Do you think the school your children goes to actually matters in the big picture? - Mothering Forums
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Learning at School > Do you think the school your children goes to actually matters in the big picture?
amcal's Avatar amcal 12:19 AM 01-30-2010
My husband and I are having a debate.

I don't like the school our children are going to. I want to put them in private school. I'm willing to get a job to cover the entire cost even though money really isn't an issue.

My husband thinks it's a ridiculous waste of money. He thinks that since our school has great test scores and is an A+ Excelling school ( the highest ranked charter school in the state) that I basically should just shut up and be happy.

I think the class rooms are chaotic, I think the teachers spend an extraordinary amount of time with difficult children, I think the teachers gloss over the intelligent kids because they pretty much get it and don't really need any additional help so all the energy goes to difficult children.

My husband believes that ultimately, the school doesn't matter. That intelligent children will succeed no matter where you put them. Our children are not exceptional so we're not talking about exceptional or gifted children. He's talking about his belief that if a child is intelligent, they will succeed no matter where they are (obviously as long as there's no abuse etc.... he's talking about any generic, mainstream school).

I just don't believe this. I believe that the school environment matters hugely. Sure, our children will most likely do fine and learn in any generic school but, I want so much more than that.

Uggg..... so, what do you think? Do you really, ultimately think the school matters? or, as long as your child is intelligent, no special needs one way or the other, they're likely to do fine where ever you put them?

EFmom's Avatar EFmom 01:39 AM 01-30-2010
I don't think the key thing is intelligence, exactly, although it helps. I do think that if you have a self-motivated, self-directed child with intellectual curiosity and good social skills that they will pretty much do well in most decent schools. Of course there are exceptions, but I've known many kids in that situation.

In your case, I probably would take your husband's position, particularly if money were an object. By that I mean, at what cost do you send them to a private school? Of course, I'm seeing it from my financial perspective.

If we were to send our child to one of the few excellent private schools here (a minimum of $15k/year but usually around $20K), there is no way we could afford to send them to college. Sending them to college is a top priority of mine, so if I weren't happy with the public schools, I'd move to a different district.

We also do a great deal of our child's education outside of school, so if there are things I'm particularly concerned about, I'd make it a point to include that in the many things we do to expand their educational experience.
annethcz's Avatar annethcz 01:44 AM 01-30-2010
I'm more of your husband's point of view. To an extent.

I will say that when it comes to my children, I believe that they will thrive in almost any environment. They're happy in the charter school they're attending. If I had to send them to the crappy public school district that uses reward and incentive programs, they'd be okay there too. They'd be okay if they homeschooled.

That said, I also believe that happiness counts for something. If my kids were truly unhappy in an environment, I would help them to find a more appropriate environment. And of course, if they were in a dangerous or otherwise unacceptable environment, they would be removed from that situation.

BUT- despite the fact that I think my kids would thrive in most environments, I do make a conscious choice to try and choose the best environment for them. That's one reason that, although they're currently thriving in their charter school, they'll be homeschooled again next year.
34me's Avatar 34me 01:57 AM 01-30-2010
The reason's you stated are why I pulled my ds#2 out of the school
my oldest 2 were attending and put him in another (public) school. He really lost his love
of learning because he literally got no individuized attention. That was reserved for the extreme ends of the spectrum. He has just become
excited again 2 and a half years later.
Rosebud1's Avatar Rosebud1 02:01 AM 01-30-2010
Excellent idea for a post, OP!

I am a teacher and when it comes to my child (who is not yet in school) I think about this issue a lot.

Research shows that there are times in a child's development (particularly in their pre-teens) that peers are a greater influence on children than their parents. So if your child is in a chaotic classroom environment, or surrounded by unmotivated or undisciplined kids, they may be more influenced by those who misbehave than vice versa. And keep in mind high test scores aren't always indicative of what is really going on in the classroom. Statistics can be deceiving. For example, one school I taught at was considered excellent because it had a 100% graduation rate. Well, that was easy because it only had five students in its senior class! Some schools manage to have some of their students with special needs not be part of the testing pool, etc etc. In some states with high stakes testing, this is almost a game.

Also, in the US public school system, teachers are under tremendous pressure to raise median scores. I cannot tell you how many meetings I went to with this as the focus, to the exclusion of many other goals. Teachers are almost encouraged to perform academic 'triage' -- the kids who are performing at grade level are fine, and the focus is on kids performing below grade level. Bringing those kids up is the focus of the school in terms of testing. They are so busy working with the under performers that kids who have potential to go beyond don't get a lot of energy.

