Already Decided On Your Neighborhood School?

Many parents out there are not interested in exercising their options, with good reason.  Their neighborhood school offers exactly the program that they want, is close, and gives them a full-bodied local community experience.  Some parents even feel that Portland Public’s offerings of charter, magnet, and focus school options erodes the neighborhood schools, making this all a very hot topic around town. The two sides of the argument go something like this:

Argument Against School Choice:

Private, Charter and Focus Schools pull community and money away from Neighborhood Schools. 

Parents that have the time, energy, and money to consider researching schools and driving their kid across town are resource-heavy parents whose presence and influence would help improve their neighborhood school.  Those parents who buy a home in a neighborhood should commit fully to the community that they are joining and put their shoulder to the wheel to make the school a better place.  Portland Public School district has sizeable imbalances between its schools – and offering school choice only makes those imbalances worse.

Argument for School Choice:

Private, Charter and Focus Schools drive educational innovation and their popularity sends PPS a clear message about what works. 

Language Immersions and other outside-the box programs make PPS stand apart among urban school districts.  Such schools help drive education forward by proving the value of being set free of some traditional trappings while offering innovative programs that benefit children from every walk of life.  A wide array of educational approaches offers the diversity of learners in Portland a way to be more deeply engaged in their learning.  Parents have the right to find a school where their child thrives, and that responsibility is higher than the one we have to our neighborhood schools. 

More: Charter Schools - Who Should Get In?

We see value in both sides of this argument, and support fully the decision to attend your neighborhood school. But, we still feel it’s wise to educate yourself about other schools. Here’s why:

You will get a better sense of what the possibilities are for your school, and ultimately help make it better.  Learning about other schools teaches you what is possible, and what might be lacking.  For example, you may think your n’hood school has a great garden for the kids to learn about growing food, native plants, or whatever cool thing it is until…you see what an outstanding garden program school X has.  If only you could bring that other program back to your school.  Well, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel when school X is more than happy to boast about their wonderful garden and tell you in detail what it took to achieve garden greatness.  Other schools can provide you inspiration and direction for making improvements or changes to your neighborhood school.

More: Tips from parents who've committed to their neighborhood school.

Knowing about other schools makes you a more credible advocate for your neighborhood school.  Having an informed perspective on what students and families are getting at your school makes your supportive voice that much more convincing, as you talk to parents in your neighborhood who are wondering whether to go for other options.  It also gives you important information when advocating for a certain thing within your school.  If, for instance, you find out on a school tour that class size is 21 at school X while yours sits at 30, you can take this information to your school’s leadership and ask informed questions.  Knowing the range of possibilities gives you the information that you need to advocate for improving your school.

Learning about other schools helps you decide where to put your energy outside of the school day. No one school has it all, but learning about another school can inspire you to seek something new out for your child.  Many people have visited an immersion school, for example, and come home resolved to sign their kid up for after school Spanish class.  Or a parent visiting a school with a strong art program might come home and look up where to take their kid for Saturday morning art lessons.  In our opinion, it serves your kids to know what else is going on out there and to make informed and deliberate decisions about how to supplement their learning. And dropping into other school settings is a great way to get a new angle. 

More: The über scoop on neighborhood schools.

Congratulations on choosing your child's home away from home.  We encourage you to do some comparing and contrasting of other schools out there so you can "own" your choice to a deeper degree.  At a minimum, browse this website and check out our SETTLE IN section for a little more insight on what an involved parent might look like.  Even if you aren't the "community organizer" type, being an involved parent will make a world of difference to your kid.