-6 grade class, negative rumors, decent test scores, ugly campus, only goes until 8th grade, beautiful 7-8th grade space
17 Total Votes  
post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

I've created a poll for folks to help me get my head around all of DC's middle school options. We live in a city that has all but done away with neighborhood schools and we have been very lucky in the lottery so we have several options. 

 

Please vote, ask questions, share concerns and etc. so I can broaden my thoughts on helping DC pick a school. 

 

One thing to consider is that DC has fairly standard test scores, academics. Many of the best highschool options in our area are merit based. Because of that we are factoring the schools that go from 6-12 with a bit more importance that we we would otherwise.

post #2 of 24

Do you mind telling me a little about your DC's personality first before I vote? Or would you like a blind vote? If that's what you prefer, that's okay, just say. I'll vote according to what might suit my kids but it may not fit your situation. 

 

One example - I can see a high-achieving, generally compliant kid managing a strict punishment/reward system, even if the system itself isn't something I would otherwise choose. OTOH, I can see a kid who likes to swim upstream experiencing a complete disaster in such a school. For the 1st kid, if the rest of the school was attractive enough (and on paper, a girl's leadership program does sound interesting), I might still try it out. For the 2nd kid, I would not consider it at all. 

post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

Do you mind telling me a little about your DC's personality first before I vote? Or would you like a blind vote? If that's what you prefer, that's okay, just say. 

Very good point! 

 

DC is generally mild-mannered "typical kid". She fits in well with her peers, both boys and girls and floats around between a few loosely-knit groups at her small school. I would say that she's successful socially but not into the whole "popular" kids type thing.  She has very good behavior in a school setting. 

 

Academically, she is/was a struggling reader (no evaluation) who now reads on grade level. She has some struggles with writing still as a result of her reading delay. She is doing quite well in math. I would say she is smack dab average when it comes to effort/drive. She doesn't have much but she isn't especially demotivated either. She shies away from competition. I have feeling that the right environment could build her into a strong student...I'm just not sure that any of our options are idea for that. 

 

The Deign school does not have strong math scores (though I think they are getting a new math teacher and will work on that next year). The Leadership school has a lot of competitive academic reward systems built into the structure of the school, something that DC really does not like the idea of. 

 

She does not have the personality that really drives her interest in anything in particular. She plays a little soccer, does a little theater, enjoys crafts and etc. but doesn't really dive into anything. For this, I wonder if the Design school would be good for her in terms of encouraging a specific interest. 

 

One thing the Leadership school has going for it is that it is *very* different from how we live. We are not rule or reward based, we are creative and open to all types of paths/employment/goals (the leadership school has a 100% expectation for college attendance!).  They do a great job of teaching some strengths that DC could do better with (eye contact, more adult-orientated social skills, time management, personal responsibility).  It would be a good balance to what we can give her but it is not a great fit with our family values.  

post #4 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by IdentityCrisisMama View Post

 

DC is generally mild-mannered "typical kid". She fits in well with her peers, both boys and girls and floats around between a few loosely-knit groups at her small school. I would say that she's successful socially but not into the whole "popular" kids type thing.  She has very good behavior in a school setting. 

 

Academically, she is/was a struggling reader (no evaluation) who now reads on grade level. She has some struggles with writing still as a result of her reading delay. She is doing quite well in math. I would say she is smack dab average when it comes to effort/drive. She doesn't have much but she isn't especially demotivated either. She shies away from competition. I have feeling that the right environment could build her into a strong student...I'm just not sure that any of our options are idea for that. 

 

 

 

Okay, I've thought about it and voted. In the end, I based my vote on the factors that you described and chose the Design School. I made a few assumptions about the school. If those assumptions are false, then my choice may not be very good.