Anecdotally, I attended a competitive private high school and feel it influenced me a great deal. Freed from discipline problems and other distractions, students were able to focus on what they came to do -- learn. In a time when peers were vitally important, I was positively influenced by students who wanted to achieve.

As your children get older, your concern about classroom behavior around them may grow. There is more to school than test scores -- are students being taught respect in the classroom? Are curiosity and honesty encouraged? Respect your mama intuition if you do not like what you see.
A&A's Avatar A&A 02:22 AM 01-30-2010
yes, the school absolutely matters.
SomedayMom's Avatar SomedayMom 03:05 AM 01-30-2010
Yes, I think it matters, perhaps not to the extent that I stressed about it, but I do think it matters. I know firsthand what a negative elementary school experience can do to a person. I was a very bright kid and I was academically successful and am very highly educated. However, I am socially anxious and have a lot of issues that come from those early years.

So, I agree with your husband that bright kids CAN do very well no matter what school they are in. It's not a guarantee though, and it may come at an expense to something else equally important.

I put my sons in a small private school. Our public schools are top notch, but I didn't think they (my oldest especially) would meet their full potential there.
amcal's Avatar amcal 03:25 AM 01-30-2010
EFmom - that's my concern. It's not just intelilgence that matters. If it was, my kids would do fine. They're intelligent enough to do fine in school and I'm involved enough to teach them anything they've missed or don't understand etc...

But, I have 1 DD who is a rule follower. She likes order, she likes things to be under control, she likes rules. She likes schedules so she knows what is expected. She is self motivated, organized, loves to be taught, loves to participate in class. All these things make her feel safe and secure and she thrives in such an environment.

I have another daughter who is also intelligent but, she's lazier. She's not as self motivated and, although she's only in 1st grade, I see her struggle to stay on task when there is chaos and misbehavior all around her. She struggles to not join in. She is easily distracted and can fall through the cracks because she's not a trouble maker but, she's also not a self starter. She can hang in the background not really giving her all but doing well enough because of basic intelligence.

To me, a teacher distracted by the chaos around her will most likely miss both of my children. One because she wants to be missed, the other because she won't ever create a situation where she needs teacher involvement.
SunshineJ's Avatar SunshineJ 06:08 AM 01-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by amcal View Post
My husband believes that ultimately, the school doesn't matter. That intelligent children will succeed no matter where you put them.
I can give you a list of a dozen people off the cuff to disprove that theory. If I actually take time to think about it, I can certainly add more names. However, on the flip side, there certainly are children who are intelligent and succeed despite their educational surroundings. Intelligence does not equal success - even in private schools.

From your description of the class and school, and the information about your children in the second post, it doesn't sound like the current public school is really a very good fit for them and not an environment where they will do their best.

I absolutely believe the school a child attends makes a difference. Take for example my ds's old school. He barely missed the cutoff date and started kindy when he was 6. He entered school already knowing most of the "end of grade requirements", namely he could write to the number 33 and count to over 100 already. But in that school, all they wanted was for their classes to be at the required level at the end of the school year. During the year I saw him "forget" skills he had mastered literally years prior to fit in, complain about being bored, and be taught the lesson that he wasn't really supposed to learn more than the requirements. Nothing we did would change the school's approach or allow him to actually be challenged. I don't know many who would think teaching a 6 yr old kindy student that he wasn't allowed to learn to be a good lesson! We definitely saw it affecting his love for learning and watched as he became more indifferent. There were other concerns we had with the school, but I don't think anyone wants to read a novel. FWIW, that school was rated a top school in the area (not just district mind you). We also knew he would not be going back to that school.

We moved before school started this year. Now at the new school he's excited to go every.single.day. He's learning and encouraged to do so. He's regained his love of learning, thankfully overcoming the lessons of the previous year. DD who is in kindy this year is having a completely different experience in the new school vs DS in the old school and has flourished more than I could have forseen. (Both the old and new schools are public, so this isn't a slam on public education overall.)

So, long answer, yes I think the school a child attends can make a huge difference in their education and their future success.
MattBronsil's Avatar MattBronsil 07:37 AM 01-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by amcal View Post
My husband and I are having a debate.

I don't like the school our children are going to. I want to put them in private school. I'm willing to get a job to cover the entire cost even though money really isn't an issue.

My husband thinks it's a ridiculous waste of money. He thinks that since our school has great test scores and is an A+ Excelling school ( the highest ranked charter school in the state) that I basically should just shut up and be happy.

