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 Post subject: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:29 am 
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I swore I started something like this but can't find it - alas!

Livi missed the cutoff for Kindergarten for most places by 1-8 weeks, depending. She's in a private pre-k now where she is doing AMAZINGLY. Her reading is so far ahead of most kids her age and she's awesome at math, etc.

We're still in NC on Fort Bragg (local public schools seem to be pretty bad and I don't want her to go to private school because the one she's at now is expensive for what it is and I just don't want her there) but I'm seriously hoping to get back to NH or ME before school starts.

My current question is this - and I invite other parents to panic and/or share -

One of the schools I'm looking at says something about not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) for the last 2 years, but is AYP solely related to No Child Left Behind, and if so, then do I not care? I've heard greatschools.org is good for checking out schools but I wonder.

I am looking for a full day kindergarten, not a half day.

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:18 am 
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AYP is related to NCLB, but it also usually means the school has Issues. At my school, this means we devote a lot of resources to remediation. Drop out rates and failure rates are higher. It doesn't mean we are a bad school--we aren't, but we have a really unique student population, like really really drastic have and have not contrasts. We have a lot of advantages to offer students, but since we need to devote so much to remediation and other catch-up programs, resources for gifted students are not on par with other schools in the district. For example, we don't offer as many advanced electives.

It can be misleading though--some schools have magnet programs for certain special services or have higher ELL populations (my school has both). These can definitely impact test scores while not saying much about the school quality.

The biggest problem is that schools who don't make AYP come under enormous pressure. They risk losing their funding if they don't meet the goals. This tends to result in a lot of teaching to the test and other bad, but understandable policies. When I'm at home, I can try to dig up some good articles that talk about what all of that actually means.

You can go to your state education website and get the school report card. This will break down all the demographics and scores by all of the criteria and show you why the school didn't make AYP. If you need help interpreting it, let me know.

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:57 pm 
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Thanks lava - that's some great info! I'm hoping that I can pick a good school in a good area so that I can keep her in the same school district until she graduates h.s. I'll let you know if/when I have questions :)

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 7:15 pm 
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Not making AYP is very misleading. First of all they don't actually measure progress, they look at 3rd graders every year, so they are actually comparing this year's third graders to last year's third graders -but that's a whole other debate.

The school doesn't make AYP if any portion of their school didn't make the designated progress. Like lava said, go online to the report card and see specifics. For instance the school I teach at didn't make AYP last year because we didn't have enough of our special ed students meet on the math test. There are over 600 kids at our school. Overall 97% of our kids met or exceeded state standards, but because 5 of our special ed kids didn't meet standards on the math test, the whole school didn't meet. (Also every school will eventually not meet their AYP, they raise the percentage you have to meet every year and there is no way for a school to be at 100%)

Also you should definitely go visit the schools that you are thinking about. Our principal gives tours to parents that are moving to the area all the time. You can get a good sense of the school environment from that.

Oh in another 2 years schools will be moving towards the common core standards and testing will probably be changed to a nationwide test so the whole system will be different.


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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 7:44 pm 
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Yeah--my old school was dinged for not improving when their scores went down from 95% to 94% for something, which worked out 3 or 4 kids failing. Ridiculous.

I'm all for accountability and benchmark testing, but none of this is intelligently implemented.

One worry is science. Many schools that struggle with reading and math scores have dropped science in elementary schools so they can focus on remediation and test prep since science isn't tested under NCLB until middle school. Definitely ask about science education. A good school will have an inquiry/exploration approach with tons of hands on activities.

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:00 am 
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lavawitch wrote:
Many schools that struggle with reading and math scores have dropped science in elementary schools


I know I've said this before but, man, every time I hear this I want to cry and scream. :(

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 7:57 am 
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Ack! Dropping science? Seriously, this school stuff is stressful - I don't get people who don't stress about it.

I found http://www.maine.gov/education/nclb/rep ... um1749.pdf - that's what I'm looking for, right? That one is the best of the 4 elementary schools in one school district (Berwick ME - it's close to where I want to be, but far enough to make it cheaper to live there).

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 1:08 pm 
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My school gives tours and I think a lot of them have something like that for prospective parents. I think it is best to go and visit to feel the vibe of the school. See what they value by looking at what is displayed on the walls, etc. An important indicator of a good school is the presence of an involved parents' association. If families are not working with the school that is a bad sign.


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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 1:15 pm 
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I would totally love to do that but I'm 800 miles away. I have friends but my friends have more affluent lifestyles and live in portsmouth, where I probably can't afford to live/buy a house.

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 3:25 pm 
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appifanie wrote:
I would totally love to do that but I'm 800 miles away. I have friends but my friends have more affluent lifestyles and live in portsmouth, where I probably can't afford to live/buy a house.


Next best thing might be to see if the schools have a website. Many elementary schools have one. Mine is maintained by the parents' group.


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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:20 pm 
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Butternut wrote:
appifanie wrote:
I would totally love to do that but I'm 800 miles away. I have friends but my friends have more affluent lifestyles and live in portsmouth, where I probably can't afford to live/buy a house.


Next best thing might be to see if the schools have a website. Many elementary schools have one. Mine is maintained by the parents' group.


Agreed...

Also, the school will probably share what curriculum(s) it uses - either listed on the website, or you can call and ask the curriculum person, and us opinionated teachers can advise you on the pros and cons on that academic part things :) Most schools use published curriculums because it's the easiest way to say they are implementing a "research based" curriculum, and there are only a few options out there. Of course the actual programs used are a small part of what a school experience is like.

