K.C. asks from Savage, MN on August 28, 2007
Public Vs. Private - How Do You Choose?
A couple of questions. First, do you know of any good resources to investigate schools (public and private) starting at Kindergarten? I've heard some awful stories from folks and was hoping to have some objective information to use to compare schools. I'm not thrilled with the idea of having to pay tuition, but at the same time want to do what's best for my daughter.
Also, any insight into open enrollment? I am not a native to MN and so this is a mystery to me.
Finally, my daughter has a September birthday so I've heard that she will have to wait an extra year to start school if she goes to public school. She's been in preschool and will be ready (academically and socially) so I'd rather not wait. Any idea how firm a policy this is?
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B.H. answers from Minneapolis on August 28, 2007
We're in the Burnsville dist.191 and here's there policy with kindergarten. (kinda long)
Early Admittance to Kindergarten
Initial admission to kindergarten shall be solely on the basis of chronological age, except in special cases. The goal of this policy is to give consideration for early entrance to children who have missed the birth date cut-off by two months or less (September 2 through October 31), and who demonstrate superior potential readiness in intellectual, social, emotional and physical areas.
In cases where parents request early admission to kindergarten, the procedure will be as follows:
A written request shall be submitted to the building principal by the parent(s), stating the reason(s) why the parent(s) feel early admission is in the best education interest of their child.
If the building principal determines that the circumstances are worthy of consideration, the parent(s) will be requested to complete and return the early admission application form and questionnaire to the principal of the elementary school in their attendance area.
Upon receipt of the application form and questionnaire, the principal will arrange an interview with parent(s) and child to discuss the pros and cons of early entrance. Applications must be submitted by May 1st.
On the basis of the principal's observations during the interview, the principal will recommend (1) that it is best for the child not to be considered for early entrance or (2) that the child be referred for further evaluation by a licensed school psychologist not employed by this district, and will be tested in the areas of school readiness, intellectual ability and fine and gross motor skills, the cost of which shall be borne by the parents. A copy of this administrative regulation will be sent to the examining psychologist.
The licensed school psychologist's report will be sent to the Director of Individualized Student Services for review. Based on this report and the principal's recommendation, this school officer will determine admittance or rejection and will notify the parent(s) and the building principal of the decision at least one week prior to the start of school.
All early entrance placements will be considered trial placements.
During the first quarter, a school psychologist will conduct a classroom observation and meet with the principal and the classroom teacher to consider appropriateness of the placement.
In the event that it is determined that the child is misplaced, the building principal will meet with the parent(s) and appropriate staff to determine the course of action.
I grew up in Illinois in a suburb out of Chicago. I have been to and seen horrible schools. I didn't even have a playground at my elementry school yet lived in a brand new huge house and had was raised middle/upper class but because of boundaries got sent to the ghetto for school. I have horror stories...
Now in MN I think this state has awesome schools. I've never heard of a bad school here. Sure there are problems and things people don't like but really the school system here is great.
My daughter's birthday is 8/29/01 tomorrow she will be 6. I sent her to school last year, she seemed academically ready and very very socially ready. She did just fine, but was always the shortest, always the youngest, had to try a little harder. I sorta regret sending her. Sending her last year or sending her this year both had pro's and con's one year was not really better than the other year to send her. She is turning 6 tomorrow whereas everyone else is in her grade is getting ready to turn7. They have all lost teeth wheras my child is not anywhere close to loosing her teeth it's just the little stuff like that. Send her at 5 and challenge her, or send her at6 and let her be bored? I can't imagine have kept her home last year though she would have been bored and preschool wouldn't have been enough.
As far as private or public. I swore I would never send my child to a private school. I know to many adults that were sent to private school's and rebelled horribly or had a hard time fitting in when they went to highschool. I'm all about having my child socially adapted to world around her. Sooner or later they need this. Private schools seem to have a certain type of crowd, religous, or wealthy, etc.Your kinda secluded at a private school. Your confining your child to one type of lifestyle or one type of living. In public schools they see everything and learn to adapt to everything that comes there way. Now it can be a good thing in some circumstances. I went to a public school growing up where I was a minority being white and had alot of rough times and it would have been better to put me in private school.
Then there are language immersion school's. Some districts have these where they teach all subjects in soley spanish or french etc. Your child becomes bilingual and still learns all of their subjects. These are usually free public school's also.
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J.R. answers from Minneapolis on August 28, 2007
Star Tribune recently published "no child left behind" academic scores - it's still available on their website, so that might be a place to start if you're interested in test scores as a measure of comparison.
As for early enrollment, it probably varies by district. We're in Burnsville (191), and early enrollment is considered on a case by case basis & they look at kids born up to Oct. 1, I believe. You can probably check the school district website for more information - that's where I found it for us.
Sorry I can't be more helpful, but maybe this gives you a place to begin!
