Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Kindergarten Crazy

I took Ava over to her new public school where she will start Kindergarten in the fall for the mandatory kindergarten testing. From what I can gather from the short one page letter to Kindergarten parents this 1/2 hour testing is done before each child starts Kindergarten to identify children who might qualify for Title I benefits. The school district likes to identify these children and then plan for any special needs accordingly.

I'm all for this. It sounds very proactive to me. Ava played with the teachers and rattled off her letters and numbers like a champ. Then they took her into another room so I have no idea what went on behind closed doors, but Ava seemed chipper enough upon coming out so I decided not to grill the teacher as she politely told me "Ava is more than ready for Kindergarten. She will be a joy to have in class."

During the 20 minutes I had to relax, I mean chase Liv up and down the hallways while Ava was showing those teachers a thing or two, one of the other mother's struck up a conversation. She asked if Ava would be attending full time kindergarten or alternate day.

There are big changes coming down the pike in my state right now resulting in a Great Kindergarten Debate. Right now my school district funds 1/2 time public school kindergarten. Our school has children attend 2 1/2 days of kindergarten a week funded by tax dollars. Families that need or want full time kindergarten may pay for the extra 2 1/2 days for their child to attend. In the past this has even been a lottery situation at our neighborhood school where you enter your child in the lotto and then if you win you pay the money for full day. This year the governor and the state assembly have passed appropriations for state wide full day kindergarten. They are pushing all school districts to migrate to mandatory full day. Thirty three million dollars in grant money has been set aside so that each school can apply for a piece of that $33 million pie. Ideally, the bulk of this year's money would end up in schools where test scores are lower and students are more disadvantaged. However, our school is also chomping at the bit for every last red cent. Even though it is a top performing school in the state.

Back to coffee talk at the testing session yesterday. The other mother asked what were were doing with Ava this fall. I explained that we had opted for 1/2 time public school kindergarten and are supplementing with and enrichment program that is private. I want her to attend the program we have selected because it is notoriously NOT academic, but rather arts and literature based with alternative teaching methods. It is over $200 a month but I don't care. The school has the kids in units learning to cook meals in the kitchen and reading books about cooking and food etc... Another unit features art and they visit this city's art museum. Just as the program name suggests...I think it is more enriching than full day kindergarten at our public school. The mother at the testing session tells me that our public school is dropping all but 1 alternate day kindergarten class and right now there are 27 kids in that class. Oh, and to add insult to injury there is no funding for an aid in the classroom. So, the kids who select 1/2 time kindergarten rather than full day will all be lumped into 1 class with 1 teacher. No aide. Is this a recipe for full frontal disaster or what? 27 kindergartners and 1 teacher?

So, because I don't even have my kid enrolled at the school yet and lord knows I couldn't wait until September to label myself as the pushy "problem" parent I march my hiney up to the 16 year old assistant principal who has been mercilessly flirting with some other mother in a bathing suit top and daisy dukes for the last 1/2 hour. I kindly ask if I can pull 16 year old asst. principal with the wandering eyes if I can have a word with him. He tears himself away from Miss America and says, "Ugh, huh."

I recant what other mother has put forth and simply and quitely ask for confirmation that she is sadly mistaken and there will indeed be 2 alternating classes running throughout the week allowing me to also send my kid to art and literature swishy program across the street. Furthermore your class size will probably be about 18 or less RIGHT?

Oh no, other mother is quite right. Also, they haven't decided what day the 1 alternating class will run and it might very well clash with my swishy program across the street. So, if I don't jump ship right now and sign Ava up for full day kindergarten like the governor of my state is suggesting I do, then I might run the risk of losing out of swishy school due to over lapping days AND have to send Ava to a 1/2 time program with 27 kids and 1 teacher. Oh, and if I select full day over here in public land the class size is almost guaranteed to be about 18 or so with a full time aide. (Since there is state funding for that, or almost state funded since I would of course have to pay for the 2 1/2 days out of the 5.)

Needless to say, I feel slightly strongarmed into choosing to pay for public school full day kindergarten. We have until July 2nd to make a choice and send in a nice healthy deposit to secure Ava's slot in public school kindergarten (non-refundable of course). Not to mention I will probably lose our deposit at swishy kindergarten enrichment should we pull out.

