Do you think the school your children goes to actually matters in the big picture? - Page 2 - Mothering Forums

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Old 01-31-2010, 08:35 PM
 
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Oh, I would be considered "successful" in that I aced school, went to a prestigious college, was never in any trouble, met and married a "successful" man, and am an upstanding citizen. I am also, luckily, pretty happy in general.

HOWEVER--I feel so much disappointment and even anger about my formative years. I was very passionate and interested in so many things. I did, however, very little. I was afraid to try anything new and realized early that my "thinking out of the box" had to take place at home, on my own. I could have lived so much more, but I was too young and inexperienced to know that, so I lived in my head.

I attribute this to my parents and my schooling--standard suburban public (my schooling decisions attributed back to my parents, of course).

That's just me.
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Old 02-01-2010, 03:09 AM
 
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I would agree at certain points school environment very much has an impact on the child and his/her personality, feelings, even potential.

I think kindergarten is essential that the child learns that learning is fun and that she/he is a success at it. More than anything else, I think this needs to be what is the result of kindergarten.

Then in 4th grade where learning is a transition in that you have to use skills learned in K-3 and apply them in all content areas to learn...like being able to read in Social Studies and know which words are important or being able to organize your writing to independently prepare an essay on a topic of a particular theme.

In middle school, when peers are such an influential part of trying out various roles & personalities both socially and academically - I think a school with positive peer pressure it key.

One book I found very interesting was "DRIVE" by McCafery (I think?). I talks about setting your relationship with your child as a guide in their life and how to do that...

Another book I am in midst of reading is called "No Mind Left Behind." It talks about the brain and the development of executive control and its role in children, school and general success.

As for me, well I am in the middle of trying to get my girls into a charter school for kindergarten. Tomorrow is registration for one of my choices. By the amount I am obsessing over them starting next year, I would say I feel it is important where they attend school.

My mom was/is a private school teacher.
I attended a local public school until 4th grade. At that point the teacher actually recommended I transfer to a different school as it was just too easy for me and he felt I was receiving pressure to not be so smart. (I was but I can't say it bothered me at the time, but once I switched I did feel a sense of relief) I went to a private school then grades 5-8 and my sister switched too. My mom let us choose for high school. I loved the acedemic challenges and the friends that competed for As and awesome projects. I chose the private high school. I graduated with 16 college credits through AP classes along with testing out of college levels 1-4 Spanish which was another 16 credits. My sister chose the public high school, although to be fair she never loved school like I did. We both chose the same state college. She didn't finish. She dropped out after 2 years. I graduated with a double major and a minor and went on to teach middle school Spanish at an independent school.

I was/am very grateful for the private education I received and do feel like it better prepared me for college. I am an overachiever anyway and may have gotten there through public school.

I have taught in public and private school settings. The private school setting was different. Mostly it was 1) kids had a positive pressure from peers to suceed and 2) parents were involved in their child's education.

I don't think it is necessary to be in a private school setting but I do think the positive peer pressure and the parental involvement are indicators for me of a good school where I'd want my children to attend. The postive peer pressure could be seen BTW at open houses, science fair, school art shows where children were eagerly talking about their projects with pride not only to teachers, but to each other and other adults as well.
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Old 02-01-2010, 03:40 AM
 
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I think the school does make a difference, but I also believe that changing schools is a major upheaval for a child, and unless something is actually wrong, changing to try to have them in the *perfect* place isn't something I would do.

We move a lot for my DH's job, and it's hard on my kids. I wouldn't pull them out of a school where they had friends and were happy unless I HAD too. Fear that the teacher might not give them enough attention wouldn't do for me. Their needs continually not being met after working with the teacher and other staff might do it, but that doesn't sound like the case.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 02-01-2010, 05:33 AM
 
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I think it's a combination of home and school. There's also the question of 'fit'. The OPs children may be in an excellent charter school, but it might not be the right one for them. It may be that there are other teachers within this school that would be a better fit.

Academically, I don't think it really matters until about 7-8th grade. Socially and emotionally, though, the right school is crucial.

