I live in Chicago. I plan on homeschooling my kids, but have had my reservations about it and am currently deciding whether or not to send them to public school (which is all I can afford).
In Chicago, there are 9 selective-enrollment public magnet schools. Every school district has a "home high school" which is where kids must go if they are not accepted to one of the 9 magnet schools. Acceptance to the magnet schools is based on 7th grade ISAT scores and on your grades for 7th and 8th grade, I believe. You also have to take a separate test to "test in" to the schools. It is also based on which census tier you live in- map shown here. This has caused a lot of uproar, for good reason.
When I was going into high school (2004), I lived in a tier 4 area (shown in green). Basically higher economic class, more white people, less crime... only my parents were broke, we lived in a cruddy apartment, etc. I ended up testing into two of the magnet schools (which were the ones I applied for). I was fortunate. I believe one of the reasons I was accepted was because my mom put down "hispanic" as my nationality. She was white, my stepdad was white, but I am half Mexican. My neighbor, who had much greater grades than me, but was caucasian, did not get in.
Right now, we live in a tier 4 neighborhood. We are hovering near the poverty line. Kids have to essentially get straight A's and score perfect to get into one of the magnet high schools.
My husband's sister and cousin entered high school a year apart. His sister lives in a tier 3 neighborhood and didn't get into any, despite having great grades and good test scores. His cousin did get in, and her grades weren't so hot and neither were her test scores- she lives in a tier-1 area.
I think it's ridiculous how they're trying to balance out schools racially-.. I see what they're trying to do, it just really sucks.
What is the climate like where you live? Are there magnet schools? Do they use the census tier system? I'm curious how other parts of the country and other big cities go about doing this?
We have open enrollment, essentially any kid can go to any school they want (as long as there is room, and there is always room).
Your oldest child is 4, you have 8-10 years until high school, so much can happen in 8 years. You can move, new schools can open, charter schools can appear, private schools can have scholarship funds etc, I wouldn't worry about HS now. There are also virtual schools, online schools - and I see these types of schools increasing in the next decade.
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We have a "home" school, though you can apply to another school in the district and they may accept you if they have room; I'm guessing there are more than 2 high schools in my district--I heard recently that if our district were a city it would be the 7th largest city in the state (TX). I'm not sure if our district has magnet schools; MIL's district across town does but I'm not sure of the entry procedure.
I live in a mid-sized city in the SW. We have a ton of options, but some of them really aren't very good or they are very tough to get into. The public schools here are not well funded.
Charters are popular here, and there are several small charters with varying programs. A couple of them have really good reputations, but they are tough to get into. It seems somewhat random to me -- lotteries and such.
Our city district has a college prep magnet that goes by tests scores + race. It is an excellent school. (I would be fine with one of my DDs going there, but we would have to move to the right district, and then it wouldn't be a sure thing for her to get in)
One suburban district has a fantastic reputation, and house costs there are about twice what they are in the rest of the metro area. That school encourages families to "give or raise $2000." Even though it is a free public school, the reason it is such a great school is because the parents give so much money to the school. The school also has a drug problem -- a combination of money and lack of parental supervision. (I would also be fine with one of my DDs going there, she's a kid who could take advantage of the good stuff and avoid the bad).
My kids attend a private school. I am very grateful to be able to pay for it. Honestly, I don't care much for the other options where we are.
but everything has pros and cons
I live in a college town of about 130,000. There are 4 main High Schools and then a 2 K-12 charters, 1 K-12 magnet and 2 alternative schools. All of them have rolling enrollment, some are harder to get in than others. The 4 main ones have to let you in if you live in their catchment area, although it seems that each also has a specialty that would make you want to enroll in them even if you aren't in their area. My kids go to our local school. It's the IB school with a good arts program and an award winning literary magazine. my youngest goes to the Experiential Learning school that is k-12.
I live in giant county and we have everything when it comes to high schools. We have some excellent schools and some terrible ones and everything in between. The city district has several magnets. The arts school accepts by audition from anywhere in the county. The other magnets are by lottery within their own district. Charters are by lottery and open to the entire county. Our local high school district closed up open enrollment because everyone was pretty much funneling into 2 campuses and deserting the others (and for good reason IMHO.)
There are attempts to create some racial balance with the city magnet schools which is imperfect but I understand. Bringing in wealthier students into poorer neighborhoods does cause some problems but it also brings in programming and expectations that some schools desperately need. Of course, you can just have high school magnets. You have to offer quality feeder schools from the neighborhood or you have the issues our county had 20 years ago where there were all these fantastic programs in the inner city schools that the wealthier, coastal kids were enjoying but the local kids weren't getting the elementary education needed to qualify for them.
