"Good" Schools/"Bad" Schools/Test Scores/Elitism - Mothering Forums

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Old 10-04-2005, 12:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have been struggling with conversations about "good" & "bad" schools for years, anybody else? We lived in one county with a pretty poorly performing school system (though there were some bright spots here and there) and decided to move out to a further suburb about four years ago for a more consistent school system. Our goal was to find a school in the middle --- we couldn't afford, nor did we want, a school district where the "poor" kids lived in 5 bedroom single family homes...

Anyway, we bought an older small house in a decent performing school. About 85% of third graders perform well on our state reading tests....the house has jumped in value and the average price on our street seems to be about $425,000. Still, for the past four years I have heard negative talk about the local school and constant efforts by our neighbors to move to "better" neighborhoods or send their kids to private schools. These have slowly started to weird me out. There is a small percentage of kids in the school who live in mobile homes and for awhile I have thought that old-fashioned racism/classism was driving the move to the even more white/rich section of this suburb, but the recent moves of a couple of seemingly reasonable neighbors have thrown me off. The irony is that ds started k in August and the school seems GREAT - has anybody else experienced this????

I feel like our choice is being constantly questioned and as a result, I am starting to feel defensive....which is INSANE because at the exact same moment I hold such guilt about living in such a nice area when there are so many people with so little

I am seriously feeling like throwing the towel in on this whole area...too much wealth creates too much disparity of wealth = too much insecurity & lack of gratitude and so on and so forth...

BJ
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Old 10-04-2005, 01:46 AM
 
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I think this is a very, very interesting problem. We see it in our district as well - so much seems to be based on word of mouth, one-upsmanship, and those freakin' test scores. "The BEST school" is the golden trophy, and it does seem to change from time to time. People move, make up fictional addresses, prepare their children for the gifted testing, petition endlessly, etc - it's very competitive. There are alternative schools and public Montessori schools though, so at least those are options (but once again - very hard to get into...we ended up choosing private Montessori school because the school we were assigned was all the way across the city and I'm pregnant - although a great school nonetheless. our neighborhood school relies on worksheets and happy face stickers).

I am bothered when the parents are the ones who seem to be reaching for the gold stars/great test scores for their children; and don't really seem to care if they're actually enjoying learning or learning things meaningful to them.

Because God Forbid you end up at (gasp!) community college! Horrors... I am interested to see how this generation turns out. Kindergarten burnouts?
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Old 10-04-2005, 11:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your response. I have had the same concerns about why everybody is so focused on the test scores...my friend has two boys in one of the "best" schools. It just worked out that way and she is actually sort of annoyed with the schools lack of creativity and constant back-patting about their test scores....anyway, in her son's 4th grade class something like 74 out of 76 kids were in the "gifted & talented" program???? Come on :LOL

Yeah, what if our kids want to go to community college or cooking school or something not so exceptionally academic??? My one neighbor is constantly talking about sending her kid to private school so that she will get a good education & not be influenced by the kids in the mobile home park : The funny thing is - she admits that she hasn't read a book in 10 years, she doesn't get the paper, etc. etc. etc. So it seems funny that she is so worried about "education" but seems so uninterested in acquiring knowledge - is it really just about housing values? If so, how unfair for adults to put the pressure for improving and maintaining home values on third graders

Anyway, thanks for your response. I am really glad to know we aren't alone.

BJ
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Old 10-04-2005, 01:09 PM
 
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I've been reading Einstein Never Used Flashcards and Your Child's Growing Mind, and am becoming convinced that this country has gone completely bonkers. On the one hand, you've got the looneys who won't teach Darwin's theory of evolution; and on the other hand, the former "middle class" has become competitive parents who are programming trophy children via electronic gimmigadgets. Meanwhile the poor are still with us, nothing seems to be changing for them.

The only thing I can say in the defense of people like your neighbors is, I think we must be designed to want "the best" for our kids, whether it's berries or grades. Parenting has brought out a greedy, competitive and compulsively acquisitional part of my personality that I never knew existed.

I thought your point too much wealth creates too much disparity of wealth = too much insecurity & lack of gratitude and so on and so forth was brilliant. We're a fear-based society.

