PART I: ATTENDING THE SCHOOL CHOICE FAIR
I attended the school choice fair in New Haven (near Yale University), and if I had to pick one word to describe the fair (and how I could feel about it if I were a hypothetical parent), it would have to be overwhelming. The atmosphere of the school choice fair was way too stimulating: It was held in a gigantic high school gymnasium with around 35-40 booths total crammed together on one side of the gym. Each of these booths had their own signs, boards (most resembling science fair boards) and several staff members from the schools in front of them, so there were just many people moving around.
Many of the schools seemed to be answering questions related to 1) how students could get preference, and 2) what really differed about each school in comparison to the other schools. There were a lot of different specializations for parents to choose from (for example, a magnet school focusing on STEM versus a magnet school focusing on arts). The event illustrated that though there were so many choices available to parents, it is incredibly overwhelming to pick just one and make sure it is the right fit for a child.
Overall, my question from going to this event is how big of a difference going to one of these specialized charter, neighborhood, or magnet schools makes. For example, I stopped by a magnet school that is centered on the Socratic method and bases its curriculum off of a classic liberal arts education. But will this really make a difference when the child gets to high school, college, and beyond?
And even more important: Are these school really all that much better than neighborhood schools in the long run?
PART II: LOOKING AT THE NEW HAVEN SCHOOL CHOICE WEBSITE
When I began comparing notes from the school choice fair to what I saw online when reading the website about New Haven-area schools, I felt as though many of these schools were being misleading in their advertising of really being “open choice” schools.
For example, Edgewater Magnet admitted to only letting in five “open choice” students not from New Haven every year. This was incredibly different from the sort of diverse and far-reaching picture its employees were painting of the school on their brochures and posters. Even more incredible is that these same schools get tons of extra funding because of the handful of open choice students.
PART III: MAKING THE DECISION AS A HYPOTHETICAL PARENT
Based on my experience at the school choice fair and after viewing the website for New Haven school choice, I’m more confused than ever where I can even send my child, where he/she would even have a chance to getting in, and if any of these schools would truly lead to different life chances for my student in the long-term. Even as a parent who has supposedly “educated” herself on the process of school choice in New Haven, I still feel like there are so many gigantic gaps in knowledge and information that I would need filled before I could even come close to making a decision.
Moreover, there is also a concern that my child will not like or fit in at the school if admitted. There can be gigantic differences culturally and socially between students from different backgrounds, and this could affect my child (and his/her learning process) greatly.