Monday, March 10, 2008

Schools in Astoria

A bunch of moms met at my place a few weeks ago to discuss schools in Astoria. Some of the moms knew quite a bit, and others hadn't really researched too much. All of us were wary and concerned about the prospect of sending our kids to NYC public schools, or were concerned about "school" in general.

Concerned, and yet I am a teacher- and I teach for the Department of Education (formerly the Board of Education) in NYC! However, I'm a speech teacher for district 75 - the special education district. Which most of the parents in our group (hardly any at all) will ever have to contemplate special education. And district 75 and special education needs a post of its own!

Some parents are interested in home-schooling, or supplementing the children's public school experiences with some home-schooling on the side. Some are interested in using the charter schools in the area. Others are interested in using their neighborhood schools, with the hopes that their children will be kids for the whom the "teaching to the test" most of the year teaching protocols that are now unfortunately nearly standard in every NYC public school will be a good fit. And then others, like me, hope that not only are my kids able to handle the fast pace and test oriented curriculum, but that their neighborhood school gets much, much better.

After I moved into this house, I found out which school that we were zoned for. I had thought that the school that seemed closest would be "our school," but the zones had changed and we are supposed to use a different school- a school that feels like a much farther walk and is unfortunately not as good. We would be zoned for the school that I want my kids to go to if I lived directly behind my house. My neighbors, who grew up on this street, attended the school that is better because the zones were different 20 years ago. But, I live here now and will have to use the school that is now apparently on the "No Child Left Behind" list.

Can't say that I'm happy about it, but I am torn about what to do. Do I try to make the school better? Do I send my kids there and hope for the best? Or, do I get put on someone's con-ed bill near the better school and send my kids there? I hate lying, and I work for the DOE! I'm an employee! To lie about something like that seems so awful! BUT, I want what is best for my kids.

What I'd like to do is march down the district office and tell them the truth- that it is not acceptable to me that my neighborhood school has gotten WORSE since I have lived here (and I've lived in this house for 9 years), and that I'll be sending my kids to the better area school (and ask for a variance- which you apparently can only get after you register your child for the NCLB school first). Not that they haven't heard this before, and not that they can do anything about it. And I'm sure the teachers in my neighborhood school are upset about what has happened, and I'm sure that the principal is freaking out about it, but not as upset as I am!

I'm happy to work with my kids- do homework, take them to cultural experiences like museums and classes and music, bring them to museums, etc but I want them to get a good, basic education, too.

What's an Astoria parent to do?