No answers from me, mine are still toddlers. Some days I seriously consider homeschooling (if I could combine it with appropriate social contacts).
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Old 10-04-2005, 02:31 PM
 
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i find it hilarious when wealthy parents thing test scores separate the "good" schools from the "bad" schools. If a school has a high number of wealthy kids, and the tests are high-stakes, then the parents will get tutors for the kids to pass (or excell on) the test.

so... it doesn't mean the SCHOOL is any better, it means the tutors are good!

how on earth are low-income/middle-income schools suppossed to compete with that?
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Old 10-04-2005, 05:18 PM
 
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Here the province the schools are run by doesn't do testing. However the teachers have access to the Alberta tests so they do test the kids in 3 & 6. The results are used to see if the school is teaching on par with other schools in Alberta or if there is anything that needs to be improved on. They also compare the results from 1 class in grade 3 and that same class in grade 6. The results have no part of their grade markings or whether they pass. The individual results are not given to the parents, but if a parent wants it they are available in the office. Parents can opt out of their child taking the test.

Even though we don't have standard testing here, we have the same attitudes about which are the preferred schools.

My kids will go to the school that is a block from us. So far it is a good school, my oldest is in grade 2. When they hit grade 7 they go to 1 of 2 middle schools. The one they would be bussed to I will not send my kids to. It is very strong on if you don't wear the right clothes you are shunned. I cannot afford $120 jeans for my kids. I recently found out that the other middle school she could go to is even worse. IF your parents do not drive the right SUV, or own an oil company you are shunned. Before my oldest was even in K I had made the decision that if we're still here when she hits grade 7 she will be homeschooled. My plan is to be in my hometown by then.
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Old 10-04-2005, 05:23 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Altair
i find it hilarious when wealthy parents thing test scores separate the "good" schools from the "bad" schools. If a school has a high number of wealthy kids, and the tests are high-stakes, then the parents will get tutors for the kids to pass (or excell on) the test.
Yup.

GeezerMom, I also love those books. They are great.
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Old 10-04-2005, 07:53 PM
 
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I used to live in suburbia, and I have also lived in urban areas, where I heard a lot more about this problem. Now that I live in a rural area where there is really no valid thing called "choice", the problem is virtually nonexistent. People seem to put their energy into improving the local village school to make it the best they can be. We happen to be lucky in that we moved to a town with a great school before we had children or knew what to care about/look for in a school.

So I also wonder if too much choice can lead to too much movement and potential elitism. In urban areas the school choices must be mind boggling if you do have some money to spend on it. I have a hard enough time in the grocery store trying to decide which brand of spaghetti sauce out of 20 to buy!!!

 
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Old 10-04-2005, 08:54 PM
 
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So I also wonder if too much choice can lead to too much movement and potential elitism. In urban areas the school choices must be mind boggling if you do have some money to spend on it. I have a hard enough time in the grocery store trying to decide which brand of spaghetti sauce out of 20 to buy!!!
Hmm. I think maybe you are lucky, too though - the rural public schools I attended as a preteen and teen was extremely small, poor, conservative to the point of horrific racism and homophobia, and looked the other way at severe bullying (when the teachers weren't participating in it themselves). It was, in essence, a hick school. I'd rather have the choices in an urban area, unless I get to live in a cool hippie town where the parents put in and expect a little more than what we got. All the parents who actually cared in our town homeschooled!

Some urban areas (like mine) have public school choice, which is great if you know you want your kid to attend an alternative school. Our particular system however, IS very overwhelming and competitive. Partially because it doesn't matter so much where you live (you can go anywhere in the city, almost).
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Old 10-04-2005, 09:28 PM
 
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Originally Posted by flyingspaghettimama
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I am bothered when the parents are the ones who seem to be reaching for the gold stars/great test scores for their children; and don't really seem to care if they're actually enjoying learning or learning things meaningful to them.
Yup, totally agree. The ironic thing is, those test scores really don't mean much at all. You cannot judge a school (or the individual teachers) your dcs may get based on standardized test scores. There are a myriad of reasons why these scores are meaningless which I won't about now (unless somebody wants me to! lol!

It's sad to me as a former educator, that not only are our politicians believing this crap, but now the parents are too! The media hypes it up too. Where we live it's all about the test scores. We educators *know* it doesn't mean a thing. See all the problems it is causing all the way down to individual communities and neighborhoods?

Disgusting.

