Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

New School Year

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

“Most people were raised to think they are not worthy. School is a process of taking beautiful kids who are filled with life and beating them into happy slavery.”

–Bill Talcott

Dean and Owen both started school in the last week. I have mixed feelings about it. I know that they need to go to school, that they need to be educated, but I hate the testing and the regimentation and everything else that comes with it.

Kindergarten, Redux

Monday, April 21st, 2014

So, here it is, six months after my original post about getting Dean into kindergarten. Here’s how everything shook out in the end.

Public schools: We applied for two different public school programs as part of the general lottery, as well as taking the test for the district “gifted and talented” program. Dean was not admitted into G&T, and the public district lottery couldn’t place him in either of the other schools we wanted, either. The only spots left were in “failing” schools on the other side of the city, which means putting my five year old on a bus for two hours a day to go to a suboptimal school. That was not an ideal option.

(We also had a bunch of communication issues with the district, many of which were caused by our choice to keep Dean back a year due to his late birthday — they were very insistent that he should be going into first grade this year and kept trying to place him in a first grade classroom despite our application.)

Catholic schools: We put down a significant deposit to register him for the Catholic school in our neighborhood for the fall. Registration for that school fills up LONG before parents hear back from the public or charter schools, so the deposit was necessary to have any chance of sending him there if nothing else panned out.

Charter schools: We applied to two charter schools, Tapestry and Elmwood Village. Admission for charter schools is by lottery — there were hundreds of applicants for each, and a limited number of spots. Dean was something like 159 on the waiting list for Elmwood Village, but was the first name pulled for the lottery at Tapestry. There were about 20 spots for more than ten times as many applicants.

So, he will be going to Tapestry in the fall. It’s a great program — everyone we know who has has a child there or who has taught there has loved it. And it has sibling preference, so Owen and Monica can also go there without having to go through this whole lottery experience again.

That said, I think it’s really unfortunate that the second-largest city in the state, with a well-funded public school system as well as a wealth of private and charter schools, is utterly broken unless you’ve either got money or luck. If there was this much stress and work for us, I can’t imagine how bad it must be for students whose parents don’t have the free time or motivation that we do. The bureaucracy is terrifying.

Mencken Break!

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

“The most erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.”

What’s a Conflict of Interest?

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Buffalo — where a real estate developer can complain for years about the school system, get himself elected to the school board, and continue pushing for “vouchers” and making money by renting buildings to charter schools.

Man, what a circus.

Kindergarten

Friday, October 25th, 2013

In Henrietta, where I grew up, school selection was straightforward. There were a half dozen or so public schools scattered around the town. When your child was old enough for kindergarten, you signed him or her up at the one closest to your house. Done. If you didn’t want public school, the only other real option was a diocesan Catholic school over at Guardian Angels, which ran through third grade, and then Good Shepard for fourth through eighth.

Here in Buffalo, it’s not that easy. There is school choice, which means that you can send your child anywhere in the city for public grade school. Additionally, there are charter schools (none of which cooperate, by the way, which means applying to each one individually) and a scattering of Catholic schools. They all have different application deadlines and requirements — some programs use testing to determine which students are admitted, some use a lottery system. Some have “sibling preference”, where a student with an older brother or sister at the school gets priority, some don’t. Some reserve spots specifically for students in the neighborhood, some don’t. The age cutoffs are all over the place. It’s all very confusing.

Since Dean will be going into kindergarten next year, we’re working through all of this stuff right now. I just dropped off his Buffalo Public Schools application this morning — yes, in the year 2013 you still register by filling out a paper form and taking it to the Registration Office — and we’ll be sending in some for charters in the next couple of weeks.

I suppose it’s nice to have all of these potential options, but it really causes a sort of option paralysis; there are so many different decisions to make, and of course as a parent you’re constantly afraid that the slightest mistake or misstep will send your child’s entire academic future right off track. There are times when I envy the simplicity of the Henrietta approach.

Educational Shifts

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

In Sunday’s paper, there was an interesting article about foreign exchange students coming to Buffalo. Apparently, the American educational system provides a more flexible experience than those of many Asian countries, with less of an emphasis on testing and more diverse subject matter and extracurriculars.

In this morning’s paper? A front-page story on Common Core, which will provide a narrower, more rigid curriculum and an emphasis on rigorous standardized testing.

So, why are we rushing to implement an educational system that the rest of the world is trying to shake off?

Paladino’s Resolutions

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Carl Paladino, one-time gubernatorial candidate, lawyer, and real estate developer, was elected to the Buffalo School Board this year.

He has submitted a long list of motions and resolutions for their meeting tomorrow. Most of them deal with the terrible spending decisions and lack of leadership in the district.

I don’t agree with the man’s politics, for the most part, but it’s sure going to be fun watching the fireworks. The BPS desperately needs someone who knows how to properly manage a billion dollar budget, and he’s the man for the job.

Evaluation

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

In a city whose school district has a graduation rate under fifty percent, you’d think that the Superintendent would be on the hot seat. The board would be demanding answers. They wouldn’t be doing things like approving her annual evaluation without reading it first.

At least, that’s what you’d think if you’d never been to Buffalo.

Irony

Monday, May 13th, 2013

I love the headline of this article:

“UB grads urged to ‘find a better way’ to connect with communities they serve ”

Naturally, the University at Buffalo graduates who were being told this were listening to the speech in Amherst, because the actual University turned its back on Buffalo and moved out to the ‘burbs years ago. Nice.

Mark of the Beast, or Big Brother?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

I figured it would only be a matter of time before this sort of thing started popping up. Given the recent events in Connecticut, it’s a fair bet more schools will be following suit. I’m sure there’s no possible way this student ID/ tracking system could be exploited, abused, or hacked, at all.

The best part: its being done ostensibly to get more money for the school district.

While the Biblical issues being raised by this particular student may be debated, the privacy concerns seem pretty relevant.