Mom to Chase (3.5)
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M.K. answers from Duluth on August 28, 2007
Where are you living? I live in Apple Valley and we were just offered three different options for MAGNET schools. My daughter is going in to first and they worked with her a bit over the summer and she is really rounding out academically. It's the science, technology, engineering, & math school. They teach all subjects, but say for reading, you'd not just read but read something with a science slant (plus normal reading). There's MORE field trips and hands on learning, extra time using technology to accomplish other tasks. My husband got transferred to Duluth a week ago, so I was really devastated that the girls wouldn't be able to attend the magnet, till I found one with the SAME program two miles from our new home up there! Some people hate the concept of a magnet school, but I love it. After home schooling my oldest two for three years, I understand what it means to teach all subjects using main subjects as springboards.
A site that may be useful:
Best of luck in your choice. I chose mine based on parental involvement, enrichments, racial diversity.
I forgot to say that the very best schools can't do a thing with out parental involvement and the worst schools can be awesome WITH it. Being involved goes a long way.
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J.H. answers from Minneapolis on August 29, 2007
You've been given plenty of advice on early admission for K and open enrollment, so I won't go there.
My family and I just moved here from CA in part so our kids COULD go to good urban public schools. Believe me, compared to northern CA, MN schools are FANTASTIC (it's all relative). I understand that MN schools are "not what they used to be" because of funding cuts and so on, but I'm still very pleased with what I've seen.
I grew up in Edina and would never send my kids there-although the education is great, I think the materialistic, homogeneous environment (yes, it's still the same) kid breeds entitled, self-interested kids with little social conscience (of course, there are exceptions, but that's the common denominator). I personally think it's important for kids to go to school with kids and families that aren't all like them-economically, ethnically, by family composition, etc.
We started by coming out for the Mpls. schools fair-I'd recommend it-I talked to staff and parents from many schools and visited a few. We chose to move to the neighborhood around Hale School (near Lake Nokomis) because that was the school I was most impressed with-great art classes, nice environment, tons of parent involvement, etc. I also liked Burroughs, Lake Harriet, Barton, Seward, and Pratt. Pratt was actually my favorite (very small school with a family-like environment) but I'd heard it might be closed. I visited Ramsey which had great PR materials (it's a "fine arts" magnet) but struck me as a school in disrepair with very evident behavior problems.
There is SO MUCH choice in the Mpls. public school system, unlike anywhere else I've seen-"regular" schools, open, Montessori, IB, bilingual programs, arts, performing arts-you name it. You're bound to find something you like. Best of luck.
J.P. answers from Minneapolis on August 29, 2007
It is my understanding that if your child has a BDay between Sept. 1 and Oct. 31 and would turn 5, you can have them tested to start school when they are 4 (about to be 5). My neighbor did this for her daughter with a mid-October BDay. We are in the Hopkins district. I think this may be a state-wide policy for public schools. Private schools, however, are not ususally very flexible on this issue.
K. answers from Minneapolis on August 29, 2007
I am a Spanish teacher and taught 10 years at a large, suburban, blue-ribbon high school. I am currently in my eighth year teaching at an independent k-12 school. I chose to leave due to the constant battle for funding from our district and the bashing (by then-governor Ventura) in the media.
As a Spanish teacher, I have taught the best and brightest at both schools. If your daughter is in the top tier (top 10-15%) of students, she will excel at either type of school. While we all believe that our children are 'bright', or even 'gifted', it is most often true that they are not. In my career of teaching very bright, motivated, focused and hard-working students, I have taught less than five truly 'gifted' students.
What independent schools do exceedingly well, is educate the average to gifted student. We don't do very well with students with special needs (most independent schools have few, if any, learning specialists for special education). The biggest difference for students is the school climate. At independent schools, at least at mine, the focus is on learning and the joy of learning. Students read for pleasure between classes and it is 'cool' to do so. They like their teachers and their classes. It is normal and expected to find classes interesting and to talk about them at lunch. Students (and teachers!) coming from public schools are often stunned by the lack of social pressure to cop an attitude or appear bored by school. Parents, too, often choose an independent school because of their expectations of how their children will view learning, thus creating an environment in which most families value education. Of course, at $18K/year for Upper School, there are some ridiculously wealthy families who send their kids just for the prestige of the independent school education, but they are in the minority.
My daughters are too young for kindergarten, but they will be attending my school. BTW, my husband is a public school teacher. We have just been wowed by this kind of education and will make sacrifices to make it happen for our kids.
My eldest is an August birthday, so we will have her in three years of preschool(!!!!) and send her to kindergarten right after she turns six. There is no doubt that she is academically ready - she can decode one syllable words and has the patience to listen to two chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone every night. (We will finish tonight!) However, her best friend is 9 months older and the difference between their social abilities is clear. Her best friend is also the youngest in her family and so is more aware of the kinds of ways you can socially manipulate a situation (I'm being delicate). My daughter, as the eldest, is more... naive. Her little sister, no doubt, will be much more manipulative! :)
This is a tough decision with large financial considerations. I wish you luck. I'm sure you'll be happy with whatever you choose.