I'm trying very hard not to google white pages for St. Elizabeth of Perpetual Kindergarteners on the other side of the street to see what they are offering on the table.

I will be spending a quality 1/2 hour this afternoon calling over to Mr. assistant principal at public land if he can tear himself away from the lovely Ms. Daisy Dukes to see if he can tell me WHEN they will be making the decision on what day of the week they will be running alternate day kindergarten so I can make a somewhat informed decision about where the heck to send my kid to school this fall.


Robin said...

Geez.. I hadn't realized that sending ones child to kindergarten had become such a hard decision. Of course, it's been almost 14 years since any of mine went. The hardest decision I had to make was whether or not to send them at age 5.

Good Luck to you.

Stephanie V said...

You're being SWINDLED! By Kindergarten! By a smarmy principal! Ew.

B-squared said...

Oh boy. This is what I have to look forward to next year? Thanks for the heads up.
And of course, good luck with your decision. I can't believe the school doesn't have it all figured out yet! Geez!

Anonymous said...

I am a stinking lurker who's had an interesting ride with the public school in my neighborhood. My daughter (adopted from Guilin in 1998) is now going in to 5th grade. Her educational track record has been an adventure to say the least. I'll spare you the details (enormous though they are) and just advise you to contact the school guidance counselor if you can't get the answer you want to hear from that 16 year old you've been dealing with. Make your wheels squeek...loudly!

A midwest girl at heart though I'm currently trapped in Florida....


elizabeth said...

When did this all become so complicated? It's good that you have some options, but it sounds very difficult to navigate the system. The public schools I went through are starting a Mandarin immersion program, but I'm not sure if parents are being given a choice so it's either immersion or private school. Hopefully this will be easier when your younger daughter starts school.

Traci said...

This situation shows our reasons for choosing homeschool for our kiddos. Our public system is a mess. Our current situation allows Scott & I to independently make all decisions about our kid's education. I'm not trying to sell homeschooling, just saying that I couldn't take dealing with unreasonable situations any longer. In many cases it's not individual people, but the systems that are in place. Tests, really screwed up funding systems, screwed up priorities, yada, yada, yada....

There are two downfalls of the homeschool option for us: 1) I run my butt off taking the kids to all of activities that Scott & I feel are crucial to keep them with their peers 2) There are days when I'm sure I'll lose my mind. But after a good night's sleep, I'm always better. I could go on and on in reporting the positives.

Good Luck with your decision, Perrin. I know it must be a tough and frustrating spot to be in.

OH! By the way, we have a foreign exchange student coming from China on Aug. 1. She we will live with us for ten months. She will be 18 in Feb. and will be a senior. However, the public school, in their infinite wisdom, will be placing this young woman in 9th grade!!! Why, you ask? In an attempt to keep their mandated state tests "clean", of course. If she is in 9th grade, I'm told, she won't have to take the tests and therefore, isn't able to score poorly on them. IF she were to score poorly on a state test, their funding would be affected.

Drives me NUTS!!


Anonymous said...

This is awful...you are being swindled, and it sucks. The supplemental program sounds wonderful, and I would be torn on which way to go if I were in your shoes, too.

Yikes. I am not looking forward to school stuff..it took me months to decide on a Montessori school!

Amanda (Sopapilla)

J said...

I never thought I'd send my kids to private school. We started out with public school as the one in our neighbourhood is considered one of the best schools in the city. Then they told us our son would be in a split Grade 1/2 class with 34 kids, one teacher. And get this, it was a French immersion class with the Grade 2 kids having some French, the Grade 1 kids having none, so they wouldn't even understand a lot of what was going on. I don't care how amazing a teacher you are, there's no way you can teach 34 kids with different language requirements properly on your own! That year, we switched him to a private school with a maximum class size of 18. We really wanted the public system, but not at such a cost to our son's learning. Good luck to you!


Allison said...

God, what a mess! That makes my head hurt. I don't even know that I could wade through all the different "options." Good luck!