I think the class rooms are chaotic, I think the teachers spend an extraordinary amount of time with difficult children, I think the teachers gloss over the intelligent kids because they pretty much get it and don't really need any additional help so all the energy goes to difficult children.
The question needs to be changed before you can answer it. The question is more "Does the school your child is in matter for...... (insert your own question)?" The reality is not that you two necessarily disagree, but it's just what your end goals are.

If your goal is success in life, it matters. If your goal is simply getting a good grade on final tests, it matters.

What do you want for your children? If it's good standardize testing scores, then put them in the school that provides that. If your goal is freedom and happiness in life, the test score schools might be the worst option for you.

Talk more about the goals of your children THEN decide if the school provides for those goals. There are many different styles of schools and they provide for different things.
AndrewsMother's Avatar AndrewsMother 10:04 AM 01-30-2010
Undoubtedly, the type of school that your children attend matters. I agree with Matt, decide the type of goals that you have in mind for your children and choose a school accordingly. If you only care to see your children graduate from high school, then their current environment will suffice.

I am aware that each public school is different, but most are not designed to meet the needs of parents who have HIGH expectations for their children.
An intelligent could succeed in any environment, but at what costs?

I had to ask myself many of the same questions that you and your husband are pondering, but the only difference is that after one private school tour we were in complete agreement.
MissyCham's Avatar MissyCham 11:41 AM 01-30-2010
OP, I think it does matter and we pulled our kids out of public for the same reason. The kids don't go to a fancy private school but the kids are expected to be accountable and respectfull to the teachers and each other. They try to differentiate the lesson plans for the different level of learners too. Those are exactly the things we didn't get out of public school here.

I think of my own high school experience too. It was a very average school with little focus on high achievement. If I had been somewhere where I was pushed and expected to strive for the highest, I would have done so I think. I was just a kid who needed a push and role model for excellence and I just didn't have it so I was average. When I got to college the kids were more serious and so I got more serious.

I think it matters ....
graceshappymum's Avatar graceshappymum 11:43 AM 01-30-2010
I may have a different perspective as we are in Canada and I can't really comment on the US system. The school does matter, a great deal, but I think that you can never assume that a private school is going to be better vis a vis, chaos and glossing over the intelligent kids just because it is private. You have to know your child (DD would hate a chaotic classroom), and also your expectations for your child in regards to education.

Dh and I have been touring schools this month as DD starts SK in the fall and we want to move her from the private school that she attends as it is not challenging enough for her. We have seen some great public schools and some bad, and some great private schools and some bad. I will add that here we have a seperate publically funded french system as well as a Catholic system on top of the normal public schools, so this gives us more choice.

If you have a certain educational philosophy that is important then you will most likely have to go private in order to achieve that. In the end DH and and I chose a public french school that is very small and has a great gifted program, quite happy classrooms, no chaos. I do agree with ANdrewsMother that most run of the mill public schools are NOT designed for parents with high expectations.
possum's Avatar possum 12:09 PM 01-30-2010
I think the biggest indicator of how a child will "turn out" is his or her family. That's just my experience.
My husband and I were acutally discussing this recently. He and a cousin just a few months older than he both grew up in the same small town and went to the same rural, mediocre schools. His cousin might very well have a higher IQ than my husband but had a very chaotic home life. My husband came from a family that was poor but very stable. While his cousin bounced around for years in dead-end jobs he hated and never finished college (although he really wanted to), my husband got a scholarship to a good selective college and went on to get a PhD.
My husband's conclusion from his experience was that the particular school (at least early on) doesn't really matter. His cousin's is that it is important to get his kids into the best schools he can so that they don't face the issues he did. To his great credit, he is a great dad who has created a much better home life for his own family than he had as a child.
I have certainly known people who were unsuccessful (by their own standards) who came from stable, loving families and "sports" who succeeded by luck, talent, or lots of hard work (or some of all of these) despite coming for chaotic circumstances. But by and large, IME, apples don't generally fall far from the tree.
Melinda
sunnmama's Avatar sunnmama 12:29 PM 01-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by EFmom View Post
I don't think the key thing is intelligence, exactly, although it helps. I do think that if you have a self-motivated, self-directed child with intellectual curiosity and good social skills that they will pretty much do well in most decent schools. Of course there are exceptions, but I've known many kids in that situation. .
I agree with this.

