As a conscientious parent of an almost 3 year old, looking for good child care, I visited several day cares. Armed with a list of questions, and my child, I settled in, observing the setting and the providers. I had read several articles that said that when "entrusting my child," I should be inquisitive and make sure the setting was right.
Fast forward a few years, and I'm ready to start looking for a kindergarten. I find out that in the AAPS (at least the school I was districted to), "we don't schedule" classroom visits--although I could meet the principal and get a tour if I liked. I had always thought of myself as pro-public school, but I start to have some doubts. (Are they hiding something?)
I consider a local parochial school. I get to meet the principal (she seemed burned out--in fact she was retiring). And so if I had stopped with the principal, I wouldn't have given the place a second look. But I got to visit the first grade, and the second grade. I got to talk to some fabulous teachers. I was told I could be considered for financial aid. And their foreign language program was an immersion program.
My favorite years of school were at an alternative school, so we also looked at Ann Arbor Open (then Bach Open). We got an orientation. We got to visit the classrooms. And then we got in. My husband felt strongly we should try it. I tried it, and I liked it. But if not for that, my family trajectory might have taken me out of the public schools for a long time.
Think I'm alone? I don't think so. Every year, parents in the Ann Arbor school district choose to send their kids to private, parochial, or charter schools. Schools which they were allowed to visit, in depth, and see in action. And principal visits alone are not enough. My reaction to the private school principal (poor) was overshadowed by the great reaction I had to the teaching staff.
The Ann Arbor Public Schools could do a lot better with recruiting, if they just believed that they were put there to serve the families of Ann Arbor, and let people who are not yet in the school system see all the good things that are going on. In that context, Kindergarten Roundup is a joke. Ann Arbor Open should not be the only school that lets me see the classrooms. Let me meet the teachers. Open Houses, anyone? Parent visits to classrooms? Aren't they a small amount of extra work that is completely worth the years of per-pupil funding? For those of us with more than one child, as the first goes, the rest will likely follow.