Sunday, December 22, 2013

How to select school for kids

Education is important for everyone. As parents, we all want to give the children the best education we can provide. In United States, it has a strange education system that the rich neighborhood has better schools. The schools' budges come from the local towns' property taxes. The towns with more expensive houses have more money, have more teachers, and better facilities. But don't be fooled by that. Some schools are better not because their teachers are better or teaching methods are better. They just have more motivated students.

There are two factors that have important impacts on kids:

1. The ratio of teacher to student and the teaching method. The nicer neighborhood have more money, so public schools there have the luxury to give higher salary or hire more teachers. It may have higher ratio of teacher to student too. Private schools in general have even more money comparing to public schools, so it has even better teacher to student ratio. Most public schools have a fixed curriculum and don't have much flexibility to fit individual needs. Private schools are designed for special purposes. Some emphasizes on arts, some pay more attention to science, some do more field trips, etc. One can put the kid in a special school to fit the kid's personality and interest. Teaching methods in private schools varies too. Some are really structured classroom teaching, some may use democratic teaching method.

2. The peers in school. If most of the kids do homework on time, love reading, study hard, it affects the envirnment of the school. This explains why the high correlation the of percentage of asians in school and the outcome scores. Even without putting a teacher there, they are just good kids. Kids like to do what their friends do, and are motivated by their friends too just like adults.

While selecting schools for my kid, I want him to have more fun and enjoy life as much as he can. Either he can get into ivory or not is not that important. As I remember clearly, how bored I was when I was in the classroom. My precious time was wasted for not much good.  Harker looks attractive to us, as it offers 60 clubs instead of a few that most public schools have. The kids must find something interesting I hope :P. Also I talked to a few students who had studied there. They said they really enjoyed as they had a lot of activities to do. Remember the kids have a lot of energy and they need to burn them to get a sound sleep at night. Otherwise, they may be funky. One nice comment I got from a parent that if the kid forgets to turn in the homework, the teacher will notify the parent the next day. In public school, it is quite different. One of my colleagues' kid went to Monta Visa. She got to know that her kid got ZERO point on all his homework on Chemistry at the end of the semester. It is too late to make up anything. The kid failed on that class and he was sophomore already. Due to that, he could not get into 4 year college at all. Also he could not major in Chemistry, Biology, and anything prepared for medical school. It was so sad.


  1. Your colleague's sad story is unfortunate. But blaming school is not the way to go.. If a student does not do homework for the whole semester, the kid is special and the parent should have paid more attention long before that.

    Monta Vista High School ( and the rest of schools in the district) has an online system for parents to access students' grades including all homework, quiz, exams 24/7. They also have parents night for parents to meet all the teachers.

    Certainly private school which you pay a lot, will give you something extra. But the more important thing is how happy your kid in the school.

    I believe in the theory "Chicken head vs Phoenix tail". Different kids belong to different environment. :-)

    1. You need to ask your kid if he agrees with your theory "chicken head vs phoenix tail" or what else makes him happy.
      Happiness is not built on comparing with other people about how much you are better. It is a feeling about oneself.

      Definitely different kids belong to different environment. Figuring out the kid's personality and interest is far more important than others.

      Personally, I didn't enjoy most of my classroom experiences at all. It is about 80% of classroom time wasted. Just being outside, running around is better experiences than being in those classes.