by Erin Tarr
2013 is upon us… the year my daughter goes to Kindergarten. This is the part of the post where I insert a paragraph filled with heartfelt but weepy comments, overused clichés and tearful personal memories involving my “baby” and how she can’t possibly be old enough for Kindergarten already, but I digress… let’s move on.
As an educator, I have been anticipating and thinking about my daughter’s education since she was in utero. For the first 3 and half years of her life I worked for an amazing private school and always planned for her to attend school there. So, when I decided to change the course of my vocational career this last year – our newfound dilemma regarding our child(ren)’s education became a front and center conversation around the dinner table. (Well really between commercial breaks…but you know what I mean.)
The following is a list of what I previously knew about the Champaign Unit #4 school system:
• Unit #4 is under a “school of choice” system (which isn’t – IMHO – really the correct verbiage for what it ACTUALLY is)
• “School of Choice” includes some sort of “lottery” system (not being the luckiest person on the planet, this gives me pause)
• There are proximity “A” schools (within 1.5 miles of your house) … which you have an 8Oish% chance of getting into (IF you have one)
• There are three “magnet” schools (meaning their curriculum has a special focus)… Garden Hills (International Baccalaureate Curriculum), Stratton (micro-society), and Booker T. Washington (STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering & Math)
• There are two “balanced calendar” schools (Barkstall & Kenwood) who each have a three week break in the fall and spring and a shorter summer
• Barkstall, Booker T. Washington and Stratton kids all wear uniforms.
I don’t know if any of that is news to you – but this was my starting point. When I began looking seriously at Unit 4 schools, I naively thought “school of choice” meant I could literally choose my top three schools and have a decent chance of getting into them. This is only PARTLY true. IF I choose my “Prox A” school my child will likely be among the 82% of the students at that school who are also Prox A or have siblings there … however, if I DO NOT choose my Prox A school – my child only has an 18% chance of getting into whatever other school I would happen to choose. (Not great odds!)
The exception to this appears to be the magnet schools – which were established (in my understanding) in historically under-choosen schools in order to increase their diversity. So you MAY have a better chance of getting into these schools, even if it is not your Prox A school.
My current question that I will be inquiring about (soon) is IF I choose a magnet school and for some reason don’t get in, then am I still in the 82% accepted into my second choice (Prox A) school, or am I just out of luck and hope for the best possible outcome being in the 18% there or elsewhere? (Does that question even make sense?)
As you can tell, in some ways I am a bit befuddled by the process. On the other hand, I have a personal connection with almost every one of the 11 elementary schools (teachers, parents, administrators, etc.) and, having an education background, I feel like I am already fairly confident about which school(s) I would want my daughter to attend based on my visits and conversations with other parents, teachers and administrators.
I plan to keep chambanamoms informed about what my current school “choices” are (and why), as well as what specific attributes I am looking for in a school. The current online information fro Unit 4 still has last year’s information regarding when meetings will occur, etc. but as I get my questions answered – and ask more – I will let you know!
Erin (Trent) Tarr made the three hour drive from Southern Illinois to Champaign in 1997 to attend the University of Illinois and never left. Mother of two beautiful girls (2 & 4 years old), she is currently working at the University of Illinois and enjoys reading non-fiction, listening to leadership podcasts, singing, taking pictures of her kids, and blogging at www.erintarr.com. The epitome of an extrovert, she is an active participant at Quest UMC and loves getting together with strong women for book clubs, writing clubs, and wine tastings. You can often find her (with two kids in tow) at Champaign Centennial sporting events where her beloved husband of nine years, Adam, works as an Athletic Trainer.