Oct 20, 2008

LAUSD Program Choices

I hope you all don't mind coming along for the ride, because my recent posts about debating between private and public schools are just the beginning. And I have a feeling that I'm going to be talking a lot about the Los Angeles Unified School District's Choices Program in the months to come. The program includes magnet schools, which is likely to be our first choice for the boys' middle and high school education. But I know very little about the process of getting into a magnet school, so I'll be learning as much as I can about the process, the options, and how we can maximize our chances of getting the boys into our preferred school.

I am definitely grateful to have the magnet option, because I've determined that our default middle and high schools are unacceptable. They have low or average testing scores, are located in not so great neighborhoods, and don't have great reviews on the GreatSchools site.

I was poking around on the eChoices web site when I discovered that they're holding an informational fair (pdf) on Saturday, Nov. 1. We're going to attend and hopefully make a good start in learning how to navigate the whole magnet school process.


Dr. Mom said...

There may be a school/district website that has information and/or forms that you need to fill out to apply by a certain date. We have a special school in our district that is on a year round schedule and generally considered to be better than the school(s) my children would be attending. I applied twice just to be sure they got my paperwork. It was a lottery choice system but once the first got in, all three would be able to attend as they entered school. It worked out for us, but you have to be careful about when the paperwork is due. Magnet schools are generally as good as or better than private schools. I think one of the reasons is that to get in, a parent has to care enough to fill out the paperwork for the child. That means you are starting out with a population of children with parents who want and expect a good education for their kids and are probably more willing to put forth more effort to make sure that happens. This is not to say that public school parents don't care for the kids' education...if you are in a district with great public schools and that is already happening, than you are luckier than many parents struggling with this dilemma.

Camille said...

Just a note on magnet schools -- often school districts will take low-achieving schools and add magnet programs to attract brighter, "better" students. The entire school is not made up of only magnet students. The magnet programs still tend to be good and most magnets students are in honors courses and thus have class with other magnet students, but sometimes the school atmosphere just isn't worth it.

That said, the flip side is that your kids will get great exposure to a multi-ethnic community and to the realities of life for kids who aren't so lucky. I believe that can be just as invaluable to learn as the great magnet programs!

Anonymous said...

I don't live in LA or even California, but I would highly recommend visiting your local schools before you make a decision. Test scores aren't everything and GreatSchools relies heavily on test scores. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that you don't have to drive all over the city, using time, gas, and money to get a good education for your children and that in the process you also strengthen your ties to your community. At least walk through the door and confirm for yourself that the school doesn't meet your standards. Its still your neighborhood school even if your kids don't go there. With your kids so young, you still have time to make an impact on the school and your community. I guess I just want to put out there that spending your energy improving the schools you have may be worth as much as spending energy finding and attending out of the way schools. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Camille. There are certain magnet schools in our district that are fantastic and others that were added as programs to increase student attendance and use the available space at schools where parents were pulling out kids for private school because the public school is so bad. Even if the magnet kids are together in class, they are still in phys ed, cafeteria, and extra-curricular activities with the rest of the student body.

One other thing to consider... School is a huge part of your child's social life. Attending a school miles away puts a crimp in a student's social life. I know, I was raised in a small town and attended a Catholic high school 45 minutes away. Dances, evening football and basketball games, after school activities - everything was made more difficult because of transportation issues. Because some students came from towns that were 30-45 minutes away in the other direction, some friendships were difficult to maintain. This is why I'm sending my 8th grader to the local high school next year, rather than the Lutheran high school 30 minutes away or even any of the closer private schools. I want her social life to be in this area, not spread for miles and miles.

Your sons are young and the schools may be very different when they start middle/high school. You may also be living somewhere else or have other life circumstances that change. I admire that you're thinking about this now, but don't get too hung on something that won't happen for 6 or more years.