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It is time: Kindergarten Round-Up 2011

Last year around this time (and every year around this time, for that matter), parents around Portland start thinking about schools.  It's Round-Up time.  The Portland Public School district offers "school choice", allowing any student in the district to apply to attend any other school in the district.  There are lotteries, magnets, charters, focus programs, mandatory information sessions.  It is dizzying.  We are lucky if we have the time to consider all of these options.  Many of us do not.

Here are some resources to get you started:

If you have a child transferring/entering school next year, have you started to consider all the options?  Or perhaps forgo considering the options and attend the neighborhood school?

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Our wonderful school offers an outdoor program as an afternoon supplement to kindergarten.

http://www.woodhavenschool.com/

We're also starting up a Kindergarten class next year!

Interested in French immersion for your preschooler and/or soon-to-be kindergartner? The Portland French Charter team is creating a kindergarten class for the 2011-12 school year, in preparation for our anticipated Portland Public charter status for the 2012-13 school year. Come to the Chandeleur/Carnaval festival on January 28th at 7pm at Fulton Park Community Center to learn more, eat some crepes, and create community! Atlas Immersion Academy, a French immersion preschool and childcare facility opening in SW Portland in April, will be hosting the charter group for the event. Check us out at www.atlasimmersionacademy.com!

Oh, I am so glad there is a posting about this. My daughter will be five in August and our neighborhood school is Llewelyn which I know a lot of people love and that parent involvement there is very high. Philosophically I believe in public schools but because of large class size, high academic expectations in kindergarten and stats overall for PPS, I find myself increasingly reticent about sending her to public school (believe me I know how hypocritical this sounds). She currently goes to a Waldorf preschool and it is truly magical for her. I just am having a hard time picturing how that transition would work for her...not that she would not be "okay" or "fine", but rather that school would go from being a place she really loves and is nurtured and feels special, to being in a large class with high academic expectations starting in kindergarten! I feel so torn about what to do which prompted me to look at private schools. I was floored by tuition prices...I was expecting about $6000 a year and found tuition prices at many schools to be around $9000 or $10,000 which I was shocked by. I am really open at this point and looking for feedback from other parents to help me make my decision... votes of confidence for our public schools; people who chose private and if so, where and why; and any great charter school options that might be closer to the imaginative, project based learning environment my daughter is currently in. Thanks so much.

@MNG, take a look at Portland Village School. They're a charter school in North Portland that is based on the Waldorf philosophy.

We also have a little one entering kindergarten this year and feel equally anxious about making the right choice. But in our case, given our daughter's personality and the fact that she'll be among the oldest in her class, we're actively seeking a school with a stronger academic bent than what our neighborhood school can provide.

allison, I'm curious about your assumption that your neighborhood school can't meet your child's academic needs. How have you reached this conclusion?

@kim, I've been in the neighborhood for about ten years and have known 8 families with kids who attend/have attended our neighborhood school. The concensus among those families is that based on our daughter's personality, including her penchant for sitting down and burying her head in busy work, she'd be better served at a school that had a stronger focus on academics. I've also visited the school a handful of times, talked to the principal, and corresponded with the PTA president. The school culture just doesn't seem like a good fit. So yes, we're making an assumption about whether or not our daughter would thrive at our neighborhood school, but I feel it's a very well-informed assumption.

Lol,as parents of older kids (7-9) its funny to see how parents of 5yr olds each thinks their child is the special 'one'. Or how the neighborhood school just wont work because well,their child is SO different and special and smarter than average. Or how a 4 or 5 yr old feels magical because they go to a waldorf school. My kids felt magical@ a public school pre-k. Sometimes i think its easy to get a bit carried away with how wonderful and unique and special and smarter(and better?) our children are. We should support neighborhood schools when possible. I mean, the neighborhood is good enough for you to live there but the school is not? Start making it better by YOU enrolling you child there and help out. As you might discover, your child is not the only one who likes to bury their head in busy work. Seriously. If we try to not take such an elitest attitude abour children and realize that almost all children are excited to learn and feel 'magical' and so on...only then can we help pps get better.i mean honestly,in pps,all the schools are struggling and are very similar. The main difference is the neighbor hood demographics.