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Old 02-01-2010, 01:39 PM
 
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i'm in a somewhat similar situation with my dd and her school. i'm currently unhappy with our dd's charter school. while the school is good (good district grades/testing) it's not a good fit for our dd and her learning style/needs. dh seems to think she should conform to the school, whereas i think we should find a school where she could be happy and reach her full potential.
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Old 02-01-2010, 02:01 PM
 
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I think that there are naturally resilient children who will thrive and perform well in most environments. I would say the school matters, but some children will cope better with a challenging environment. I don't think it's an issue of intelligence. There are very intelligent people who aren't resilient and aren't self-motivated. They are very sensitive, and unless they are placed in the right learning environment for their individual needs, their probability of success is at risk.

I think too many people focus on intelligence and academic success - test results and grades - rather than on other character qualities that contribute to success in life.

It's important to find a suitable learning environment. A school should "fit" the student and the family - philosophy, teaching methods, discipline methods, attitudes, ambience are all important. Some families I know seek out what I consider a chaotic classroom, on the grounds that it encourages creativity and fun and love of learning.

I would certainly search for a learning environment that is a good fit for your children and your family. It can make a big difference. I would also work on fostering resilience though, especially if changing schools is difficult or isn't isn't really an option.
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Old 02-04-2010, 03:02 PM
 
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OP, I absolutely do think it makes a difference. I believe that we are the primary models and influence on our children, and that they will grow to hold many of our values (the big values, like humanitarianism). They are generally polite because they have repeatedly seen that this is the way their parents approach interactions, for example.

But we also spend some of our time counteracting the more negative experiences or exposures they have in school. For instance, some schools do a good job handling bullying - if the school doesn't, that's certainly going to influence a child's experience in school and alter their sense of their self in the social domain. In myriad ways I think their early school experiences carve them as individuals - I want it to be as positive as possible.
I think I agree most with this position. Our DS is very bright and will probably succeed academically regardless of where he goes to school. He's also very sensitive and I don't want him bullied. I'd love for school to provide some positive modeling of how to live. We are getting all of this at our local public school - actually more of it than I think we would get at the fancy private school where having $$ and the right kind of clothes matter a great deal.
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Old 02-04-2010, 03:24 PM
 
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I think that, barring special needs, that if my children - children with loving, involved, encouraging parents, a home life that is conducive to learning and expanding knowledge, and multitudes of opportunities to take their educational experience outside of the school property - can't succeed at a school, then there's no way that school is suitable for children without supportive home environments, and that it's terrifyingly egotistical and selfish to decide that my children are more worthy of an education than any other children living nearby.

my children go and will continue to go to whatever public school they are supposed to go to based on where we live, and I will continue to work within the systems of those schools, districts, and communities, as well as within the regional, state, and national political arenas, to make the education provided by those schools more than enough to benefit ALL the children of the community.
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Old 02-04-2010, 05:16 PM
 
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I think that, barring special needs, that if my children - children with loving, involved, encouraging parents, a home life that is conducive to learning and expanding knowledge, and multitudes of opportunities to take their educational experience outside of the school property - can't succeed at a school, then there's no way that school is suitable for children without supportive home environments, and that it's terrifyingly egotistical and selfish to decide that my children are more worthy of an education than any other children living nearby.

my children go and will continue to go to whatever public school they are supposed to go to based on where we live, and I will continue to work within the systems of those schools, districts, and communities, as well as within the regional, state, and national political arenas, to make the education provided by those schools more than enough to benefit ALL the children of the community.
I don't see how choosing one school over another equates to egotistical and selfish. Children are not made with cookie cutters. They have varying needs and learning styles.

I've known plenty of cases where parents sent A child to X school and B child to Y school, they didn't view one school as better than the other, simply that one school fit A's needs but not B's different needs. I had cousins who went to different elementary schools b/c the mom was open enough to let them pick their own schools, my older cousin chose public and my younger cousin preferred a Catholic school (interestingly, the older cousin is the more religious one though.)

Personally I wish I had been given the opportunity to go to a Waldorf school, but I know my DS would hate it if I made him go to one. For now he's in a Montessori preschool and will either go to our public school (which we went to a lot of trouble to buy a house in it's district) or the towns charter school. The charter school is actually considered a better school by most people, but we think the public school will fit our DS's particular needs better. We will reevaluate next year though when he's grown another year and it's actually time to register him for something.

