I’m curious to know what you’d do in my situation. I live in the outer boroughs of NYC in a diverse, urban neighborhood with decent (but not great) public schools. My 5 year old got a spot in a dual language program (Spanish/ English) at our zoned school. He also tested very highly on the city gifted and talented test with minimal prep and got into an excellent program several neighborhoods away (he’d take a school bus to get there). There’s been a huge push in our neighborhood to convince educated, middle class families (like us) to keep their kids in the neighborhood schools. Many have historically sent their kids to charters, g&t programs, or private schools. We love the g&t program our kid has a spot in, but we also love our neighborhood and worry that we’re contributing to NYC’s problematic school segregation problems. What would you do in our place?
Right or wrong, I always put my kids ahead of general social spillovers. So I try to decide what is best for them first, and worry about the ripple effects as a secondary concern. Not that I ignore spillovers, but the spillovers would have to be larger than they are in this case and I would have to know for certain that the spillovers from removing my child from the district were negative.
What I mean by knowing for certain that they are negative– while we do know that having higher SES kids is good for schools (and having kids whose families have domestic violence is bad for schools) and many other network effects, the benefits to having gifted kids are not as clear-cut. That is, it isn’t always clear that keeping a gifted kid in a non-gifted school is actually better for the school. Gifted kids are special needs and as such tend to draw resources, act up if their intellectual needs aren’t being met, etc. The same isn’t true of kids who are high achieving but not gifted– they are more likely to provide positive spillovers. So most of the studies that find beneficial effects of, for example, cooperative learning, remove gifted kids from their experiments.
Still, worrying about neighborhood schools is still a really valid concern, and there are things you can do about that even if you don’t send your child there, *even if you don’t have kids*. Personally, I donate a lot of money to education-related charities. Donors Choose is a big favorite of mine. Using Donors Choose, I can also pick districts that have greater needs than the one we’re zoned in, which has even more positive effects than would donating to our relatively well-off district. Before I had children, I supported schools more than I do now because I had lots of time to volunteer and could tutor in low income urban districts.
All of this is an argument to say, take that spillover concern out of your calculus right now. If you’re worried about the school, there are ways you can have a bigger more positive impact than you would by sending your child there.
That doesn’t mean that you should automatically choose the G/T school, of course. There are lots of things to think about when making your decision that only you and your family can place weights on.
- If you feel you’ve made a mistake with either choice, how easy it is to switch?
- How do you feel about the administration and teaching at both schools? Do they seem willing to work with parents?
- If you’ve visited the schools, do the kids seem happy and not acting up?
- How will the school schedule work with your work-life? Are there after school programs? What happens if your child misses the bus or wants to do an after school activity?
- How strongly do you feel about foreign language acquisition and are there other ways to get it?
- How do you feel about the curriculum at both schools?
If you love the G/T school I would be very tempted to stay with it. From folks I’ve talked with, dual-language is great for keeping GT kids occupied until 2nd or 3rd grade and then they start needing more acceleration. Hopefully that would not be a problem at the G/T school. On the other hand, the G/T schools in the city closest to us have a reputation for not actually being very good for G/T– their main purposes is for white parents to segregate their kids without paying 40K/year for private school, which means that they’re not actually geared towards G/T. That’s not true everywhere, and is probably not true in NYC given how competitive the testing is, but I don’t know for sure.
Grumpy Nation, what have we missed? What elements would you put on your list to help with decision-making?