 

Here's my thinking - 

 

A Design school is likely to implement creative methods for assessing student's knowledge, competence and achievement. Evaluations may be based on oral presentations, artwork and poster presentations, hands-on projects, photo essays, video productions and so on, as opposed to traditional tests and essays. Since your DC is weak in writing, these evaluation methods will play to her strengths instead and allow her to shine. That in turn will encourage her confidence. With the pressure off of grading her written output, you may see her written work improve as she matures and gains some confidence. Also, the school can help her writing even if the students are allowed other forms of work output. You can alert the school to your concerns about her writing skills. You can work with the school, her teachers and academic counsellors to find a way to nurture her writing skills without any emphasis on grading it.

 

You mention that she dislikes competition. For that reason alone, I'd be wary of the Leadership school. I suspect that a school heavily invested in a reward/punishment system will tend to inculcate a lot of competition in the students. It's almost inevitable. Frankly, I think it is counter to a healthy Leadership program. It seems like a big disconnect between the stated mission and purpose of the school and the methods used. I could be very wrong, maybe they are managing the rewards/punishment system well. BTW, I'm assuming that the reward system is tied to academic achievement, so if it's not my analysis may be way off here. 

 

It's also possible that the Design school with the arts program attracts a lot of "Diva" types and is also competitive, so I would be alert for any concerns. Hopefully, the Design administrators are good at promoting respect and recognition of different talents amongst the students rather than competition. I think a highly competitive atmosphere is more likely at the Leadership school than the Design school. 

 

You mention average drive/effort. Again, assuming that the Design school employs a lot of non-traditional, more creative, more hands-on, more FUN learning and instructional methods, I think it's more likely that she will enjoy her time at school. That's the one sure way to engage and inspire a child's love of learning. At the Leadership school, a lot of competition, punishments, and out-of-reach rewards may backfire and demotivate her even further. 

 

You mention possible discipline problems at the Design school. I would need to know a little more to make that a deciding factor. Every school has a few problematic students, so I wouldn't let a rumour or two dissuade me. However, if it's a wide-spread problem such that teachers don't manage the classes and the learning environment is disrupted and unproductive, I would run. Your DC won't learn much in such an atmosphere. 

 

A few more thoughts - 

 

Neighbourhood School - I was leaning toward the neighbourhood school with the IB program until you mentioned your DC's writing difficulties. IME, IB schools demand a huge amount of written output. Because the school has to abide by external standards and timetable, there isn't a lot of flexibility to accommodate struggling students. If that's the case, I think she could find it disheartening to be in such a program. I'd investigate the school's requirements for grading and ability to accommodate if you are really interested in this option. 

 

Charter School - not particularly attractive given your other choices

 

Montessori - I'm enthusiastic about Montessori but I think students who enter in later elementary often struggle with the method. They need to adjust to a more self-directed learning approach. The teachers must be adept at recognizing when students need help and providing sufficient support as they adjust. It may be a good choice but It's tough to say without more information. 

 

Anyway, those are my thoughts for whatever they are worth. As I mentioned, I've made some whopping assumptions that may be very wrong. As always, what your DC thinks and feels means so much more than my random-stranger-on-the-internet opinion. Good luck with your decision smile.gif

post #5 of 24

Sorry for the serial posting, but it occurred to me that in addition to admitting my assumptions, I should also admit my biases. 

 

For a time, both of my DC attended a middle school gifted program that promoted the arts. I witnessed how much the arts component of the program enriched the school atmosphere and engaged the students. The gifted program provided a lot of instructional benefits but I think the arts component was a huge motivational influence. Due to moving to new places, they also experienced schools without such an emphasis on arts programming. When it came time to choose high schools, my DC were adamant that they wanted a similar arts experience. Again due to moves, they've attended a couple of different high schools. We've been in the same place for a few years now. They both attended a performing arts high school, rather than the city's full-time gifted program. They both acknowledge that they sometimes missed having a more academically rigorous classroom experience but neither would make a different choice. They have managed to keep themselves challenged academically with independent work but they know they couldn't replace the arts component if they did not attend the performing arts school.

post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 

Oh, my gosh, OOF - THANK YOU!!   I have a lot of thoughts and responses to your post but need to get these kids out of the house for a bit. Will be back...

post #7 of 24

Is the neighbourhood school a P-8 school, which would be followed by a 9-12 highschool? 
 

post #8 of 24
I would go with the design school because i don't agree with teaching to the test and the others sound like they will require a level of motivation your child doesn't have yet. My DD did a year and a half of an ib school and it was a mistake, they expected self management without teaching it and there was no accountability. She isn't motivated to do much beyond reading and drawing so she really tanked academically.
post #9 of 24
Thread Starter 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rachelsmama View Post

Is the neighbourhood school a P-8 school, which would be followed by a 9-12 highschool? 
 