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Old 02-04-2010, 05:56 PM
 
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I don't think we should be "assigned" a school anymore than we should be required to use the closest grocery store! I chose my grocery store (and farms!) based on my values and finances and I shall do the same with schooling (with DS' learning style/temperament heavily weighed).
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Old 02-04-2010, 06:16 PM
 
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I don't see how choosing one school over another equates to egotistical and selfish. Children are not made with cookie cutters. They have varying needs and learning styles.
I completely agree with this. Our neighborhood school, while wonderful in many ways, was not a good fit for our dd. We chose a small, private school for her and she's thriving in it. Our son will start kindergarten next year and we are considering sending him to the neighborhood public school because we feel as though it will be right for him. To say that placing my child in the school that best fits their needs is egotistical and selfish is ridiculous.

I buy a certain brand of jeans because they fit me better. I shop at the local farmer's market rather than the grocery store 2 blocks away as often as I can because I prefer the fresh produce there. I buy organic vs. the grocery store generic when I can because I feel it's best for my family. I do not feel as though my family deserves those things any more than anyone else does. However, it is not up to me to make those personal choices for anyone else's family. I sacrifice to afford these things and although it is a sacrifice that I am willing to make, I would not expect anyone else to choose to do that. It is my responsibility to make the best choices that I can for my family and that includes doing whatever I can to help place my child in the school that happens to fit them best, whether it be public, private or schooling them at home.
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Old 02-04-2010, 07:13 PM
 
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I agree with Matt that it matters what for.

I can't tell you if my son will want to go to a prestigious university or drop out and surf all day.

But I do want his days NOW to be meaningful and to support him in being a respected and respectful human being. I think the school does matter in that regard. It is a matching process for sure and I'm grateful to have choices around it. If I didn't have those choices, I would supplement in other ways if I thought I needed to.

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Old 02-04-2010, 07:29 PM
 
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My gut feeling is that it matters a LOT less than people think it does. I think family is a much bigger factor in overall success/happiness (however you want to define that).

And I also don't set a lot of store in test scores for schools. On paper, my local public school is failing under no child left behind. But I think it's a great school and the experience my daughter is getting there is really fantastic. It's a low-income school with a substantial number of students on free and reduced lunch. We are a title 1 reading school - so these are all red flag, coupled with our failing test scores. It's certainly NOT what a lot of middle-class parents would have chosen for their children, but I think it's a great school and I'm very happy that we are a part of it. DH and I are huge supporters of the public schooling - that meets minimum standards. By that I mean that we moved to a place that had adequate public schools. They are by no means "the best" public schools (as measured by test scores, surveys etc) but they meet minimum standards. There were areas where the schools simply did not meet minimum adequate standards (to us) and we chose not to live in that area. Which is a shame - would have been a great area, we loved it, but those particular schools were just unacceptable to us.

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Old 02-04-2010, 09:32 PM
 
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I know an anecdote is just that, but I thought I'd share my brother's school "story". Mediocre student with mostly Cs. He's clearly intelligent, although not gifted, but public school (a 4 star ranked high school, fwiw) was not doing it for him. So my parents sent him to a small boarding school for his last two years of high school and boy, did he BLOSSOM! The Cs became As. He was encouraged to begin his own outdoor adventure club which still exists there, 20 years later. He had between 6 and 10 students per class, so there was no slacking off. He worked his tail off, learned a ton, and was accepted to a very good college, and later to Brown for grad school. In his instance, the school was everything. You need to see what environment your child works best in ~ what kind of student: teacher ratio? What kinds of classes? What kinds of opportunities? Some children excel in large public schools with high ratios and the same generic sports/extracurricular opportunities (worked for me!), but others may need something different to reach their full potential.

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Old 02-04-2010, 11:02 PM
 
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This thread is making me feel so sad. My brother could have been the brother just posted above. But instead he barely graduated, went on to getting kicked out of the Navy and then spent a little time in prison. Doing so so now, manual labor night job, relatively happy at least! (BTW: 1300 on SATs while failing remedial classes)

I did great academically, but did nothing else, was depressed and withdrawn. I tried nothing new (though I had so many interests!)

I would have loved Waldorf or homeschooling with lots of social clubs/groups/volunteering, brother would have done great at small boarding school.

We both did "regular" public.

