Choosing a School (Neighborhood or Bilingual?)

Updated on November 21, 2010
J.O. asks from Novi, MI
13 answers

OK, what to do? Do we have the kids attend our excellent neighborhood school that is 9/10 on Greatschools rating? We bought a house really liking the school. It's grades K-6, and parents/kids love it!

But...a few neighborhoods over is a school, still in our district, they could attend for a dual-language program and learn Spanish/English. What a gift to become bilingual like that! This school is in a lower income area, and test scores are not high. The school is not awful, at 7/10 on Greatschools.

Which school?

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answers from Washington DC on

Personally I would send them to the better school.
If you really want them to learn Spanish you can do it at home and many elementary schools are teaching it anyway, the better school might have a program.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Chattanooga on

I would have them go to the closer school, and maybe enroll them in an extracurricular Spanish class if available... If not, there are computer programs and T.V. shows that are made to teach kids a second language that you might try as well... My main reasoning (besides the better rating...) is that it will be easier for them to make friends if they are living near each other and going to the same school...

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answers from San Francisco on

I sent mine to the dual language school. Immersion is the best way to learn the language. My kids are proficient in both Spanish and English. With any school, you can get a great education. The test scores are not high because of the nature of bilingual immersion schools when the test are given in English. Brain research indicates that the window for learning a second language begins to close at age 10 (I think). That is not to say that you can't learn a language later, but it sticks with you much better when learned at a younger age. And learning a second language proficiently when young stimulates nerve development in ways that cannot happen later in life. Bilingual immersion is not the right choice for every child, but if your child is on track with verbal development in English, they will pick up the second language pretty easily. That being said, it is harder for me, since I don't read Spanish, to help with homework!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Don't rely on "greatschools" to give you a good perspective on the type of teaching that goes on in the schools. You need to visit BOTH schools and decide for yourself which one is the better for you you, your child and your educational goals for your children.

For me, the immersion school had all sorts of bad scores...there was no way I was going to send my kids there even though I *knew* how beneficial a 2nd language could be over the long term (verbal acuity is higher, grammar/reading is higher and overall problem solving is higher on average for ALL kids who have a 2nd language at an early age and continue with it through their elementary years.)

However, I went to the open house and talked at length with the principal who explained how test scores are done, how different things which have nothing to do with academics will affect the scores for a school etc. IN our case the dual language part of the school had equal scores to the best school in the area and the 'neighborhood school' part of the school was dragging the scores down...and the scores were years old on greatschools.

Also, the principal at the "best" school said he would send his kids to the immersion school in a heartbeat because it was such an amazing program. That sealed it for me.

So far, I've not been disappointed at ALL.

So, do your research in person. And find what fits your family. It may not be a good fit for your kids, but you won't know until you really look into it.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

bilingual - not only do they get this great opportunity - but the kids will be more down to earth. We live in an area with many beachfront multi-million dollar homes. The rich kids can often be very ostentatious - and it begins about age 9 -believe it or not. Abercrombie shirts in 4th grade, Coach sneakers in 6th grade, prada, gucci & fendi bags in 7th - I kid you not!!! Even better if you can find a public school with uniforms - even my teenage daughter would like that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Learning languages is easier the earlier they start. That's been researched and proven. But what language do you WANT them to learn? There's enough Spanish being taught that it's probably well taken care of. If you want to incorporate a different language in your kids, Rosetta Stone is an excellent medium. Realize Chinese and middle Eastern languages are also being introduced into mainstream cirriculums.
I'd go for the better school. You can pick and choose what language your kids should learn later. But consider a couple other things: 1. are you going to learn along with them? Because a language is going to stick with you if it is used. That's probably why language classes aren't introduced till middle and high school when kids are closer to getting out of school and having the opportunity to use it. But if you're learning along with them, it will help for it to stick when used. 2. some just aren't 'wired' for language. Not everyone has the 'ear' for language and can get frustrated if they can't develop that 'authentic' drawl and mix in. Some people call it a musical ear, but e.g. my mom is very musical, but she's terrible with language. You might want to hold off and see if there's enough mixture of students that it would warrant a language class or program. Also to see your child's potential or desire. Remember it isn't always what the child wants or what you think would be good. You could do it together at home, sure. But if, e.g., science is more the child's interest, you want to consider encouraging that as much as any language.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Go to the better school. You can always give them the bilingual advantage with extracurricular classes or some of these fun videos and such you can get now days. You will not regret choosing the higher scoring school.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Hello J. O,