No, the way our city system is structured my DC would have to apply for one of the merit based programs, try for one of the very few true charters, or she will be assigned a school, which is not likely to be a good fit. 

 

 

OOF, so much of your post is insightful and is helping me more than you can know!  There's a lot that I hadn't thought about, I guess. Really, thanks so much

Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

A Design school is likely to implement creative methods for assessing student's knowledge, competence and achievement. Evaluations may be based on oral presentations, artwork and poster presentations, hands-on projects, photo essays, video productions and so on, as opposed to traditional tests and essays. Since your DC is weak in writing, these evaluation methods will play to her strengths instead and allow her to shine. 

Again not something I had thought about but I do agree.  Point: Design love.gif

 


Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

You mention that she dislikes competition. For that reason alone, I'd be wary of the Leadership school. I suspect that a school heavily invested in a reward/punishment system will tend to inculcate a lot of competition in the students. It's almost inevitable. Frankly, I think it is counter to a healthy Leadership program. It seems like a big disconnect between the stated mission and purpose of the school and the methods used. I could be very wrong, maybe they are managing the rewards/punishment system well. BTW, I'm assuming that the reward system is tied to academic achievement, so if it's not my analysis may be way off here. 

One thing I think about this leadership school is that they do the whole rewards/punishment thing in a very supportive environment. Without that, we would not even be considering it, yk?  Yes, the rewards are tied to academics and leadership qualities (I think).  They even get special blazers, hats and etc. for having good grades. I think it's pretty far out...   If someone had told me 10 years ago that I was looking at school like this I my jaw would have hit the floor. 

 


Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

You mention average drive/effort. Again, assuming that the Design school employs a lot of non-traditional, more creative, more hands-on, more FUN learning and instructional methods, I think it's more likely that she will enjoy her time at school. That's the one sure way to engage and inspire a child's love of learning. At the Leadership school, a lot of competition, punishments, and out-of-reach rewards may backfire and demotivate her even further. 

I think this is a wild card. On one hand, I think DC would do well with high expectations and pretty rigid demands. I just don't know...we've never had that experience. ;-)  

 


Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

You mention possible discipline problems at the Design school. I would need to know a little more to make that a deciding factor. Every school has a few problematic students, so I wouldn't let a rumour or two dissuade me. However, if it's a wide-spread problem such that teachers don't manage the classes and the learning environment is disrupted and unproductive, I would run. Your DC won't learn much in such an atmosphere. 

I don't know the extent of this. We have a rumor mill going here in our community so it's hard to say. I heard that one teacher who did not manage his class well is leaving. I also know they have a new principal starting last year.  One *really* nice thing about the principal is that he was super child-focused at the orientation. More than any other school meeting, he was focused on his students. Parents came second. I liked that a lot. 

post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

Neighbourhood School - I was leaning toward the neighbourhood school with the IB program until you mentioned your DC's writing difficulties. IME, IB schools demand a huge amount of written output. Because the school has to abide by external standards and timetable, there isn't a lot of flexibility to accommodate struggling students. If that's the case, I think she could find it disheartening to be in such a program. I'd investigate the school's requirements for grading and ability to accommodate if you are really interested in this option. 

 

This is such a good thing to know. My DC's current school said they will look closer at the curriculums of our top schools but I hadn't gotten around to asking them to do that for us. I had always heard great things about IB but, you're right, it doesn't sound like a great fit for my DC. Thanks so much for bringing that up. 

