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Indecision 2012

I’m sitting at my desk right now, staring at the 2012-2013 Registration Packet for school next year. And after 3 months of reading, touring, interviewing, and stewing, I have arrived at an uncomfortable place.


Three months of touring. Talking to parents and staff at the JCPS Showcase of Schools last Saturday. Follow-up calls after tours. Stewing over stats and crunching numbers like a witch at her cauldron. And now I stare at the form I have been anticipating and am frozen with indecision.

It wasn’t always this way. Heck, it wasn’t this way yesterday before 9:30. As of 9:30 on Tuesday, January 31, I had it all figured out.

  • First Magnet Choice and First Overall Choice: Brandeis (60% chance of admission)
  • Second Magnet Choice and Second or Third Overall Choice (a bit of stewing left on this call): Coleridge Taylor (since second pick, % unclear, but probably around 50%-60%)
  • First Neighborhood or Cluster Choice: Bloom (90+%)
  • Second Neighborhood or Cluster Choice: St. Matthews (0% if second, probably 0% if first, too, but I have to list something).
  • Third Neighborhood or Cluster Choice: Byck, with reservations about test scores and arts focus (90+% as third choice because it’s an A-cluster school and I live in a B-cluster area)
  • Fourth Neighborhood or Cluster Choice: Engelhardt: Please no.

Then, at 9:30 a.m., I pulled into the parking lot at Lowe Elementary for what I thought was yet another pointless tour to mark down my second neighborhood choice, which I assumed I would never get given the way the system works.

And I loved it. As the (personal, hour-long) tour continued, I felt sicker and sicker to my stomach as each awesome aspect of the school was introduced to me. Enthusiastic teachers? Check. Warm vibe? Check. Enhanced Math and Science curriculum? Check. They use PTA funds to maintain a discontinued “Everyday Math” curriculum that the rest of the county as dropped. Playground? A cross between an amusement park and a soccer field. Student body: Economically and racially diverse with a super-active PTA. Technology Lab? State-of-the-art. Writing samples? Adorable.

If I sat down to envision my perfect elementary school, I think it would look like Lowe. It is, in my opinion, the magical rainbow unicorn of schools: the thing you don’t believe exists until you see it with your own two eyes. What gives it the edge over Brandeis for me is the better playground, the shorter drive-time, and the fact that they teach Spanish twice a week instead of Chinese once. No offense to Chinese instructors, but how much can you learn in one-day-a-week sessions? Test score wise, Lowe and Brandeis are both very high, with the edge going to Lowe.

And my odds of getting in if I list it first under neighborhood schools? Historically, about 50/50. This neighborhood school is an older neighborhood (so lower population density of the under 10 crowd) that includes many popular parochial schools (so many of the kids who do live there go elsewhere). Therefore, unlike every other B-cluster school I could visit, this one has limited space for non-resides kids.

Had the odds been 0%-40%, I’d never consider listing it. Had they been 75% or so, I’d never consider NOT listing it. But 50/50? Just good enough to inspire hope. Just bad enough to instill fear. Here’s how it would shake down:

  • First Magnet: Brandeis: 60% Chance
  • Second Magnet: Coleridge Taylor: 50%-60%
  • First Cluster Choice: Lowe: 50%
  • Second Cluster: Bloom: 0% if listed second
  • Third Cluster: Byck: 90%
  • Fourth Cluster: Engelhardt: Please no.

Now, if 50% three times equaled 100%, I’d be sitting pretty. But my own math skills, while not great, are better than that. So the question remains: Do I go for the high-risk, high-reward strategy that increases my odds of getting into a math-science centered school but also increases my odds for a struggling school? Or do I pursue the low-risk option that ensures placement at a good, beautiful, and nearby school if the math-science one doesn’t come through?

I have 28 days to stew on this and decide whether I should roll the die with my son’s education.


5 Responses to “Indecision 2012”

  1. Amanda says:

    If it were me, and I’m not sure about the ins and outs even after reading your explanation, I’d maximize Brandeis and Lowe. However you need to do that.

  2. Jessica says:

    Here’s how it goes, Amanda, in the most succinct version I can muster.

    If I rate Brandeis as 1 for my magnet school, I’ve got a 50% shot at it. If I don’t get it, I’ve got a 90% or greater shot at a desirable neighborhood school that just happens to not be math/science focused.

    If I rate Brandeis as 1 for magnets and Lowe as 1 for neighborhood school, my Brandies odds remain the same. But if I don’t get it, it’s 50/50 for either the best elementary school in the system (Lowe) or a struggling school with low scores.

    So the call is between maximizing opportunity at the two best schools for Simon and minimizing risk for a school I don’t think is a good fit at all.

  3. Amanda says:

    I’d say decide which is more important–that Simon go to a math/science school, or an over all good school? If it’s the first, try the high risk high reward. If it’s the second, go with your original thought. The thing I’ll say about Bloom–you like it, it’s a good school, and you can always supplement his math and science at home.

  4. tlalbaugh says:

    What does it say about my schooling that I’d have to take more math to figure out the best way for you to choose, haha? Here’s how the kindergarten decision is going up here: I toured the one other public option in our area, a charter school about ten minutes away. Definitely a better education than our neighborhood school, but the facilities are literally falling apart and it requires a part-time job’s worth of volunteer hours from every parent to stay (barely) afloat. We applied anyway (it’s a straight lottery here, so that means the application consists of your name and address) and we will see what happens at the lottery in March. There are many, many applicants for very few slots–think “Waiting for Superman.” Anyway, if we get in, we’ll go there. If not, we go to our profoundly mediocre neighborhood school and hope for the best.

  5. blg says:

    More suspense.

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