What a difference seven miles makes to schools, students

Seven miles.

Seven miles here covers three school district boundaries, each distinct. I’ve been thinking a lot about that number lately, as I’ve taken up moonlighting as a substitute teacher. (Writing doesn’t pay the bills and patrons are hard to find — call me if you know a guy.) As a sub, I’m a casual observer and active participant in a day with a bunch of different kids and professionals. I love these people. And it’s obvious: going inside schools matters.

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How attending the local Title I school shaped my family

By Sheli Massie

Guest writer

Nancy Hill Elementary, District 129

West Aurora Schools, Aurora, IL

When my oldest daughter was in second grade a student in her class pulled a knife on the teacher. I was young and scared. And that is how I reacted: scared. I pulled her from the school and enrolled her younger sister and her into a private Lutheran school we could not afford. We ate ramen noodles and drank watered down milk just to make payments. They went from a school of over 500 to one under 60. The only diversity was the lunch lady. At the time it was a fear-based response. I reacted and did not respond.

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Choice programs give new meaning to ‘school shopping’

We got a haul one weekend earlier this month. We got sales pitches, free pencils and pens, and plastic cups with logos. Each schools’ booth in the Eastern High School gymnasium was trying hard to capture our attention — and our kids’ — with free swag and candy — or pet a snake, color a button, make a Lorax mustache, spin the wheel for a prize. The kids dumped all their goodies in a free backpack with an orange Tiger logo on the back, then asked to go see the next booth, the next one! They’re passing out emoji erasers!

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What it looks like to choose the local school anyway

By Courtney Everts Mykytyn, guest writer

Los Angeles, CA

When our oldest was approaching kindergarten in our corner of Los Angeles, I was worried. Kindergarten is a big step and he was such a little boy and, well, I had caught school anxiety from fellow parents, colleagues, the interwebs, and simply via cultural osmosis. Which school would be the “right fit” for my kid and our family’s values? Where would my son and his younger sister truly thrive? School anxiety seems to be the very air we parents breathe. […]

How public schools helped raise better prepared kids

 

By Beth Bruno, guest writer

Thompson School District

Fort Collins, Colorado

During the holidays, a local farmer runs a horse carriage service downtown. About 80,000 lights are strung on trees and the main street through Old Town turns magical. I finally took a carriage ride this year and the farmer doubles as a tour guide. He began with the piece of trivia we locals hear the most: “Walt Disney modeled Main Street, U.S.A. after our town.” […]

When ‘doing what’s best for your kids’ isn’t what you think

Have a conversation about schools with anyone for more than three minutes and you’re likely to hear one line above others: “You have to do what’s best for your children.” That line gets dragged out by well-meaning, very kind people who affirm that school choice exists for times like these: times of low test scores, of anemic graduation rates, or whatever algebraic formula they use to label a school “failing.”

This is me, too, by the way. I’ve said that line. 

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Why our family struggles with Schools of Choice

Just about every weekday morning, I drive 12 minutes south to an elementary school in a Lansing suburb. All my girls attend this year: it’s a K-4 public school. We love that place: the teachers and staff are warm and friendly, art class rocks, the field trips are fantastic, the principal welcomes kids by name as they unload from the drop-off line.

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When ‘radical’ faith looks a lot like the everyday

In July, Sarah and I went to my hometown to speak at the little public library where I worked when I was 14. My mom and stepdad and some of my aunts and cousins and even some strangers packed the tiny room that in the late ’90s was a garage for the village’s EMS.

Someone (unfairly) asked me (in the presence of my mom) whether I’d ever consider moving home, back to the place in Ohio where I’d graduated a decade and a half ago.

“I mean, could you do this sort of thing” — she referenced the new-monastic-like, Year of Small Things, radical-faith thing — “here in a rural place or a small town?”

Well.

Tell me.

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