Choosing public school

If her daughter doesn’t get into a top-choice public school in San Francisco, Rhiana Maidenberg plans to send her to a not-so-great public school, she writes on Babble.

. . . if every parent with the means and time to improve a school environment takes their children out of the public school system, how do these systems stand a chance at improving?

Maidenberg, a freelance writer, visited dozens of schools to develop a list of 14 favorites that are good or getting good and not too far away. Like all choice systems, public school choice favors savvy parents with time to research the options and develop a strategy.  It’s very unlikely her daughter will lose the entrance lottery at all 14 schools.

However, many San Francisco public elementary schools offer PE, music and art only once a week, she writes.

. . . with the $24,000 we’ll be saving by not enrolling our daughters in private school, I can chauffeur them to a plethora of extracurricular, afterschool activities. As an educated and involved parent, I can make sure that my children receive a fully rounded education.

Has it ever been common for elementary schools to teach music and art more than once a week?

The main thing private schools can’t provide that public schools can is diversity. The experiences my kids will receive in a classroom filled with children of varying backgrounds, native languages, and races will help them grow to be well-rounded world citizens. While I can make up for a lack of music class, if we chose private school, I couldn’t enroll them in diversity training.

Most California private schools enroll many students from immigrant families of varying backgrounds, native languages and races. There’s much less socioeconomic diversity, of course, and it’s less likely seriously disabled students will be mainstreamed. (San Francisco friends moved their child from an excellent public school to private school because the kindergarten teacher wasn’t able to control two violent boys diagnosed with behavioral disabilities.)

Educated, involved parents can do a lot to ensure that their children are well-educated even if their schools isn’t ideal. And they may be able to improve a school, if they can recruit similar parents. It’s much harder for poorly educated parents, especially if they’re working full-time or more.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. tim-10-ber says:

    Joanne –when my kids were in public elementary school (they are both in college now) they both had art and music two or three times a week depending on the weekly rotation. They had a music lab and an excellent art teacher. I wish they had had art and music 5 times a week but was thrilled with the quality of the programs.

    Hope this helps…

  2. Obi-Wandreas says:

    The main thing private schools can’t provide that public schools can is diversity. The experiences my kids will receive in a classroom filled with children of varying backgrounds, native languages, and races will help them grow to be well-rounded world citizens. While I can make up for a lack of music class, if we chose private school, I couldn’t enroll them in diversity training.

    My jaw dropped when I read this statement. Apparently her experience in this subject is restricted to teenage movies. Does this person think she can just look at a group of people and determine whether or not they are diverse?

    The funny part is that she probably thinks of herself as enlightened.

    • Another parent who just toured a number of public and private SF middle schools commented about the private schools, “Now I know where all the white kids in San Francisco go during the day.”

    • Does this person think she can just look at a group of people and determine whether or not they are diverse?

      Of course! Nothing says well rounded like living in a world of stereotypes.

    • I attended public schools growing up and could count the number of “diverse” kids on a single hand: two African-Americans, two Mormons, and a Jew, all of whom came from affluent families where both parents were highly educated white collar professionals. In contrast, my DH attended Catholic schools growing up and had a fair amount of racial, ethnic, and even socioeconomic diversity (because of all the scholarship students) among his classmates.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        The two most diverse institutions in the USA are the Catholic Church and the United States Army – or the Armed Forces. Whowouldathunkit?

        If diversity is something the author really values perhaps she should consider becoming Catholic or joining up. I’m sure either experience would expand her limited horizons.

  3. tim-10-ber says:

    I think she is in for a very rude awakening…if she is truly honest with herself…teachers in public schools are more qualified to teach than teachers in private schools? Seriously? I think she is seriously deluding herself…she sounds extremely elitist, has the ability to sign up for 14 schools (wonder how many she researched) and has the wherewithal to supplement art and music education. Bet she doesn’t last long in the public school system if she does not get a top school…

  4. Has it ever been common for elementary schools to teach music and art more than once a week?
    I really don’t recall how often we had music and art, but I remember very well that we went from PE once a day to PE twice a day in 1973 (this was in California and was probably specific to my district or school). That was the year I started ditching school during PE, until I got caught and hauled to the principal’s office.

    So obviously we had PE a lot more often than once a week, even before that.

    • Growing up, I had daily PE and either art or music every day as well. I can’t remember if it was 3 days of art and 2 days of music or the other way around, but it was definitely more than once per week.

  5. teachers in public schools are more qualified to teach than teachers in private schools?

    Um, yes. In addition to being a teacher, I tutor for a lot of kids in private schools. The math teachers at many excellent private schools are abysmal, and as bad as indoctrination is in public English schools, it’s as bad or worse in the private schools.

    Public school teachers have to pass a competency test in their subject. I’ve taken three of the four core academic subject test sequences in California. They aren’t cakewalks. Private teachers don’t have to take them (although I suspect most private teachers are qualified for public schools as well).

  6. The scheduling may vary, but SF public schools do have pretty decent art & music programs, thanks to the Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF), city money that voters approved to fund school enrichments in 2004. PE is more varied, though PEEF does provide funding for that too.