I agree home life/family are very important, ours was not bad, but not great either. I am not sure how having a really solid, warm, involved and interesting home life would have done in light of our education.
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Old 02-05-2010, 02:38 AM
 
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The school that your child goes to is HUGE. That is where they spend nearly 7 hours a day and the teacher and kids and environment have a definite effect on children, some more than others. We recently switched schools and are so happy we did. Our dc is so much more relaxed and happy because the school, teacher, environment is as perfect as is possible for him. We are happier because he is happier...and as a bonus the school is a perfect fit for our family, it just feels right and there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not grateful that I made this leap of faith (switching mid year). That said it was public to public so there was no financial issue to contend with one way or the other. I do agree with a pp who teaches that the kids who are below the average get way more focus, in public school anyways. And then when you add in any children who have major behavioral issues... Yes an intelligent child will succeed in any environment technically, but will they reach their full potential?

A few things to think about:
Is your dc happy at the current school?
Is the classroom/teacher a positive influence?
Have you sat in/volunteered in his class, and then also in the classroom at the school(s) you are thinking about?

Just a few thoughts!
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Old 02-05-2010, 03:59 PM
 
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I think the schools a kid goes to are really important.

My husband and I went around and around with the same idea - he firmly believed that a smart kid could succeed regardless of the elementary and high schools they attended. And, speaking from his experience, it worked out for him - he went to a public elementary school in a rural Mexican village with dirt floors and three grades in one classroom. His high school was a little better. He went on to graduate from a top university and has been successful in business. So, it worked for him. There were a lot of factors that contributed to it working for him, though - he had a college educated grandpa who supported him in all ways, he is really bright and he happened to be a part of a group of friends that all pursued going to the same top university.

After many, many conversations and visits to different types of schools as we searched both public and private schools (here in the US), he now agrees with me that while a kid can succeed in almost any school environment (with enough external support), it isn't always optimal. Once he went into some progressive and creative schools and saw the differences in teaching styles, materials and experiences available, expectations of the teachers and kids, interesting things other people are involved in and doing, etc, he was really surprised. He felt that while he did succeed in the environment he was in, he could have done so much more, and had a much broader experience and perspective, if he had been in a different environment.

I went to private schools almost my entire life, and am so thankful for the sacrifices my mom made to send me. I still feel it really made a difference in my life. The contrast between my private high school education and my brother's mostly public high school education was stark. He is a really smart guy, and went on to be successful academically in college. But, I definitely had the more enriched academic experience.

Ultimately, I think a kid can be successful coming from almost any school environment. If you can provide your kid with a more enriched school environment, that's great. I don't think it always boils down to public vs. private school - I have seen some amazing public schools, and both great and awful private schools. It is about finding the best fit for your child/ren, and not ruling out options only because they are private.

Good luck - I think it is a really hard topic to come to an agreement on.
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Old 02-06-2010, 09:01 PM
 
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It really does matter. My DD1 is dyslexic, what the public schools were going to do with her, nothing, was really criminal. Take a struggling child who couldn't even begin to read or write and give her extra time on texts, yeah that will help when the child can't even recognize her own name. We put her in a tiny private school where we are allowed to bring her own private reading teacher in daily, there are several other students that have the same arrangement. The school has done everything to work around us, we have never had a single issue.

She has anxiety issues, again not a problem, they work around them. My child who this time last year was hiding under chairs refusing to look or make eye contact with people, is thriving. She runs all over the school, I was there yesterday helping with lunch and I couldn't even find her, she was in with the 7th and 8th graders and they were teaching her how to finger knit.

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Old 02-08-2010, 11:08 PM
 
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It really does matter. My DD1 is dyslexic, what the public schools were going to do with her, nothing, was really criminal.
I think these are the situations where schools become vital. We had DS tested this summer, and he came back as very highly gifted. The psych said his informal observation of DD is that she would place even higher than DS. He actually told us that sending them to private school would be a really bad idea because private schools can help children with high-average intelligence, but when they go beyond that, the legal requirements on public schools in our state would mean we'd actually get better services.

In the end, I'd rather homeschool, but DH is still a fence-rider. Still it made me realize that my thought that private school was the best choice for us isn't as clear-cut.

