If you haven't read Choices, it's a magazine sized booklet that provides you with information on applying for JCPS schools and profiles of those same schools. I recently provided the booklet to a friend who was considering their school options now that they have a new child. Yesterday she indicated that even though she and her husband both have advanced degrees, trying to puzzle through the choices JCPS offers made them feel overwhelmed.
Magnet programs. Waldorf schools. Montessori schools. Traditional. Self-directed. Advance. Gifted and talented. Honors program.
How does a person with a young child look at these options and make a wise decision for the next six years of elementary school, or 13 years of grade school? Where does one go to decide the best path for their child when the child can barely read? Paraphrasing my friend, "most college students aren't sure what they want to be when they grow up, how do you decide which career path to choose for your child in kindergarten?"
More importantly for most JCPS parents, how do you choose correctly to ensure that your child's path leads you to the best middle and high schools?
How can we tell if all of these choices are really serving parents and students? Are these separate programs really helping different types of students learn more effectively? Are they providing valuable enrichment for our children? Are they all simply ways in which JCPS can try to fill lower achieving schools with students who might not normally choose them? Or, are they simply, as my friend put it, an "experiment"?
As someone who grew up in Oldham County's excellent schools, where the only choice you had was the outfit you wore each morning, I'm hard pressed to say that all of this choice necessarily offers a better education. Certainly at the high school level it may help parents and students make decisions for college and future careers. But at an elementary level is it possible that all of this choice is simply a wasted effort that might be better focused on a rigorous program of reading, writing, and arithmetic, with a generous helping of social studies, science, arts, music, PE, and other classes tossed in?
JCPS might do better to create an atmosphere within the system in which each individual school is not trying to position itself against another, but where the schools are sharing expertise, resources, and each learning together from their successes and failures. They certainly could do a much better job of explaining the differences to each parent in their communications and in person to help them make more educated choices.
So what do YOU think? Are these choices important? Are they confusing? Did you make the right choice? Would you rather have all schools offering the same core set of programs and teaching methods, or would you rather see the variety of options you have now?