    Both my kids got started in music in SFUSD schools. My son is now a trumpet student at Oberlin Conservatory, and my trombonist daughter is in Boston today performing at Berklee School of Music with the SFJazz High School All-Stars. So as you can see, they’ve been pathetically deprived, starved of all enrichments.

    Seriously, both my kids really took off in music in the band and jazz band at Aptos Middle School in SFUSD — a school that was viewed as marginal, a “dirty, dangerous ghetto school,” when my older started there. Oh, and of course my SFUSD-educated son attends Oberlin along with the children of the power elite, the 1%, most of them private schooled or from ultra-wealthy ‘burbs — his roommate last year was from your very own school district, Joanne. He has not found himself overmatched by their vastly superior intellect or education.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    Reminds me. Back in the day, HS class of ’62, I had one period of General Music per day. One semester.

  8. She must be getting paid by word-count because if the article were any more outrageously padded you could use it to sleep on a bed of nails.

    What’s kind of fun is the contortions our veddy “progressive” writer puts herself through to justify both lefty icons not putting their kids in public school and she putting her kids in public school. So Micheal Moore comes in for a very tangential swipe when he implies that he’d be sacrificing his daughter in some way if she went to public school, the question of whose kids should be sacrificed is asked but nowhere is there any inspection of the question why it is a sacrifice to send your kids to public school.

    My conclusion from admiring the facility with which the author avoids the question of why it’s a sacrifice is that there’s an understanding that, if a district school sucks there’s not much to be done about it. The only remedy would be parental choice to which Maidenberg is, I’m sure, horrifyingly opposed even while she’s engaged in just that activity to the extent she’s allowed choice within the offerings of the district.

    To offset even the implication that Maidenberg is of the opinion that parental choice is a good idea we have an extravagant paean to the nobility of the teacher even though, reading between the lines, her own Teach for America experience leads her to the conclusion that maybe not every kid is getting a fair shake from either the institution or the employees. It’d be funny if it weren’t for the fact that people like her are doing everything in their power make sure those unfortunate kids stay in those lousy schools.

  9. It’s pretty well established that, on the whole, Catholic schools are more diverse than neighborhood public schools. That includes race, religion, ethnicity and socioeconomic factors. When you think about it, it makes sense. People tend to live near people who are like them, and Catholic schools draw from more than one neighborhood.

  10. No, Catholic schools don’t draw from more than one neighborhood, Ruth Joy, at least not in an urban system like here in SF. The parish lines are very strictly drawn. In fact, a NON-Catholic kid who wants to play on a Catholic league sports team (not a school team) but lives in another parish has to get special dispensation. Obviously, that’s true of parochial schools too.

    Catholic schools draw from their parish, just as in general, public schools draw from their surrounding neighborhood (SF is an outlier in that area).

    Nobody in San Francisco ever tries to claim that Catholic schools are more diverse than public schools — the opposite is a given for most SF schools, though there are some overly homogeneous public schools. Maybe that’s well established in other cities, but I sure would be surprised if the same parish system didn’t exist everywhere.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      We need to distinguish between K-8 and high school when discussing Catholic schools. High schools like Bellarmine, Mitty, Saint Francis, etc. draw from all over Santa Clara county.

    • Not all the kids in K-8 schools are from a single parish. For one thing, not every parish has a school, so those kids go elsewhere. Some schools have kids from four or five or six parishes that don’t have a school of their own. Besides that, not all kids in Catholic schools are Catholic—they are often of other Christian denominations, or Muslim, or what we used to call “unchurched.” All of this adds to the mix. There have been quite a number of studies on this over the years, coming to the same conclusion. Perhaps your particular situation in SF is different, Caroline.

    • The Catholic Church no longer assigns people to parishes based on residence. Any Catholic is free to join any parish he/she wishes.

      I cannot stand the parish in my town (the priest openly criticizes the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops), so I drive to a church in a different town. There are several families in the parish who have done the same for the exact same reason.

      My cousin and his wife joined the parish affiliated with the school they liked best, even though it is in a different town from where they live. Their daughter is now a kindergartner at that school. No need to get special permission from the parish in their town.

      • Deirdre Mundy says:

        Crimson– That actually varies by diocese. Some dioceses have very strict boundaries, some have no parish boundaries, some have a combination. I know that when my IL friends try to join a parish, the office checks their address to make sure they’re eligible. Meanwhile my Diocese (Gary) is apparently all ‘ethnic parishes’ which means you can go whereever you feel at home. (Somewhat silly these days, but at the time the diocese was set up you couldn’t expect Irish, Poles and Germans to worship together…)

  11. When I attended grades 6-8, we had physical education everyday, music, home economics, industrial arts, etc…the physical education, home economics, and industrial arts were mandatory classes (circa 1975-1977).

    Unfortunately, with so many students having problems with basic reading, writing, and math coursework, I am not surprised that many schools have had to scale back or eliminate arts and vocational type coursework…