i gave our neighborhood a try and went against my gut and it was an absolutely horrible experience. i knew within the first few minutes at drop off that i had made a mistake. my child's teacher never greeted her or us, her first words to her without eye contact, was put your name on your paper. that was just the beginning... and because it was our neighborhood school, we had no other options. we looked into private, but knew we couldn't sustain private, so worried about too many transitions, so we stuck it out. it was miserable- felt like a wasted year and i felt so guilty leaving her in a place i didn't feel good about. i volunteered in the classroom, but had to stop because i would leave so stressed out and upset. it was easier not to know what was going on in there. and again, because it was our neighborhood school (they have to make room for us) no other school would take us. the teaching style was so top-down and traditional, the curriculum was delivered in a way that was incredibly boring, we got so many worksheets every week-- i'm not sure how many trees were cut down just because of our family, my daughter was not challenged, the discipline was very different than our style at home- it was often calling kids out and they even had to run laps, kids were not given tools for working out social situations, there were concerns with safety (bathrooms shared with older and younger students). my daughter was unhappy, although she didn't know it, but it was obvious that her needs were not being met and she was so short tempered and not the girl we'd had around for the past five years. on a positive note, my writing voice improved that year with numerous letters to the principal, the area director, the superintendent, etc. all has turned out fine, we went with a charter and couldn't be happier. my advice to kinder families, is do your homework, we all have different expectations and standards and what works for one family may not work for you (even if it is a friend). if you have a hesitation, listen to your gut-- mama bear knows!!!

We love our neighborhood school.

That being said, I feel no matter what school your child goes to, it all depends on the teacher. There are great (and less than great) teachers at EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL. Sometimes it's not a matter of a teacher's abilities, it may just be a personality thing. My kids have had teachers that we've loved that other families weren't crazy about (and vice versa).

So, I have the same advice we hear every year: Actually visit the school(s) you are considering--more than once. Don't automatically discount your neighborhood school.

And lighten up. It's only kindergarten.

jln, I'm not talking about my child being smarter or better. I'm not talking about the test scores or reputation of our neighborhood school. I'm talking about fitting in with the school's culture. My little five-year-old nerdy bookworm would likely do just fine at our local school that has a focus on the arts, but based on the advice of many and my own gut feeling, we'll probably send her elsewhere.

And despite your assertion to the contrary, I've found that the PPS elementary schools are not at all similar. In my experience, the culture at Abernethy is very different than the culture at Vernon which is very different than that of Winterhaven, and Lents, and so on.

@allison. Keep in mind that part of the problem w/ pps is people who move into the gentrified areas,such as alberta arts, because the love rhe 'culture' but then when it comes to sending their child to the neighbothood school,they really don't want their kids to even be near the culturally diverse kids of the neighborhood. Huge double standard. :)

The school's "culture?" You mean like what everyone looks like and how much money they have or the right "feeling" which you attribute to automatically meaning better education? I'm with some of the other posters--when it comes down to it it's the teacher and the principal that make or break a school. The "culture" of the school doesn't mean squat if your teacher isn't a good fit and your principal isn't supportive. And it also cracks me up that people feel like their child's life will end if they don't get into a school with the right "culture." At least you get a choice. Those of us with kids in special ed would give anything to have a choice at all! Be grateful that your child even has the option to attend your neighborhood school and stop stressing about the right "culture" and get involved in your local school. Most kids can be successful in any school if they have involved parents who care. THAT's what makes the difference.

I understand people who are looking for things like language immersion and their local school doesn't offer it, but so many of the parents out there bypass their local school for something they view as "alternative and better." People in NE and N seem to be the worst with this. I guess like the other poster mentioned, living in a cool neighborhood is only cool until your child has to go to school and then parents flee to the other side of town for their schools.

