The LA Times recently published an article on tips for surviving the CHOICES form:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-schoolme15jan15,1,4763518.column?page=1&coll=la-headlines-california, a must-read if you need to get your child out of the neighborhood school.
To summarize, Bob Sipchen advises parents on the points system the LAUSD uses. They get many more applications for magnets than spaces available so the LAUSD has designed this system in order to give preference to those who have previously tried, those that have siblings already in a magnet, and those that attend schools currently not meeting up to “No Child Left Behind” standards. His article notes that LAUSD is also looking to “maintain a racially balanced enrollment” and goes on to explain that this means they want one white for every Hispanic/Asian/African-American/Filipino or other “non white.”
I took Sipchen’s advice to heart, looked up the racial profile of my magnet school of choice, and concluded that my kids would benefit more if I listed them as “white” than as “Hispanic,” and have rationalized it by concluding that since my kids are predominantly white (my mother’s Mexican, my dad’s Irish, and their father’s parents are both Greek), it’s all good.
The problem of affirmative action, then, seem to be that we have reached a point where “whites” will once again have the advantage at least here in Los Angeles, where they are the minority, and that the true minorities of the overall American culture will continue to have to either succumb to the inferior neighborhood schools because their CHOICE has been taken away by being non-white, or they’ll have to lie and/or cheat their way through the screwed up system.
I am currently in the throes of looking for a middle school for my eldest daughter. It’s still a year and a half away, but by LAUSD CHOICES standards, I’m years too late. I had a conversation with another LAUSD parent where he told me he started attending PTA meetings and volunteering for a school that’s nearby but not his “neighborhood” school while his son was still in diapers. Sure enough, when the time came to enroll, his son was accepted and the transfer permit signed with a smile.
Another piece of advice: if you’re happy with your child’s elementary school and are only interested in a magnet for high school, a friend of a friend (with lots of prior LAUSD experience) has recommended waiting until your child is in 4th grade to start applying for CHOICE. Otherwise, you’ll get offered your CHOICE too soon and will lose all your points if you decline, or you’ll have to remove your child from the school you like.
What are your other options? Keep making a noise, I think. I’ve made it my mission to make my voice heard, be the squeaky wheel, whatever it takes.
I think part of us turn into grade-schoolers all over again when our kids go off to school. We want our kids’ teachers to be pleased with us, we don’t want to “stand out” and we can get intimidated by their position of authority. I’ve long overcome that, and am more like a lioness protecting my cubs that will succumb at nothing.
I’ve written letters to LAUSD, emails and letters to my daughters’ principals, as well as to their teachers. I’ll send back the PTA meeting notices with my own notes that I can’t attend because I work, like 70% of parents, and would be happy to attend if they took place at a more convenient time for the majority of us. I’ve told teachers when I disagree with the amount of homework given, I send them copies of articles on new studies and research, and I’ve also told the teachers when I feel their punishments or consequences are too harsh. On the whole, I’ve managed to win more battles than I’ve lost.
The few times I’ve complained to teachers about the amount of homework given, it has turned out that I’m not the only one complaining, and the teachers have reduced homework loads. I thought it was unhealthy when one teacher was benching kindergartners and first graders for going to the bathroom and I got my daughter exempted from that. When one of the teachers banned backpacks, I wrote the teacher a lengthy letter on why I disagreed, and soon enough, all the kids were allowed to bring their backpacks to school again.
I’m encouraged by the new Superintendent of LAUSD. My most recent interaction with an LAUSD staff member was not only quick (the same day!), but he also reassured me that Superintendent Brewer is implementing a new culture that treats parents like the consumers that we are. While I’m all for parental involvement, I fear that the phrase has taken on a new meaning; one that requires us to do all the work.
Case in point: one of my daughter’s teachers sent back the homework with a note telling me to go over what my daughter had gotten wrong with her. The way I see it, it’s my job to make sure my daughters have the time and resources necessary to complete their homework, answer simple questions about how to complete it, and test them on their spelling words. The actual teaching of the concepts is the teacher’s job, and the homework is a tool teachers use to ensure that the students understand those concepts, and review those concepts as necessary. Every other teacher has used homework in this manner so I don’t feel that my impression is out of line.
Hopefully, Superintendent Brewer’s new outlook will start making its way down to the schools and staff and faculty at each school will start treating parents as partners, rather than as inferior. If not, I’m all for letting the Superintendent know what’s really going on! Our children deserve the best, and we should accept nothing less.