 


Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

Anyway, those are my thoughts for whatever they are worth. As I mentioned, I've made some whopping assumptions that may be very wrong. 

 

Nope, you were pretty on target! 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

They have managed to keep themselves challenged academically with independent work but they know they couldn't replace the arts component if they did not attend the performing arts school.

What are your thoughts on those kids who don't do independent work or who tend to live up and down to expectations 

post #11 of 24

I voted for the leadership school. Here is my thinking:

 

1. I ruled out all the ones that don't go through highschool.

 

2. I also ruled out the ones with negative rumors. I just pulled both my kids from a school that sounds GREAT in what they say about themselves, but was really horrible in reality. A well run school is better than a crapily run school, even if the crapily run school sounds like it is more in line with your personal philosophy. A well run school is a better place for a kid to be. But this really calls into question how serious the problems are at the schools with rumors.

 

3. I don't trust a traditional charter with low scores. Why are their scores low? Many charters have higher than average scores. I really question what is going on there.

 

4. The leadership school sounds like it actively teaches the skills they want the kids to develop, not just expect them to happen. Although it might not be your first pick ideologically, it sounds like your DD's best option. It also sounds like they would work with her to help her be successful, and that she'll learn things there that she wouldn't learn any other way that will help in for the rest of her life, and that is the point of school.

post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks, Linda. I value your opinion. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

2. I also ruled out the ones with negative rumors. I just pulled both my kids from a school that sounds GREAT in what they say about themselves, but was really horrible in reality. A well run school is better than a crapily run school, even if the crapily run school sounds like it is more in line with your personal philosophy. A well run school is a better place for a kid to be. But this really calls into question how serious the problems are at the schools with rumors.

 

The rumor thing is a tricky one for me. Our town just seems to float the most unsubstantiated stuff that part of me wants to write the rumors off. OTOH, it's a hard thing to do, as I'm sure many parents understand. Interestingly one of the rumors from the design school is from a teacher (or so I am told). I have been told that she/he is leaving. I also just heard from a current parent that she felt this teacher did not manage the classroom well. I'm a fan of the idea that good teaching is what makes good discipline so I wonder if this was a weak teacher dissatisfied with the students/school.  It's tricky for sure. 

 


Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

4. The leadership school sounds like it actively teaches the skills they want the kids to develop, not just expect them to happen. Although it might not be your first pick ideologically, it sounds like your DD's best option. It also sounds like they would work with her to help her be successful, and that she'll learn things there that she wouldn't learn any other way that will help in for the rest of her life, and that is the point of school.

 

All of this is true of the leadership school. What's nice about our options is that we have the choice between 8 GOOD schools. Now we just need to figure the right one for DC.  The leadership school is the least risk, IMO.  I like it, DH likes it but DC is feeling uneasy about the all-girls part and the rewards part. She will visit in May, along with her other top two schools.  Ultimately it will be her decision but I am working out my own feelings and will weigh in for sure.  

post #13 of 24

I think Linda makes some good points, particularly about well run schools. It's probably my Montessori exposure, but I believe that calm, ordered educational  environments help nurture learning. I also believe that there is some motivational influence that comes with working with high achievers. My dc's art school has a number of students who are working artists so there is a level of professionalism and dedication that may not be present in other art schools.  It tends to rub off on most (admittedly, not all) of the other students. 

 

You may want to ask the schools how they support students in areas where there may be gaps between the school's preferred system and the student's needs. For example, at the Design school, creativity needs to be marshaled and applied to ensure that the students are gaining knowledge and skills and not spinning their wheels. If a student is unfocused and undisciplined, what kind of guidance do they provide to keep the student on track? At the Leadership school, if a student is struggling to achieve academic goals because of something like a lack of writing skills, will they provide assistance with extra tutoring and accommodate by allowing other forms of output (eg. a video documentary) in order to achieve the rewards or will those rewards remain out of reach for those students?

post #14 of 24

What great choices!  I picked the leadership school, because that is the one my DD would probably like best.  She is advanced academically especially verbally and I can totally imagine she would love an all girls school.  There are lots of great things about that.  She is not very competitive either but is very motivated internally, so if she were rewarded for doing well against a standard or against her last score or whatever, that would really drive her.  

