Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Son's School Gets a Report Card and It's Not Great

My son's school

My son's school's "report card" was posted on the school website this past Friday and I just took a moment to review. I've been trying to decide where I want to live long term. Should we stay in this town or move to a more affluent area?

I've been leaning towards staying here because the kiddo seems to be doing so well in his Kindergarten class. He is working hard, learning a LOT and he actually enjoys it. My kid loves going to school every day. That's pretty awesome right?

Then I saw the school's report. And all I could think was...yikes.

The town I live in is a Title I school system. Title I means you have a higher than average number of low-income families and so the federal government allocates extra money to districts like ours to ensure these students meet the rigorous academic challenges set forth by the state. Basically they're saying, we want everyone to pass the MCAS, not just rich white kids. Sounds fair right? The only problem is, even with all this extra money, our school is doing poorly. I mean really really poorly.

I'm looking at how the numbers are sliced and diced and I'm not seeing any one sector that is excelling. For third grade math, these are the numbers for percentage of kids who have a B in Math:
Students with Disabilities: 0%
Low Income 26%
High Needs 28%
African American 18%
Hispanic/Latino 28%
White 40%
Male 23%
Female 50%

Considering my kiddo is male and in the high needs category, this is kind of scary to me. My child WILL excel at school!

In the school's defense, I do know they are working hard to bring their scores up so it's possible I need to just wait it out. I can honestly say my son comes home with a ton of completed school work each day and I know that the teachers are working these kids hard academically. My son can already read and write a little and he's only been in Kindergarten for six weeks.

I also know we have a new principal this year who's job it is to turn these numbers around. I met the mayor at a barbecue a few weeks ago and he told me that he is committed to bringing the school's report card up to acceptable levels.

I also know there are lots of opportunities for learning and to get involved with the school and I see the school's enthusiasm for teaching. Over the summer the Title I office held reading events and there was one held today as well. There are periodic breakfast seminars where speakers provide guidance on how to help your child excel academically. And I get lots of notes from the teacher, suggesting ways to encourage my child's learning outside of school. So they truly are trying. I get that they need the help of parents and I'm happy to do what I can to help my son excel. Christopher is going to go to college of course and I need to make sure that he gets the academic support he needs starting now to be able to get there.

So back to the original question at hand. Where do I decide to live long term? Do I stick it out in this town and assume that the school's grades will get better? My son loves his class, loves his teacher and is very happy here. That's all pretty huge. But is that just the Kindergarten teacher? Will he love it in third grade as well? I have no idea.

Meanwhile, if I move half a mile to the next town over, I will end up with one of the best school systems in the state. Crazy right?

So why not just move then? There are a number of considerations:
  1. My son loves his current school
  2. My son is doing really well in his current school.
  3. My son has been bounced around so many times already in his life. Do I really want to add on more change?
  4. I have all the services we need currently in place. If we move to a new town, we would be starting over again. New therapists, new mentors. Once again, that's a lot of change.
  5. We're embedded in the community. I am the assistant soccer coach for his youth team. Christopher has friends here. We're very settled. It would be very jarring to my son (and to myself even) to move away.

Buying a house is an expensive proposition and I don't want to make this decision lightly. But I don't want to wait too long either because prices are just going to go up again and I want to move into a place with more space and a yard before the kiddo gets too much bigger. Sigh. So much to think about.

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