I am a NoPo mom and a teacher (in another district). And I am one of those that is about ready to flee to a different corner of the Portland and PPS. We've tried Pre-K at our neighborhood school and K at our neighborhood so called magnet school. I really, really want it to work out. I admit to being a mom that thinks that my child is smart and special and has incredible potential, even though maybe my child is just like everyone else's child. I have decided that it's not worth it to stay in our current NoPo school that is undisciplined and does not offer an engaging experience in the classroom. As a mom, I can't let my child experience the daily craziness. As a teacher, I know that just being a strong voice and an active PTA member is not enough to alter the structure and climate of a school. I want to stay, but I want to stay because I believe in being an advocate and strong community member. But MY need to feel those things, is not as important as sending my child to a school that feels and looks and smells like a school when you open the door. I honestly believed that we would be a family that would and could stick out the NoPo school situation. But, I'm not so sure anymore.

The bottom line (at least how I see it) is that we do not have a good public school system in this city....there are huge money deficits, too many days off, classes too large-the list goes on. I think it is very possible to have a great neighborhood and a so-so or not-so-great school in that same neighborhood. I also disagree that all children feel special, magical etc. They are no more the same then we as adults are, and there are varying degrees of happiness in childhood. I was hoping for some supportive words of wisdom and encouragement, and want to thank those who offered that. I think this forum works best when we can all be respectful and kind which most of us are most of the time.

I don't know if any of these parents feel their child is better or smarter. They feel their child is theirs. That means they have a responsibility to help them as best they can. But that's going to look different to every parent of every child. What is accomplished by berating them if their choice is different than yours? Or maybe you hope to shame them into sharing your choice?

Thanks anon.

@don't want to go and don't want to stay - I just wanted to make sure you and others know there are hundreds of well educated and caring families (many who with parents who are teachers) who are sticking out the "NoPo school situation" with children who are thriving and happy. I am not discounting your experience, I just have an issue with the lumping of all schools in the area together. Your experience with one school is just that and does not make it a "situation".

just wondering if any of you have already gone through the "lottery" process in PPS already and has any tips for a parent beginning this journey. their website is totally lame and does not help to explain how many choices we have, how the lottery works, etc. also, i was told by a friend that if your neighborhood school is not making "adequate yearly progress" (which is true for us) that you have a *better* chance at getting your top choice. is this true? thanks to all.

Tammi,

PPS website has an icon "quick links" then scroll down to "enrollment and transfer. at the bottom of that page their is an explanation of "lottery logic".
Basically your child would get preference due to the NCLB/AYP.

As far as choices, you have your neighborhood school. Then you can apply to any other school in the PPS district. Just know that some schools take a % of transfers and some schools (like Alameda) are at capacity and will not take transfers. Common lottery transfers are Buckman (arts focus) Winterhaven (math/science/tech focus), Creative science school, then the language magnets...Richmond (japanese), Ainsworth, Beach, Lents, Cesar Chavez(spanish), etc. You need to read about each school to see which are neighborhood schools. They will only take a % from the non-neighborhood. Richmond and Winterhaven, for example, are NOT neighborhood schools and everyone that goes there had to go through the lottery system.
Good luck with your decision,,,there are lots of choices. Almost, too many.

You also need to take into account that the board just voted changes to the language immersion process and so transfer students at Ainsworth for example, will no longer go to East/West Sylvan and then to Lincoln with their cohort but will return to their neighborhood middle and High school.

Hi, my name is Jen and my daughter absolutely LOVES attending the Living School. It's flown a bit under the radar as it was an off-shoot of the Escuela Viva pre-school program and they were more focused on building the program than promoting themselves. It's a project based,dual-language (Spanish-English) program. The tuition is fairly reasonable (7000. per year) and the teachers are AMAZING. Check out the website at thelivingschool.org

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Jen (above) is so right! My daughter also goes to THE LIVING SCHOOL, and she loves it. Our family loves it. It is the perfect blend of academics, creative arts, physical education, etc. She gets it all, and she gets it on a one-on-one, individualized scale, which makes her excited to go to school (not to mention her loving and talented teachers). Her Spanish is developing rapidly along with her reading, math, science skills. This school has nurtured her natural curiosity and has given it structure; she's become so much more confident. I can't say enough good things about this place. You'll have to come and check it out yourself. There are a couple Open Houses soon and a new website to peruse for more information. Check it out: www.thelivingschool.org.

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