And the kids are the ones suffering because of it. What happened to the days when going to school was fun? Why on earth do we think it's okay for a K,1,2 grader to have MANY hours a week of homework? Since when do we think it's a good thing for third graders to be so stressed out because of upcoming standardized tests that they can't sleep at night, throw up in the morning before the test, can't eat, etc..?

But, I digress. Sorry to hijack the thread wildmonkeys. It just touched a nerve!
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Old 10-05-2005, 01:05 AM
 
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I've seen this in the community where I live, but not so much in the schools. Fortunatly at our school, most of the parents I've met seem really happy with the quality of education our children are getting. I feel lucky that we have the choice to live in a district with good schools. I do hear this among my friends though. People who have absolutely no experience with the public schools saying how deplorable the situation is and that they are looking into private school. I always kind of look at them askew and ask if they've actually checked out the public schools here :LOL I consider us so lucky. We have a teacher who REALLY cares about these kids and what they are learning, who works with the parents, and parents who are very involved in the school. There are three parents per day who go in to help in ds's class and the PTA coordinates all these enrichment assemblies and programs for the kids. I do feel guilty about the kids out there who don't have what we have.
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Old 10-05-2005, 01:42 AM
 
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similar problems here. There's a school "up the hill" that teaches the same curriculum. But the population is less diverse than our school, and I find our neighborhood school to be very interesting and more along the lines of what I'd like my children to witness and experience. At our neighborhood school we have some very impoverished families. We also have some of the wealthiest families, including the mayor of the city and his grandchildren (from my ds, "Mom, why is B's grandpa always smiling at everybody?" "That's his job, son."), which makes for a great diversity. Our school is considered, "the poorest" school in our city (which is really a laugh, as housing prices are good to outrageous), and I see some very very hardworking teachers . Ultimately, I'm proud that my children attend this school, and even if we moved "up the hill" (I can't imagine that, I like the grittier downtown part of the city), I'd keep my kids where they are. You're not crazy, you're allowing your children access to more realistic world views and experiences.
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Old 10-05-2005, 02:16 PM
 
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I find our neighborhood school to be very interesting and more along the lines of what I'd like my children to witness and experience. At our neighborhood school we have some very impoverished families. We also have some of the wealthiest families, including the mayor of the city and his grandchildren (from my ds, "Mom, why is B's grandpa always smiling at everybody?" "That's his job, son."), which makes for a great diversity. Our school is considered, "the poorest" school in our city (which is really a laugh, as housing prices are good to outrageous), and I see some very very hardworking teachers . Ultimately, I'm proud that my children attend this school, and even if we moved "up the hill" (I can't imagine that, I like the grittier downtown part of the city), I'd keep my kids where they are.
I agree ours go to the poor school, but I see it as a benefit. The teachers don't care how much money the parent makes or what they do or how they do on some standardized test, they just want to see the kids do their absolute best at learning.

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Now that I live in a rural area where there is really no valid thing called "choice", the problem is virtually nonexistent. People seem to put their energy into improving the local village school to make it the best they can be.
I agree. I see this alot more in small rural areas. This is part of the reason I"m on a big push to go back to my hometown(1200 people). In my hometown 11years ago they renovated the entire highschool for the future. The plan in the district(which is headed in a different town) is for all of the kids in the other 5-6 surrounding towns to eventually be bussed to Kelvington. There is some racism(mostly in my parents generation and older) in the town, but nothing like what is in the bigger cities. You'll never see a gun, security bars to pass through, or knives at the school but you may see the odd graintruck and skidoo in the parking lot.lol The only segregation in the school is athletes and the non-athletes and the group that is friends with both. They separate in Grade 10-11 but now is not as bad as when I went to school becuase the other town that came to our school in Grade 10(and was a big part of the separation) now only has 2 kids so those kids come from Kindergarten through to graduation.
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Old 10-07-2005, 12:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your thoughts everyone. Annikate - I don't think you hijacked - I think what you shared is totally part of the discussion. I get so frustrated with all of the negativity and all of the focus on the scores - it seems an extension of so many other things that I just don't get lately.

The funny thing is that we don't even live in a "poor" area (nor are the schools/scores even bad)....we are in a Washington, DC suburb. Plenty of the suburbs around here are more affluent, but more than the majority seem to have more problems with poverty, crime, under-performing schools, etc. I just get the feel that with so many options - nobody will ever feel like where they are is good enough. One of my former co-workers bought a house that cost over a million dollars and found out that several of her neighbors are trying to bump-up!!!