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Old 02-08-2010, 11:42 PM
 
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I think that it's very important, so long as it's a very good private school. Over the years, my sister and I never attended the same school, even though we're only 3 years apart. We both bounced around between public, private, and homeschool. And I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the education we received at our private schools was far and away superior to the public schools we attended. My sister was learning things in 10th grade public school that she had learned in 6th grade private. I only attended private in high school, but I was challenged in ways that I NEVER would have been in public school.

Though it's kind of politically incorrect to say it, connections made at a good private school can really serve you for your whole life. This is not as true at the elementary level, but definitely at a high school level.

Still, different kids prosper in different environments. My sister ended up back in public high school for social reasons, and I left public school largely for social reasons. Same district, different kids.

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Old 02-09-2010, 04:49 PM
 
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I only read the first page of responses, but...

Are there other public school options for you? Just because the charter school is the top-ranked doesn't mean that it deserves that ranking, or that it is the best fit for your children. Top-ranked schools often "teach for the test." Not always, obviously, buy I am naturally suspicious of rankings. Just because it's top-ranked doesn't mean that the lower-ranked schools will automatically be worse.

I am also thinking about real-world experiences. Do you think your children will encounter another ill-behaved people in their lives? Will they eventually have to work with a diverse group of people? I just think that a private school with no behavior problems (although I don't believe for one minute that private schools don't have students with behavior problems), with children neatly lined up in a row, is an experience that will help your child in the long-run? Your children will be dealing with bullies, and those with "behavior problems" their whole lives (who hasn't had one of those at work? LOL). If your children are happy and content and enjoy school, I would leave them where they are or scout out other public school options. I am assuming that the behavior problems aren't extreme, assuming again that if they were you and your DH wouldn't be having a debate.

So, to make a long post even longer, I agree with you that the school does matter, but agree with your husband about not automatically putting them in private school.

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Old 02-10-2010, 01:50 AM
 
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Do I think it matters? Yes, but not as much as others on this thread seem to.
Barring any disabilities/extreme learners on either end of the spectrum for the average bright child I think the most important factor is the child himself. The child's personality and drive - intrinisically motivated, someone who "fits" in the school model, etc. Next I would say the family and how the family values and encourages education outside the classroom comes next. Then, the individual teachers your child has and his/her particular peer group. Then finally the school.
The truth is you could send your child to the best private school out there - even the best fitting school for him/her. And your child could end up in a situation with a horrible teacher or just a teacher that doesn't click with him/her and makes their life miserable. Or they could end up in a bad dynamic with their peer group and end up being bullied/tortured even though it the "best" school.

We live in an area with good public schools. That is where DD will most likely go. There is a really great private school here too - it would cost us $12000 a year to send two kids there. For me it always comes back how else could I improve their lives/education with that $12,000? After school opportunities, travel opportunities, summer camps, saving for college etc. For us to afford this school I would have to go back to work. How would that affect them vs having me home? The friends that they make at this school would not be "neighborhood" friends since the school pulls from all over the county. Socializing would require a lot more effort on my part which would be that much harder with me back to work. I think there also something to be said for being the "poor" kids in private school. Not that we are poor, but paying private school tuition would eat up a ton of our discretionary $$. Also the problem of social classism (this school does not offer financial aid).
There is an even better school 45 mins away. I would love, love, love to send my kids there. Unfortunately due to DH's job we cannot move any closer. I could spend 1.5 hours in the car a day driving them back and forth to this school. To playdates, bday parties, etc. But where do you draw the line? Where does it stop? When does the school itself stop being worth the trouble it causes the rest of your life?

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Old 02-11-2010, 05:05 AM
 
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I think the school definitely matters!

Look at what matters to you for your children and find the school that offers it.

Do they need individualized attention in a smaller class or can they work independently within a larger class?

Are they more academic, artistic, or athletic? Does the school need more sports, extracurricular, or academic classes to suit their needs?

Do you want to be more involved in the school or be able to step back and let the school you chose do its job?

Everyone is different and only you know the needs of your children. Decide what matters most to them or what you think will be the best fit for them and go from there. I wouldn't have cared if a single sport was offered in school and was great in a large school because I didn't want/need the teacher's help. My sister needed the teacher for motivation and wanted all the artistic outlet she could find. My brother didn't overachieve or need motivation but wanted the sports programs. All 3 of us could have survived in different school environments but been left behind in others. It depends on YOUR child's needs. The school definitely matters.
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