My school does still teach science (thank you Illinois state testing in Science every 4 years; Social Studies is another story) but we switched from a hands on science program to a textbook based one (Scott Foresman/Pearson "Interactive Science". The kids read science passages and circle the main idea, underline details etc, so it is more of a second reading class. The teachers and kids hate it (the parents do too), but the district doesn't listen to anyone actually using or teaching it. Even our 5th graders pointed out the irony of it being called "Interactive Science" when all they do is read a textbook


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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 7:34 pm 
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lavawitch wrote:
Many schools that struggle with reading and math scores have dropped science in elementary schools


I just can't believe this happens. How does anyone expect to raise kids that are inquisitive about science if you don't nurture their curiosity from the time they are in elementary? I expect it further deepens the divide between poor and rich kids.

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 8:47 pm 
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It does further deepen the divide, but many schools have equal populations of rich and poor. In my experience, many rich parents are happy to pass off all educational responsibility to schools because they are too busy making money. I see this in my school. I can reach the working poor parents and get their support and help, but the dad who is a high staffer for the ***** department? Not so much. Yet his kid is scientifically illiterate and failing. On paper, this kid seems to have tons of advantages; in reality I feel sorry for him. Multiply this kind of thing across a school, and you have the same struggling test scores and similar end results, despite the presence of privilege.

Community and parent involvement is really key, if kids get the early support they need, schools are not scrambling as much to meet their mandated testing goals.

It's a crepe situation all around. Schools and teachers need help.

Social studies is definitely also a casualty. That also isn't tested as early or often as reading and math, so is considered expendable in struggling schools.

Sorry, Appi! Don't mean to rant in your thread. But, given the current educational climate, the health of a school's science program is very indicative of their overall educational health and robustness.

Lack of rigorous science is more likely in low income schools, but don't assume it's limited to those, because it isn't. This is a widespread problem that will severely impact the US in about 10-15 years.

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:52 am 
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No apologies needed! I need to be enlightened. The school stuff peas me off too because what good would ever come of cheaping out on education?

I think Berwick is probably mostly middle to lower middle class. Portsmouth is lower middle to upper, depending.

I guess I can pick the best I can because we'll rent in the beginning but maybe we can get purchased and settled the summer between K and 1st.

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 8:00 pm 
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Butternut wrote:
appifanie wrote:
I would totally love to do that but I'm 800 miles away. I have friends but my friends have more affluent lifestyles and live in portsmouth, where I probably can't afford to live/buy a house.


Next best thing might be to see if the schools have a website. Many elementary schools have one. Mine is maintained by the parents' group.


Or at the very least, call and talk to the principal. You won't get the see what's going on in the school, but you can ask all the questions.

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 8:15 am 
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that's a good thought too because if the principal's attitude could be indicative of a general environment.

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:45 am 
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FREAKING OUT.

Maybe this town. It's Maine, it's ocean, there are a few affordable houses that probably sell like crazy. This school is K-2 and there are SEVEN K classes! http://www.yorkschools.org/ves/kindergarten/

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:49 am 
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York is a really nice area! We vacation in Ogunquit (next town over) quite a bit. We have some friends who have houses in town - for how nice the area is, I'm always so surprised at how cheap housing is!

(I'm friends with a realtor down there, so let me know if you need help!)


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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:51 am 
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Oh appi, I'm so happy for you and Livi!

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 7:39 am 
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flava, are you? that's great! a friend told me about pam kirby but i'm not sure if they're friends or acquaintances or what, and I'm needy. I figure RE agents know tons about school systems and 'hoods, right?

tofulish! thanks! sad why the moving up faster (sick mom) but you know, the effect is good!

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 7:59 am 
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an article on choosing a school from a distance! http://www.greatschools.org/find-a-scho ... istance.gs

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:36 am 
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I am really sorry about your mom. I hope you're able to spend lots of time with her <3

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 3:52 pm 
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I've moved on to making a school spreadsheet.

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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 4:03 pm 
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I do believe most average kids will be fine in most schools. If you kid is really high or really struggling it can matter a bit more. If your kid is in special education, it matters a lot. So keep researching, but don't drive yourself crazy over it.

PS: if you want to drive yourself crazy: if the kindergarten does jolly phonics, heggarty, KPals, or "the phonics dance" as part of their day add a bonus point to your chart :)


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 Post subject: Re: Kindergarten Panic
PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 5:33 pm 
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chiveggie wrote:
I do believe most average kids will be fine in most schools. If you kid is really high or really struggling it can matter a bit more. If your kid is in special education, it matters a lot. So keep researching, but don't drive yourself crazy over it.


I agree with this. I have three kids (8th grade, 1st grade and infant) and have done both private and public schools. My daughter is above-average in skill level and I have actually had the most difficulty with schools with her because of this.

With my more average/standard level child (gosh, it feels awful saying it that way), I have found that the schools with the most parent particpation and supportive administration have been the best schools (public or private) even if it's not reflected in the test scores which, as others have mentioned, can vary based on so many different things.

Some things that are important to me in choosing a school are that the administrative is supportive, the provide some level of science, and some level of arts. It may not be important to some, but expyosure to arts is very important to me for my children, so I look for schools where there will be some exposure to that. Also, will you need afterschool care? This may be another thing to consider and factor in when you are looking for your school.

And even if you pick a school and get to the city and discover it's not a good fit for your child, you will at least have a point to start from of knowing what doesn't work for your child in a school. Deep breaths, mama, it will all work out.

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