Also, when considering the "big picture", I think it is important to consider your dc's age. A chaotic classroom with discipline issues in early elementary school is less of an issue in the "big picture" than a chaotic classroom in high school. I attended a high achieving public school (lots of graduates attending Ivy League universities--very high expectations from parents), and, still, discipline issues were significant in elementary school. But I went to high school with the same kids (small school), and they grew up and got more serious.

As a student, I got a lot of free time in elementary school (reading in the back of the room, for example) because I got my work done independently and "got" the material. I only got separate, leveled work on the days I went to the "gifted" class (which I loved!). But, by high school, there were classes that were more than sufficiently challenging for every period of the day. In the end, the challenge in the elementary classrooms wasn't such a significant factor.
amcal's Avatar amcal 12:58 PM 01-30-2010
Matt - I think you hit the nail on the head.

My husband is fine as long as they're getting good grades. And they do. They do just fine in school. And this is good enough for him. It's not for me. I want more.

Oh and I just wanted to make sure I clarified something. I don't think that private school is the end all be all. I was just talking about our options for where we live. I've looked at several public schools and I haven't found one that that I'm satisfied with. So, having looked at tons of public and private schools, I've narrowed it down to two private schools that I feel would be a good fit for us. It's not that I think because they're private, they're inherently better. It's just that they're better and just happen to be private. And EFMom - there is no way we could afford that either! That's an insane amount of money. The school i'm looking at is $7,800/per year for both children - not per child - that's for both. I think that's completely reasonable.

Sunnmama - that's what my husband thinks. He thinks the elementary school doesn't really matter. That it's the high school that matters and he's willing to consider private high school but, he just doesn't think the grade school ultimately makes much difference.
karne's Avatar karne 02:09 PM 01-30-2010
I think the particular school matters, and I don't think private is the answer, necessarily. Age matters too. One of mine is middle school aged. School matters, peers matter, but parents matter more. If I didn't think public was working, I would look for a different environment because this is a very impressionable age.

FWIW, we paid a lot of $$ for private school that couldn't come close to what the public offered. Frankly, a small amount of what was supposed to be so wonderful in the early years sort of remains, but ultimately, not much.
SunshineJ's Avatar SunshineJ 02:29 PM 01-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by amcal View Post
Sunnmama - that's what my husband thinks. He thinks the elementary school doesn't really matter. That it's the high school that matters and he's willing to consider private high school but, he just doesn't think the grade school ultimately makes much difference.
Ah but you also have to look at the differences in the level of education, friends status, etc. By the time high school comes along, kids already have their friends in place. Sure, you can transfer in and yes, you can make new friends but it's hard sometimes. Plus the child has just left the friends they've had for 6+ years - and many children simply aren't willing to do that. I was offered a chance to go to an upscale academic private school for high school and turned it down for that exact reason (which in retrospect I've kicked myself for as an adult). Also, the education may not be the same, and it's not unheard of for children to really struggle for a couple years after they change schools to one that's more demanding or academic. So by the time they get to high school, if you do change them to a different environment their grades may actually suffer while they get caught up. (This isn't just a private to public issue as many public schools have different standards depending on the state, district, etc.)
SomedayMom's Avatar SomedayMom 06:51 PM 01-30-2010
Quote:
Sunnmama - that's what my husband thinks. He thinks the elementary school doesn't really matter. That it's the high school that matters and he's willing to consider private high school but, he just doesn't think the grade school ultimately makes much difference.
Personally, I think it's the other way around. I think elementary school sets the standard. It is the biggest factor in whether your children learn to love school and love learning or learn to loathe school and find it boring.

I really felt like I learned in elementary school that school was boring and easy and I didn't have to work. As long as I got A's, all was good. I didn't put any effort in. I was a normal kid who loved to learn and over the first years I learned to hate it.

This is a big reason I chose private, and especially a big reason I chose Montessori. I WISH I had had a school like this when I was kid. Learning is FUN for them. It's not a chore. They don't have loads of homework to do in K, 1st grade, 2nd grade. They don't have any. And they learn and they enjoy the process. I just feel like this sets the foundation for my children to really want to make the most of their education.

If they learn that school is too much work, too chaotic, and all that matters is their grades in early elementary school...there is very little hope that they'll switch gears and learn to appreciate the process later on. IMO.
eepster's Avatar eepster 07:50 PM 01-30-2010
From what you posted your DH saying, I don't hear that your DH thinks school doesn't matter. I hear that he thinks the school your DC are currently at is a good one.

Obviously, if they are in a really great school why should you waste money on a private one.

