What Options Are Out There?
Obviously, there is an obvious path to stick with our magnet middle school for another year and move to a local public high school. It's not an awful school, and our neighbors are mostly happy with it. But... after 7 years of public schools I am so tired and disillusioned - tired of practically begging for what my daughter needs and disillusioned that she will get what she needs without us having to ask for it. Also, our high school district is happily joining the race to the bottom by eliminating honors programs and having AP classes available only to juniors and seniors. Ostensibly, this is done to "reduce stress". In reality, it is mostly done to "close the achievement gap", keep everyone in the same "track" and eliminate the need for higher track classes and teachers. This is why we are also looking at other options.
Our area certainly has some competitive college prep private schools, and even a gifted school. However, the price tag of a gifted school is $40K a year, which makes it unacceptable to us. Many other schools are religious, and Smarty is dead set against going to a religious school (lately, she concedes that she might consider it if there are no better choices available). Yesterday, we went to see the only school that was on our "short list" for a possible switch in the 8th grade - a very small secular school within 10 minutes drive from our home.
There are pros and cons about this school and its size. The pro is that with less than 100 students between grades 6 to 12, each student can get personalized attention and a fairly personalized education. Students are grouped by ability and not by grade, which can be wonderful for Smarty. The school prides itself on everyone going to college and working with each student individually on college preparation. Each class is specifically designed to have no more than 12 students in it and conducted in a seminar manner. The concern is that the teachers "double teach" several classes and, if Smarty does not connect to someone, there is no escape except leaving school altogether. The same applies to friends - she might have more academically minded kids in this school, but it does not mean that she will "click" with them and the pool to choose from will be significantly smaller.
Despite this concern, yesterday we were very excited about this option and wanted Smarty to come to this school come for shadowing. But today our friend shared some negative reviews from a recent graduate - mostly related to the school climate. Basically, the school makes money by accepting international students and organizing visas for them. According to this graduate, these international kids are not treated fairly and live in fear of losing their visa status. This is a big red flag to us, but most likely we will still send Smarty over to shadow students in January and get her impression. Then we might have another frank discussion with a headmaster about how this school operates before we decide whether it remains on our shortlist.
Shopping for schools is both exciting and scary. Our first commitment is to Smarty's mental health. Interestingly, unlike many other kids, she craves challenge and competition to stay engaged in learning. Of course, the level of challenge and competition needs to stay healthy - this is why we are not considering another local school that prides itself on a very fast pace with enormous amounts of homework. Hopefully, we will find something that will be just right for Smarty.
Are you thinking of changing educational paths for your children?