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On Parenting
Posted at 11:18 AM ET, 06/30/2011

D.C. school anxiety: a measured response

Last week, a few On Parenting posts about DC schools — about pride in the schools and about waitlists — generated a lively debate. The anxiety many local parents have about their education choices is intense.

A few weeks ago, I came across a post on one of the neighborhood forums, Brookland Kids, that I found especially insightful, and helpful. I wasn’t the only one, the responses on the forum poured in saying, “Thank you!”
Art from pre-kindergarten students at KIPP’s LEAP Academy Early Childhood School at KIPP DC. (Astrid Riecken - For The Washington Post)

The author is Jessica Hanff, a mother of two who lives in Brookland, the Northeast D.C. neighborhood, not Northwest, where I incorrectly identified it last week. With Hanff’s permission, I’m reprinting an edited version of her post here:

“The sense of anxiety has risen for all of us. I wanted to chime in to makes a few overall observations:

• It’s early in this process. The schools sift through assignments for the next [several weeks]. Many parents accept every offer they get and then commit to just one school in August. A lot of the full schools will have slots open again. If you are absolutely in love with a certain DCPS or charter, make yourself known to that administration, because the shuffle through families gets much fuzzier come September. There will be a LOT of shuffle still ongoing and in most cases, families find good fits.

• The best school may not always be the best fit for your child. This one is hard to imagine for those of us with wee kiddos, but sometimes the school of your dreams is not the best fit for your child. I left an awesome charter because I wanted Montessori for my daughter. Another family left my own cherished Montessori because the Montessori method isn’t great for everyone. As you walk through this process, you will learn a lot more about yourself, your children, and what to look for in schools.

• The downsides to school choice: In general, I support school choice, but it creates an incredible amount of anxiety. Chatting with another charter parent who moved here from Montana, he told me about the school they left in Montana. It was kindergarten through 12th, full stop. No options, everyone in the community, every kid, went to one school, and that was it. And he admitted, sometimes, given the dilemmas and decisions and anxiety of school choice, he missed the certainty of that system.

• We also need to recognize the value of our in-boundary school. It’s always the fallback school, not because of its quality, but because they don’t have to fight for us; they don’t have as many open houses; they don’t require early applications. They can’t reject us (after kindergarten) and in that way that the cute-but-available guy in high school was never as attractive as the popular guy who was way out of our league, there is a part of the school choice dynamic that makes choosing an in-boundary school seem like settling for less.”

Does that help?

By  |  11:18 AM ET, 06/30/2011

 
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