Small town of 10,000 with one mediocre high school. No options of any kind within an hour's drive. All kids get dumped into the one school, so it is a real cross section of our town's demographics. The school does their best dealing with a very complicated mixed population.
My options are homeschool or deal with the public school. Not sure which direction we'll take. We have done a little of each and both have their drawbacks.
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Two high schools, which one you go to is determined by where in town you live. No opting out of one for the other. Graduating classes of ~300. My son went to our home HS, and I was quite pleased with the education he got. Plenty of AP options, excellent teachers (at least on that level, which is what our experience was with). He did well and was happy there - and found himself very well prepared for college. Lots of extracurricular possibilities.
The only option apart from private school (and the closest private HS is about 30 minutes, if not a bit more) is one of the two county-run academies (specialized HSs) - one specializes in the performing arts, and the other in math/science (with a focus on marine biology). My daughter is about to graduate from the marine bio school. Graduating class of 54. All classes are taught on a college level, there are requirements for research projects, etc. It's been an excellent experience for her, and has really prepared her for college. A much more family-like atmosphere than our home HS. She liked the small size, and is going to a small college as a result. Extracurriculars are limited due to distance, but kids are permitted to participate at their home HS - she played field hockey at ours.
Suburban area with one home high school and several options schools that are determined by lottery (but they weight things like gender and race, I'm pretty sure -- it's a lot easier for boys to get into the arts magnet, for example). Our districted high school is good -- it's got a good IB program, and is mostly made up of middle class families. It's not as rich as the one further west to us, but it's not the poorest either. Parents seem happy with it. But the truth is, all the high schools in our district and our state have horrendous drop out rates as far as I'm concerned -- upwards of 20%. Most middle class kids are fine because they have parents who push to get them into the college track courses, know that you need 4 years of English, math, science and foreign language. The activities are decent.
FWIW, I don't think it's awful that they're trying to racially balance the schools. Black kids still go to the most underfunded, under-resourced schools. The teachers in these schools have less experience and are often less qualified than teachers are other schools. The fact that all the local high schools suck speaks to the need for district-wide reform so the local schools are better.
And now a message for you WCM: Your child is four. You've got ten whole years to figure something out for high school. Ten years is really long. It's 2 1/2 times the amount of time your daughter has been alive. I know you're worried. I know this is a huge decision for you. But it's not permanent. You can change your mind. Things change. You may change. You may move. The district might change. Your economic circumstances might change. It's also possible to switch schooling options if it's not working for you. For example, if your kids' education is fine through 8th grade but the high school options suck, you can homeschool for high school. I've got a friend who did that (for other reasons, the high school was fine, but it wasn't working for their child). There might be a good private school option that really wants to give scholarships to some nice Hispanic girls (if I remember correctly, isn't your husband Hispanic too?). Try not to borrow trouble. Get through the next couple of years and then see what your options are. You can keep your options open, even if you send your kids to public school. Heck, I'm keeping my options open for 3rd and 4th grade for our daughter. I'm not entirely sure that the local school can meet her needs, and she's only in 2nd grade. I need to go talk to her teachers in the spring to see what I can see.
I was curious as to how things worked in other areas, but thanks for the advice Lynn
It really, really sucks for neighbors that we know.. one girl was crying the other night (she is quite close with the family, lives nextdoor to MIL) about how difficult it is to get into a good high school. The neighborhood she lives in is largely hispanic, despite it being a yellow area. So being hispanic doesn't help her one bit, unfortunately. It just really sucks to see kids try so hard and get stuck into a school where some of the teachers are frustrated and feel more like babysitters than anything.
We also have charter schools, I'm not personally fond of them because IIRC the teachers get paid less and don't have the same benefits as the public school teachers, and I so far don't see higher graduation rates than the public schools do, though I could be wrong. My neighborhood is currently in uproar because there is a new charter high school coming to our neighborhood, but like I said, I haven't done enough research on them to know enough. I've just read a few articles in the local papers
Anywho, thanks all for sharing! It is quite interesting to see what the climate is like in other places.
Ours are open enrollment, and you can go to any school as long as there is room.
But, the good schools are always overcrowded, so unless you live in the actual school zone, or have a parent who teaches in that school, you probably wont get in. Plus, there's the issue of transportation. If your child can't get him or herself to school you have to choose the local school.
We just moved into the area of the school we liked. That way, it wasn't going to be an issue unless they rezoned.