Friday, April 27, 2007

about school

Several of you asked about why I am starting to doubt our choice, the charter school, for G next year. This is classical academy for grades 6-12, and it's a very small school with a cap of 50 students per grade. We know a couple of students there who like it. One very much, one more or less. We know four students who attended, liked some things about it, but ultimately ended up choosing to leave the charter school to attend our middle school. We know several people who have looked into the charter school for their children but have decided against trying it. I've talked with all of them, and here is my summing up, the pros and cons of the charter school.

Excellent, integrated, sequential curriculum. Art, History, and English classes all revolve around the same time period.

Art. I believe they have it every day, and the kids love it.

Latin. They have Latin every day, and everyone has liked it.

Small-community atmosphere. Our middle school has about 1500 students. It is fairly impersonal. At the charter school everyone knows everyone. There is very little teasing, if any.

Small class size. There are fewer students in each class.

Music. There is one music teacher who does everything at the charter school. The tiny strings group, maybe 4 kids, meets once per week before school. The middle school here has a nationally-renowned orchestra program which meets every other day during school hours. There are many ensemble opportunities, too.

Lack of world languages. At the charter school, only Latin is available right now and eventually they will add high school Spanish. At the middle school, students take German, French, or Spanish every other day.

Math. This could also be a pro, depending on who you talk to. Some like the Saxon Math program at the charter school, which is exhaustive and highly repetitive. It is excellent for the average math student, because those kids WILL learn the skills and there will be no gaps. However, I have it listed on the cons because I have never liked that program for G. I think she would go crazy with all the review work. The school says they work very carefully with gifted students, but one mother whose son left the charter school said she didn't feel that was the case.

No gifted program or "enriched" classes. The charter school says that because they are a small school they are more flexible and can easily meet the needs of gifted students. However, some of the charter's former students didn't feel like their needs were being met. The middle school has advanced English and Math classes. In 8th grade, enriched classes are offered for English, Math, Science, and History.

Extra-curricular Activities. G is interested in participating in MathCounts, Science Olympiad, and some sports. These activities are large, impressive programs at the middle school. Though the charter school does offer several extra-curricular activities, they are very small programs.

Another reason I begin to consider the middle school (G and I had a tour yesterday) is that I think the local high school, though horribly large, may be better for G than the charter school. They offer an incredible number of cool classes. I would have loved it. I've heard it is very, very good for self-motivated students, and G is self-motivated. I like the block classes. Every quarter students only take 3-4 subjects and I think that would appeal to G. So, if she is going to the high school, she would only be going to the charter school for 7th and 8th grade. And then I wonder how worthwhile that would be.

Have I lost you all?


Mark and Carla said...

My hubby taught for 14 years at the middle school and I taught for 2. I have to admit, they do an amazing amazing job of making the school more personal with teaming. The teachers were so dynamic and enthusiastic and are really skilled. Yes, it's huge and there's no way to overcome that for some kids (including most of the ones I worked with). But I was very impressed by the caliber. That doesn't overcome some of the issues that G would probably face with curriculum. They also have a kick butt Destinaton Imagination program that G. would rock in.

Hubby was good friends with the person who heads the social studies department and lead the gifted program there. I know she's retiring at the end of this year but I'd be happy to email you her name/contact if you'd be interested in talking to her.

I do think one of the negatives to the schools in your community is the wealth. Yes, there's subsidized housing and a decent-sized Somali community, but there can be a preoccupation with the "right" clothes and the vacations you take. Not at all with everyone, by any means at all, but there is a financial level in your community, no doubt about it.

It's such a tough decision. G. is so well-balanced and solid, as are you, that I know you'll be fine, whatever the final decision. But I found the middle school to be a very dynamic and enriching place professionally compared to the suburb where I came from!

Karen ~ said...

And that suburb (the one paling in Carla's comparison) would be the one with the schools that I am currently not enrolling my children in. (dangling preposition, I know, but what are ya gonna do?)

Sounds like that "Mama-gut" is telling you pretty strongly to go with the middle school!

Julie said...

You didn't lose me. Thanks for answering my question! :)