Saturday, October 3, 2015

Is High School the New College?

Last night we attended a high school showcase for all eighth graders and their parents to check out area high school programs. Gone are the days, at least in Florida, where children automatically attend the school in their neighborhood. No, here it is a huge decision (and process) as parents decide which school has the best "choice" or "magnet" program for their kids. 




The school district, along with public charter schools and private schools, offer a wide variety of studies and are similar to college majors - because don't all 14-year-olds know what they want to be when they grow up!?  Courses of study are offered in pre-engineering, pre-law, pre-med (and every other "pre" you can think of), plus, performing arts, finance, science fields, you name it. My son wants a program in shop.  We had to explain that he is welcome to take electives in shop, but cannot major in it.  He was disappointed.  My sixth-grader took one look at the maritime charter school's brochure stating there is no school on Fridays and was ready to sign-up. As parents we need to reel our children in sometimes and make sure they aren't taking the easy way.

On the flip side of cruising through high school, some of the programs are so intense that students come home and spend hours each night doing homework. We walked right past those information booths.  Don't get me wrong, I want a good education for my children and want their high school studies to be a stepping stone to much bigger and better things, but I am not going to have them stressed out over it. I don't see any reason (except financially) to graduate high school with a two-year college Associates degree. I just don't think it is worth the stress I have seen some students suffer.

Unfortunately, it isn't as easy as finding the program you like and then enrolling. There is this entire application system which eventually trickles down to a lottery - which is both unfair and insane. When my oldest was going into middle school, I filled out applications for five different programs or schools just hoping he'd get selected to at least one of them (again, it is predominately lottery based).  He was accepted by all of them and we finally relinquished our seats at four of them and settled on the school he and my younger son now attend.

Honestly, I am not sure what is more daunting - researching / touring the schools and filling out the numerous applications and then waiting months for an acceptance or rejection letter - OR the mere thought that my first born is going to be starting high school next fall.  Either way, we discovered last night that one of our top choices is already conducting lotteries for NEXT school year. So I am given the task today of getting that application submitted.



 I am not kidding when I say the process is similar to applying for colleges - except without the essays (in most cases) and registration fees (thank goodness!).  All the programs have minimum academic requirements and some require auditions, testing, or interviews, but for the most part it is just a ton of paperwork.  It can take weeks even months. The one thing as parents we have to keep in mind is that we cannot live vicariously through our children. There is one performing arts school that my son has in his top two possibilities that I would have died to attend as a teenager.  But the overall decision has to be based on what is best for him (and not his mother's undying obsession with the stage).



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14 comments:

  1. **coughcoughCommonCorecoughcough*

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    1. I am really curious if this application and magnet program process is nationwide or just in FL. I wouldn't mind it so much if the education was decent, but our schools are still sub-par so the whole thing is frustrating. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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    2. Unfortunately it is something Jeb Bush administration installed in Florida long before it started ruining other states. New Hampshire has it but it hasn't become a 10 year old failure institution like it is in Florida, so we still fight against it here.

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  2. I'm in Southern Illinois and it's by district. Where you live determines your high school. We're close to STL and I believe it's similar unless there is a charter or private school option.

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    1. Thanks for your input, Meghan. Probably the majority of students do still attend their home (or zoned school) but this gives them the option of going to another (perhaps better) school as long as they meet the requirements AND get their name picked out of a hat.

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  3. I've lived in Colorado, Montana, Kansas, Illinois, Maryland and Texas - they all have magnet schools/programs. Although the requirements differ for different states, they are all based on academic standing and standardized test scores with highest acceptance accorded to the "most gifted and talented" and they all require a pretty extensive application process. Most also have some form of lottery as well. From a parent's perspective (my two sons are grown and out of the nest) I'm not sure the stress on the child is worth it. On the other hand, regular public schools are so focused on teaching to the standardized tests now that they are failing to educate our children. I know that we did a lot of educating at home. It takes effort, but it pays off.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! Yes, some of these choice programs are insanely competitive academically and, quite frankly, I am not even looking at these programs. I think these programs are a way for schools to try and up their quality - but I am not entirely convinced that it is working. My sons go to a charter middle school and it has its pros and cons, like any school. It can all be very overwhelming.

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  4. Glad my children are all grown up....

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    1. LOL, thanks for reading and commenting.

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  5. Thank God, I don't have to deal with this....

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    1. Yes, it is crazy, but I think I have (most of) it under control. Thanks for reading.

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  6. Good grief! I've had experience with schools in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and Wisconsin and haven't had to deal with your situation. We have always been rural, though. It reminds me of the book Primates of Park Avenue where the parents have to enroll their children basically at birth and go through intense screening.. That's not my way of living. It's good you allow your children the option to follow their hearts. At least they have that going for them. :)

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    1. The schools are so bad down here, that several years ago, most schools started offering "magnet" programs to improve the education and allows students to apply to any school - not just the one they are zoned for. It is CRAZY! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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