The real issue is, you and your DH coming to an agreement about what exactly makes a "good" school. I also believe that a good school for student A might be a bad school for student B, so you need to take your DC and their feelings on the subject into consideration.
Drummer's Wife's Avatar Drummer's Wife 07:54 PM 01-30-2010
I definitely think it matters. The biggest thing, to me, is that they keep their true love for learning intact. Many schools don't foster that, IMO, and it can very well have a negative impact on the rest of their education, and on into adulthood.

I agree, though, that you need to talk to your DH and explain why you don't like your kids' school and what you like about the private one. Also, listen to his thoughts and opinions on the matter, and go from there.
philomom's Avatar philomom 08:20 PM 01-30-2010
Yes, very much.
lauren's Avatar lauren 08:33 PM 01-30-2010
What grade level are you referring to when you are asking if it matters?

In elementary school, when the learning is pretty across the board, it probably doesn't matter. If you have a bright child, they will demonstrate that and become known for that. In secondary school, there is generally class placement based on academics, so the children that can handle the college prep classes are placed in them. This tends to sort out the behavioral problems or children with challenges from the children who really want to learn and do well in school. In a reasonably good secondary school, a child that is motivated will do well.
rainyday's Avatar rainyday 08:58 PM 01-30-2010
I'm skipping over all the valid and interesting thoughts about how much a school matters. Have you toured some private schools in your area? Have you taken your DH on some of these tours? My DH was 100% sold on the local public school (without having visited it) and was largely of the same opinion as your husband. Then we toured a local private school, and he was instantly won over. Here the differences were more dramatic than they might be where you are, however (class size less than half the size at the private schools as at the public ones; art and music at the private schools but not necessarily at the public ones, etc.).
karne's Avatar karne 09:20 PM 01-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by lauren View Post
In secondary school, there is generally class placement based on academics, so the children that can handle the college prep classes are placed in them. This tends to sort out the behavioral problems or children with challenges from the children who really want to learn and do well in school.
This strikes me as not the most positive statement, and a reason why I believe middle/high school is important. It is entirely possible to have a student with challenges or behavioral issues in your college prep classes. One does not negate the other, or mean that a chilld doesn't want to learn. It is important at that level to have your child seen as a whole child, regardless of the public/private issue.
joensally's Avatar joensally 09:28 PM 01-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by lauren View Post
What grade level are you referring to when you are asking if it matters?

In elementary school, when the learning is pretty across the board, it probably doesn't matter. If you have a bright child, they will demonstrate that and become known for that. In secondary school, there is generally class placement based on academics, so the children that can handle the college prep classes are placed in them. This tends to sort out the behavioral problems or children with challenges from the children who really want to learn and do well in school. In a reasonably good secondary school, a child that is motivated will do well.
I knew a lot of kids in high school who were bright, motivated and behaviour challenges . I'm also parenting a child who I expect, in his high school years, will do well in school, want to learn and still be a pita .

But I do get the point you're trying to make. In elementary, teachers attempt to organize classrooms so that the teachers get a balanced number of kids who are highly capable and engaged, kids who are behaviourally challenged, kids who will need additional academic support etc etc. In high school, assuming it's large enough, there's more streaming that happens.
joensally's Avatar joensally 09:49 PM 01-30-2010
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.
Holiztic's Avatar Holiztic 06:17 PM 01-31-2010
I think it very much makes a difference!
ahpo5's Avatar ahpo5 06:26 PM 01-31-2010
If you'd like to hear a statistical answer for your q, read Freakonomics (IMO, statistics sometimes only tell part of a story, but still, I think its worth reading). There is a chapter titled "What Makes A Good Parent" (of which school is a part; lots of specifics are looked at; and its written a bit tongue-in-cheek). Its an eye opener in terms of looking at life from a statistical standpoint, and it may surprise you that when a good study is undertaken to answer what makes a "successful" child, the school choice in fact matters much less than you'd think, but in a few small cases it does in fact matter. I'd check that book out if I were you just to add more info to the discussion between you and your dh! (And additionally, there are always outliers to the statistics
S.
frontierpsych's Avatar frontierpsych 06:28 PM 01-31-2010
IMO my concern would not be whether they would be successful as adults, but whether their needs are being met at this point in time. I am sure that, barring any extreme circumstances, your children will be fine as adults no matter where they went to school. But are they fine NOW? Will they be fine for the rest of their time in school? This matters too. It is not just the final outcome that is important, but the process too.
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