I do understand what some of the posters are saying about this problem not being part of the culture in a small town -- I graduated from a high school in rural West Virginia. There was one public school in town and no private school options and this wasn't an issue, which was nice. On the otherhand, the school really sucked...I know that this isn't true in every rural community, but the school had some real problems. For instance, in AP English we read and were tested on a Stephen King book & my brother and I never once took math from a math teacher with a degree in teaching math....the guidance couselor actually tried to talk me into taking cooking instead of biology two because "let's face it, you'll use it more"

So, on some level, I guess I like the options and the urban influence, but sometimes am unclear what everyone is so frantically pursuing.

Hope that makes sense - thanks for all your thoughts and feedback - I sometimes feel like I am on Mars when talking to the mainstream people around me about these issues

BJ
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Old 10-07-2005, 12:55 PM
 
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For instance, in AP English we read and were tested on a Stephen King book & my brother and I never once took math from a math teacher with a degree in teaching math....the guidance couselor actually tried to talk me into taking cooking instead of biology two because "let's face it, you'll use it more"
:LOL Or rather, it's funny now, but also a little sad. In my rural high school, my "honors" english class was taught by the football coach, geometry by the girls basketball coach, and all history classes by the boys basketball coach. I don't know if you've ever seen MADTV, but there's a coach character on there that WAS my English/football guy...

"YOU! Parker! I see you! Don't think I don't see you back there, chewing gum! You spit that gum out NOW or give me fifty! I don't care if you're a GIRL! I'll WORK YOU! OK, EVERYBODY, now that I finally have some ATTENTION, back to Shakespeare, page 50. Now WHAT THE HECK is this guy TALKING ABOUT?! Did you see the game last night? WHY NOT?! "
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Old 10-07-2005, 05:54 PM
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We live in a small town that got swallowed up by affluent suburbs. Our town is middle and working class. No real ghetto neighborhoods although my teenaged daughter calls our street ghetto. She's niave and doesn't know what a real impoverished area looks like.

The schools are great in many different ways and I live in a more modest home in a great school district on purpose.

Yes, there is a bit of snobbery but the school works hard to have zero tolerance for bullying and name calling.

Debra Baker
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Old 10-07-2005, 06:59 PM
 
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The test scores elitism makes me want to puke. However, that urban myth has protected my dd's school from being overun with obnoxious yuppie faux righteous parents. we love our school - it is just right - with great facilities, great diversity, dedicated parents but our test scores aren't top notch. I'll rue the day that our school becomes fashionable and that palpable tension/hyper diaper vibe settles on our little peaceful enclave. Goddess help us!
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Old 10-07-2005, 07:41 PM
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Psssst,

Where do you find good quality local schools that are diverse and not elitist?

Seriously,

My dream.

Debra Baker
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Old 10-07-2005, 11:48 PM
 
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well it was a miracle, i'm in brooklyn. the school draws from the surrounding neighborhood - a kind of border 'hood of mostly middle eastern and central american immigrants with fringes of gentrification. It is also an ex-magnet school that has a very strong arts program, dance studio (with dance teacher) and top notch liberry. As a result of the magnet program artists, actors, writers and musicians send their kids there as well. However, because our test scores aren't "high" the parents who worry about test scores don't send their kids to our school which so far, seems to keep the elite crap very minimized. It isn't perfect, but its been pretty darn good. Our class sizes are small compared to the "elite" schools and we kind of happily go our own way.

yay
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Old 10-12-2005, 03:49 PM
 
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However, because our test scores aren't "high" the parents who worry about test scores don't send their kids to our school which so far, seems to keep the elite crap very minimized.
Our neighborhood elem school is borderline Title 1 (scores are not improving), therefore all the focus is on getting the scores up. Where is the middle ground where the scores aren't good or bad enough to warrant hyper-focus? Ugh.
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Old 10-17-2005, 08:00 PM
 
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Thanks everybody for this discussion. At my son's school I find so much thinly veiled racism and classism as people talk about test scores. Our test scores are good, but people compare test scores from one neighborhood school to another. We live in Chicago and our choices are totally overwhelming! I even find that parents are snide about non-english speaking parents not being involved enough. I am really struggling with the whole school experience - my son seems to like it, but I am really struggling with the dynamics of the school system.
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