I should mention that I know little to nothing about religious schools. I am referring to the well known independents in the metro area: Blake, Breck, Mounds Park Academy and St. Paul Academy.
N. answers from Minneapolis on August 29, 2007
Deciding on schools can be tough. Last year my husband and I struggled through this decision with our daughter who is now entering 1st grade.
Keep in mind that kindergarten today is not what you experienced so you may not want to rush it. They learn to read, write and even do lots of math. My daughter is reading, writing stories and doing multiplication already. An option to consider for starting Kindergarten early that you may want to consider is private Montessori Kindergarten. Attending Kindergarten is not required to go to 1st grade! My 2 year old son currently attends a Step by Step Montessori preschool/daycare that offers Kindergarten. A lot of parents I know are having their kids attend Kindergarten at aa Montessori school and then depending on how well they do they have them attend 'big kid' Kindergarten at the public school or send them right to 1st grade. Since my sons birthday is in July - we are strongly considering this route.
We live in southwest Minneapolis and were a bit overwhelmed by the many good choices we had in our area, Spanish Immersion, Montessori, Catholic, Traditional. A couple friends and families from our daycare moved from Minneapolis to the suburbs because they were worried about the schools. But it turns out they really didn't check into the schools and just assumed on rumor that all schools in the district weren't good quality. When we talk about schools now the families in Edina were surprised how many choices we had and how good the programs really were! Plus the test scores for most southwest Minneapolis public schools are in line with suburban schools!
Here's some things to consider/do before you decide:
1.) Visit the schools you are thinking about. It will give you the best feel for how the school operates and if your child will be comfortable in that environment.
2.) Talk to other parents and ask why they chose their school.
3.) Do you need after school care and do they have it on site? Schools have a lot of days off for teacher in-service so on-site after school programs such as Minneapolis Kids offer programs on those days and even in the summer!
4.)What times do the classes start? Do they have full day kindergarten guaranteed and is there a fee for it? If they start later in the day you may need before and after school care on the days you work.
5.) Is busing available?
6.) I looked at test scores but quickly realized that they don't tell the whole story. A child psychologist told us that the biggest factor in a child's success is the parent's involvement and attitude towards education.
7.) Is it a K-5 or K-8? Some parents favor K-8 programs since they want to avoid middle school programs.
What it came down to for us:
Burroughs was our community school which is a popular and great school with a beautiful building. Only drawback there was they didn't have full day kindergarten and it's popularity was driving class sizes up a bit. We knew no matter what we would be happy with Burroughs.
Armatage Montessori (a Minneapolis Public School) - our next door neighbors attended this school and were excelling. They had multi-grade classes which we liked the idea of and the Montessori technique really teaches the kids to self manage their work. Best part is it is part there isn't any tuition.
Spanish Immersion - my husband is Hispanic so we thought about Spanish immersion schools but decided to go with a school that offered Spanish classes after school instead.
Parochial school - Both my husband and I attended Catholic
elementary schools. My husband grew up in Chicago where the public school quality was so poor Parochial schools were the best middle class family choice and not too expensive. He was very skeptical about public school quality. My reservations revolved around my experiences as a child. My parents were divorced while I was in kindergarten and I was the only child with divorced parents in the whole elementary school (until 6th grade!). I was very conflicted since the spiritual part of my education was teaching me that my parents were bad people and I felt like an outcast! I ended up asking my parents if I could go to public school for junior high. Times have changed and given the high divorce rate it may not be a concern any more. Both my husband and I got a solid education in the parochial system. In the end I pushed away from this choice since I didn't want risk my child being taught her grandparents were bad or that certain beliefs or lifestyles were better than others.
High end independent schools - we were spending about $1000 a month for preschool/daycare so we knew we could find a way to afford private programs. In the end we wanted our children exposed to a more diverse community and decided to save the money for a good college instead.
In the end we sent my daughter to Armatage Montessori Public School and love the program. My daughters teacher was awesome and she is doing great. The Montessori program at the school is growing quickly and this year they even added another Kindergarten class.
Good luck in your decision!
S.I. answers from Minneapolis on August 29, 2007
My understanding is that kids born between Sept 1 and Aug 30 are all in the same grade. But no matter what the range it, there are still going to be students almost a year apart. My husband had asked if I was "held back" because we were born 3 months apart (June and September) and were in different grades. If the school year ran January - December, then having kids born all the same year in the same grade makes sense. But I think how it is set up now works just fine.
Open Enrollment basically is that you can send your kid to any school in the district, not necessarily the nearest public school.
I live in Minneapolis now. My mom is a teacher and WILL NOT let my daughter go to public schools in Minneapolis. Fortunately it will be a bit before she's that old. I was in suburban public schools and so was my husband, and I think that's what we would prefer to go with. Course, I also have issues about paying for education when it is free from the state. So depending on where we live in 4 years will definately be a factor in that decision.