The elementary school around the corner from my house, the school both of my boys attend, is a Title 1 school. Yes, we were aware of that when we bought our house (in a new development in an old part of town) and yes we still sent them anyway.
Call us crazy, we walk on the wild side.
Except, what's so crazy about a school with more qualified teachers, additional aides and staff, a diverse student body, more funding, and smaller class sizes? Because those are just some of the benefits of a Title 1 school. In fact, Title 1 is the nation's oldest and largest federally funded educational program, serving around 60,000 schools across the country. A school qualifies for Title 1 status depending on how many kids sign up for the free or reduced lunch program which is, of course, usually correlated with low income areas. Interestingly enough, test scores are not a qualifier
Let's play devil's advocate and talk test scores anyway. My kids are both reading above grade level and hitting every milestone and marker set for them, I have their awesome teachers to thank for that. If they weren't would I consider other options? Sure. But I'd talk with their teachers and see what we could collaborate and work on before pulling them and enrolling them elsewhere. The simple fact that we even have options when it comes to our children's education speaks volumes as to the kind of privilege we've got here, but I still value our neighborhood school highly anyway for reasons we'll dive into below.
Someone posted this just today on my area's local Facebook yard sale page:
The comments that followed ranged from "I went there, so did all my siblings, we loved it" to "We hated it. The kids are snobby, so we go to a charter school instead". The difference between those two examples? Personal experience. Just because one person had a bad experience with a certain teacher or another student does not mean that your child will. What makes a school "good" or "bad" anyway? You can't project your child's success or failure at school based on anyone's experience but their own. The only way to find out if your school is a good fit is to give it a try!
When you pull your child from the neighborhood school you are assigned and districted to, you are taking funding and resources away from the actual neighborhood you live in. You are influencing the way that school educates their remaining students, how they receive and allocate funding, and their future as an educational institution. There is a massive trickle down effect and it's not generally a positive one. How can your neighborhood continue to grow and develop if parents are outsourcing their children's education away from the very place they live and play?
You know what I love best about our school? That for the most part my kids attend with all of their neighbors and friends, the same kids they play with after school, the same kids they attend church with on the weekend, the same kids that live on our street and surrounding neighborhood. We know these families, we love their kids, we welcome them into our home on a daily basis. We make it a point to get to know one another. There's a camaraderie there and a mutual watch-dog agreement. I'll take care of yours and you'll take care of mine. There is tremendous value in truly living in and serving the community you are a part of and your neighborhood school should play a huge role in that.
Also, the privilege of being able to walk my kids around the corner to school is huge, HUGE. I'm not the mom spending literal hours in my car driving to and picking up and on and on. Hard pass on that, I can think of a million other things to do with all that time I'm saving myself.
I'm a product of public school, as are most adults I know, I bet most of you reading this are too. Turns out, the elementary school I attended is a Title 1 school too and yet in spite of that (or is it because of that?) I earned a college degree from a top rated university and am a functioning and contributing member of society. Some of my best memories from childhood revolve around the kids in my neighborhood and the friends I went to school with. I didn't know my school was a Title 1 school, I didn't even know what that meant and it wouldn't have made a difference anyway.
I'm not saying that charter schools, homeschooling and private schools don't have their place. I'm sure for some families with special circumstances they're a godsend. What I am saying is that they're trendy right now, and that you should give your neighborhood school (Title 1 or not) a chance before you jump ship with your kid(s) for greener pastures. Look past the uniform appeal (they're cute, I get it. And you don't have to fight about school clothes every day, that's nice too). Get involved, be a part of making something better if you're not satisfied with the current status. How will things ever improve if we don't stick around and work to make sure they do? I guarantee your children will be better for it too.
The old saying goes "bloom where you are planted" and that's exactly what we plan on continuing to do. I'm not ever going to let "Title 1" scare me, and neither should you.
PS, this post from Design Mom on their family's experience with public school (their high school is Title 1 too) is one of my favorites.