Thursday, September 10, 2009

School Choices

I'm on day three of revising a four-page document, and on my fifth-to-last day of work, so of course I'm searching out procrastination. No, this is not why I'm on my fifth-to-last day of work.

I don't recall if I've written about school before, but since the issue came up in a comment (okay, since I brought the issue up in a comment), I thought I'd write about it. It is, after all, related to what I am doing for the next five days, if not to the document that I am supposed to be working on.

My Big City has some really good public schools and a lot of really bad public schools, with a very active reform effort to improve all of the schools. We also have more school choice than is reasonable. That is, there is a very vibrant out-of-boundary lottery as well as a very large charter school community, so a parent can, theoretically, change his or her mind about what school his or her kid goes to every year. I saw that this happens, among parents who are very commited to their kids' education, despite research (that I don't know where to find at the moment) that changing schools is bad for kids' performance. I was at a community meeting where a parent was incensed that her kids' school was being closed and the kid was therefore going to have to go somewhere new. Her son was in kindergarten and in his third school. (I should note that the new school was three blocks away and would have the same teachers, along with others, just not the same building.)

All this is to say:
1. A foster kid who changes schools with a new placement isn't necessarily experiencing more school disruptions than a kid who has lived in the same house his or her entire life. (Not that this justifies changing schools regularly.)
2. Our school system is set up to accommodate students who go to school outside of their neighborhood.

The school placement of a foster kid is the decision of the social worker. I understand that as a foster parent I won't have the authority to make decisions in this area. However, I am absolutely certain that if a foster parent said "I won't drive little Shaniqua to her current school" (or "I won't take little Shaniqua on the bus to her current school") that the social worker would say "fine, she'll go to your neighborhood school."

Which makes me think that I will have at least some say in the matter.

It happens that my neighborhood school is one of the good ones. And that it is very likely that whatever neighborhood school my foster kiddos are coming from, it won't be as good as mine. But that doesn't necessarily mean that switching schools will be the best decision in every case. I do think that by living where I do, with a good neighborhood school, the decision about school placement will be more difficult.

Yet I feel like once again I am going to be the exception, allowing the social worker to prioritize stability when that is the best option even when the school itself is worse, when my suspicion is that most foster parents in my city won't make the sacrifice to take their foster kids to a school in another part of the city, even when the schools are equally poor and stability is the only thing going for their education.

[And yet it has been over a year and I'm still not licensed. Why?]

1 comment:

  1. Or, at least in my experience you will be!

    Sadly, being back in foster care, one of the things that I see badly needing some attention is the quality of foster parents. I give most foster parents the benefit of the doubt, believe they went into fostering for the right reasons, and try hard... but results are the same - foster parents are lacking in the skills (which is partly the agencies fault) and the motivation (mostly the parents' fault) to do what is truly right for these kids.

    *sigh* I'll add it to my list of things to do in my effort to save the world. ;)