 

My second choice is the neighborhood school.  What age is she now?  My DD is an only and I really feel those MS years are so key and she is really social, and I think being grounded in her friends when going to MS is going to be necessary for her.  So I would want her to be in one of the schools by 3rd grade in order to make those bonds.  

post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 

I'm using this thread to keep track of thoughts. We just toured the new design school campus...swoon!!!  Oh, my gosh. It's being built to the most amazing specs for a school - floor to ceiling windows, huge rooms with 25' ceilings, super cool use of space from preserving the old building to these awesome free floating stairwells. Cool use of a shipping bay for outdoor space. Classrooms with amazing perks - drafting tables, sewing tables, pattern drawers, wood shop, photo studio, beautiful library, common spaces on each floor, awesome lockers, brand new science rooms...it's pretty amazing.  Another thing it has going for it is that it's not a charter - it's "innovative" so it doesn't have the same renewal stress as a charter or the stress of budgeting and etc. It also is located in an area of the city with a lot of creative energy and strong neighborhood backing (lots of investments, money and etc.).  

 

So...

 

We're leaning towards the design school.  

 

BUT, I'm still asking DC to shadow at both the Design and Leadership school with an open mind. We shall see...

 

I welcome more input...

post #16 of 24

It seems from your descriptions of the schools & of your DD, that both Leadership and Design have some VERY good points for her, but also some very big concerns. It's tempting to focus too much on either the positive or the negative. Overall, they both seem like a wash-- the good and bad cancel each other out. The charter school doesn't seem to have much appeal. I agree with a PP re starting Montessori at the MS level, otherwise, I'd go with that. I'd say the neighborhood school sounds like a good all-round option, especially considering your DD's personality. The competition issue can be excruciating, esp at her age, and it seems like both Leadership and Design may be uncomfortable environments for her-- in absence of that, I'd likely have chosen one of them.

 

As a teacher, I can tell you that if a child gets frustrated severely in one subject, or in any way feels "crushed" by the competitive atmosphere (despite it's apparent attempt to "motivate" students; it can feel crushing for many), that student will not perform as usual in **anything** until the problem is rectified. (Have I mentioned this is especially true in middle school?) I've seen talented young writers who love to read refuse to even choose a book for a book report and stop participating entirely bc the same teacher embarrassed them during a "do this problem on the board" moment in math, etc. So that's my $ .02; and my reasoning. Hope the poll helps!

post #17 of 24

I voted for the design school, too, but one thing I haven't seen addressed here is where her friends are going. I also liked the sound of the neighborhood school. If she has a lot of friends or even just one really good friend who is going to the neighborhood school or another school then I would consider that one. The girls leadership school is not attractive to me, but I'm very much not into rewards and punishment and my dd1 is very stressed out by that stuff. 

post #18 of 24

I voted for neighborhood school.  I think middle school is pretty overwhelming for many kids because it requires new levels of responsibility compared to elementary. More homework and more difficult homework.  Just because they score well on tests does not mean that they teach to the test at the neighborhood school or vise versa.  If possible, go on tours and spend some time at the schools of interest to see, if it really seems like the place your dd would like to be.  Talk to teachers/ admin to find out what specials they offer, clubs, opportunities, and how they work with struggling readers, etc.    

post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 

Guess what?!?! We're STILL on this roller coaster!  Our DC was pretty set on the Design school but after her shadow visit I think she became nervous. It's bigger, and has some acknowledged discipline issues to work out  and I think it was those things that scared her off.  We got a call from the IB neighborhood school early this week and are really into it and are thinking of making the switch!  Honestly, if you had told me back in March that we'd still be going at it in July, I'd tell you you were crazy!  

post #20 of 24

What does she want to do?
 

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