As someone who has worked with children and their parents for over 25 years, my vote is for your neighborhood school. Your kids will be going to school with your neighbors, you will build friendships with their parents (who all speak English, just like you), and they will get a better education as you showed in the school ratings.

There are many other ways you can teach your children a second language. My daughter took Spanish lessons from a former elementary school Spanish teacher in her home when she was preschool age. Now my daughter has a Spanish program she learns from at home on our computer that we bought at Costco for only $30. And I am a local childcare coordinator for an au pair agency, so my daughter gets to be with young adults from all around the world for whom English is a second language at least once a month when we spend time with the au pairs.

I think it's a great experience for our kids when we expose them to other cultures as well as teaching them another language. Look for intercultural events you can take your children to. Here in the Portland area we have a ScanFair coming up the first weekend in December. It is a weekend event at a local university that celebrates Scandinavian Christmas traditions. This is a great example of a way you can expose your kids to other cultures.

Best wishes to you and your family!

~P. G.
Local Childcare Coordinator, Cultural Care Au Pair

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I vote for the neighborhood school. There is nothing like participating in the community you live in. You'll build friendships for life. And definitely consider that the test scores are better at your neighborhood school...perhaps because it is not bilingual?



answers from Detroit on

I wouldn't say necessarily that the school with better test scores is the "better" school. If you are looking at test scores I would ask to see the segregated data. If it is a language immersion school with many native Spanish speakers then the scores will ofter be lower simply because kids are only given ONE YEAR to learn English before they have to take the MEAP and the scores are used for/against the school. Of course, they are not going to be proficient in a language after one year. Even if they are in "conversational English" it takes much longer to be proficient in academic language. However, your child will be getting exposure to "real" Spanish, not a once a week class.

Also, since anyone can comment on Greatschools I don't put much into it. You can get a feeling, but look at 1 - how long ago were the comments left (there could have been changes in the school) 2 - how many parents left comments (only a few will not give you an accurate feeling for the majority of the parents) and 3 - remember that people ar often more likely to leave a comment on something like that when they are UNhappy, instead of happy.

Visit each school to get a read feeling for it. Good luck!



answers from Denver on

Our district school is an ESL school. My daughter is going to preschool there. The kids aren't the problem. It is the parents. There is no chatting as we wait to pick up the kids, no speaks English well but me and everyone seems very shy. I don't see any play dates coming out of her school friends. They get along great at school but the parents don't mix. Sad.



answers from Phoenix on

We have a very similar choice. Our neighborhood school is within walking distance, a 9/10 and is one of the few elementary schools in our district that is excelling. However, a school about 10 minutes away is the only one in the district that is offering a preK-6 Spanish immersion program. It's rated an 8/10, is still a great school and the parents are asked to commit to the entire program, 7 years, from the start. For us, it's a no-brainer. Our children will be going to the dual-language program, even if it means a little inconvenience transportation-wise. We are a barely bilingual household (my husband and I both speak a little Spanish, comparable to the average Spanish-speaking 2 year old) and we live in a very bilingual state. Language is something neither one of us were offered until high school and we both wish we had the time and money to take more classes to become proficient, as it's an important skill that is necessary in the world today. Our kids will have the advantage of a second language as part of their everyday schooling and will be proficient in 2 languages by the time they are ready for middle school. We consider that a blessing. Good luck!



answers from Columbus on

Hi J.,
I would choose your local school because of your children's speech, langague and OT issues. They probably need more basic programs and speech and langaguge modles in only one lagnague.


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