Coronavirus Part 2, Day 27- The U.S. Public School Game

I woke up this morning on a mission to learn about the public schools in Orlando, Florida. The other day it dawned on me that it’s time for us to move to Florida to be closer to my parents and reap the benefits of togetherness and the whole ‘it takes a village to raise a family’ thing. Plus Coronavirus has let the cat out of the bag that many jobs can be done remotely. Steve has been working remotely this entire time, and while he hasn’t loved it, there’s still no date set for his building to reopen. I don’t think this work from home thing is going to go away anytime soon, so it’s time to take advantage.

Nicholas, my oldest, my Big Giant Boy, just finished 4th grade. He’s got another year of elementary school before moving on to middle school. Penelope will be in 2nd grade next year, so in my mind she’s still got time before things get real, as in she won’t take a state test until 3rd grade. The big hurdle was getting her to learn to read proficiently. Now that my mom got that going while I was deployed, if I can keep up she’ll be all set for another year.

I often feel that in the parenting season, the timeline is based on the oldest child. So, in thinking about this move to Florida, I’ve been taking a hard look at the middle and high school situation. Steve and I have had very civil and productive conversations about this!

The transition to middle school is important, not only because this coincides with the beginning of adolescence, but also because it’s the first time kids get funneled into tracks. In one school course book that I studied this morning, I learned that each subject for 6th and 7th grade has two tracks (regular and advanced), and three tracks for 8th grade (regular, advanced, and honors). The track that kids get placed in is based on the results of his or her state test from the previous year. This means that for Nick, his 5th grade test is going to matter.

I know, I know. These things are controversial. There’s the thinking that kids do what they do, and they will be fine when it all buffs out in the end, and that what track someone ends up in, especially as early as 6th grade, doesn’t matter. I don’t agree with this. Sure, it’s not the end of the world if Nick doesn’t get into some advanced track. And anyway he may not no matter what I do. But when I think about my tenure in public school, I consider how I went to a mediocre middle school and felt the gaps in my education all the way through my academic life, first when I went to apply to the Naval Academy, and later when I thought about applying to graduate school. In high school, I flat-out could not compete with the likes of other high school applicants with SAT scores north of 1300. Even when I did manage to get in to Navy, I struggled academically and ended my freshman year with a GPA below 2.0. For graduate school, the difference between my average GMAT score and one in the 80 percentile meant that I would have had to pay full tuition out of pocket.

I suppose it depends on what kids want to do in life. I didn’t think about the military until my sophomore year of high school, and of course there are several options that don’t require a stellar academic record for the military. But still, I think about all this school stuff and it gives me pause. Because it was a huge pain to re-teach myself fractions, decimals, and percentages and prime numbers when I was 27 with two babies. I was epically disappointed when I realized there was no way I was getting into Navy when I applied the second time because my academics just didn’t stack up. It’s funny how our own experience colors so much of how we approach things for our kids.

One thought on “Coronavirus Part 2, Day 27- The U.S. Public School Game

  1. I think you’re exactly right. It’s a terrible and not-often-acknowledged truth that our schools are unequal. Schools in some neighborhoods are not as good as schools in others. Honors track classes can be worlds apart from regular track classes. Not everybody is getting the same education. You shouldn’t have to worry so much about your son and tracking, but you’re wise to pay attention.

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