School Choice Fair – Perspective from Avon parent (Yohei Okada)

When I went to the school choice fair in West Hartford, the number of schools that I had to talk to and choose from overwhelmed me. There were about 40 booths packed in a single high school multi-purpose room. I thought to myself, “how am I going to know which of these schools is the best for my child?” As a parent who is a serious proponent of high quality child education, this concern became larger when I started talking to the people at the booth.

Administrator from a middle school – “Our school is special because we concentrate our classes on group discussions and seminars where your child can start to learn critical thinking skills.”

Another from a magnet middle school – “Our school offers a special STEM program which will build the science foundation of your child and will lead to better career opportunities.”

A student representative from a middle school – “Our school is so much fun!”

Since my main concern is the quality of education, these different curriculums and specialties of schools made it hard for me to process the information. I mean, how am I supposed to know accurate information of the schools from administrators desperately trying to sale the school brand? I need to do some research on some school statistics that cannot be found through just talking to the people.

Are these magnet schools even worth it? What if my child is destined to be an artist, but ends up in a STEM school? Wouldn’t my child want to explore whatever she wants, and find out what she wants to do during college, or even later in life?

Going through this process is difficult, but I guess my pressure is lower than parents from other districts. We have some high quality public schools in Avon, such as the Roaring Brook Elementary and Avon Middle School. These schools are probably the best choice for me instead of magnet schools that require long time to travel to and have the potential to steer my child towards only a specific interest. And, since many Avon parents choose neighborhood public schools as an alternative to magnet schools, the participation rate in the lottery system from Avon is very low. That allows us to have a higher probability than other districts to be admitted to the magnet schools. (I have read that typically the probability for a suburb resident to get into one magnet school is about 25 percent.)

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