Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why Kindergarten Roundup Is Completely Inadequate

True Story:
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.


  1. This speaks precisely to my comments under the "donor" post below. It's such a shame. I know lots of parents that went to charters and private schools because they simply couldn't get a good feel for their neighborhood school. I even contacted the school board about this, but still no open houses!

  2. I totally agree. When my son was going to enter kindergarten I asked to visit classrooms at two public elementary schools--the one we are zoned to go to and another that is physically closer to our house and had the "space available" transfer open. Neither school would let me in to see a class in action. So yes, we are at Ann Arbor Open--the only public school that thought our interest and involvement in the workings of a classroom was a good thing!

  3. I was surprised at what a poor job our neighborhood school did selling itself at the kindergarten round-up last year. It was clear from their presentations that both the principal and the teachers were assuming that everyone attending the round-up had decided to send their child to the school. It was completely different at Ann Arbor Open. Guess which school we're at this year?

  4. I was also sorely disappointed with the ability to see our local school's classes in action. I felt very shut out. Our school did have an open house during an evening, but I got a bad vibe from the kindergarten teacher so we are at a private school right now. Maybe it would have been open but our number still hasn't been called. :)

    In all fairness, we are planning to go back to the public school next year since private is expensive. But I'm extremely happy with the start we got outside the public schools. I'm hoping I won't be disappointed with the school next year. We'll see.

  5. I did find a difference last year with Pittsfield Elementary (part of AAPS). The principal (Carol Shakarian) was wonderful. She gave me a tour; she let me observe classrooms. She really recognized the competition aspect, and that there's a PR/Marketing role for schools to play. Some say principals make the school, too!

  6. Seems clear that even within AAPS, how this is approached varies quite a bit. Three years ago at our local school (Bryant) I asked to visit a Kindergarten class, and was encouraged to sit in on all 6! I was impressed to visit six classrooms full of happy engaged kindergarteners.

  7. I'm glad to hear that! Kindergarten roundup dates for Ann Arbor in 2012 can be found here:

  8. We also had a great experience at the Bryant roundup. The kids all decorated a crown in one of 3 colors. There were 3 stations and you rotated through them with others of the same crown color. I think the stations were 1. classroom visit which included a story read by a K teacher, a small snack, and a coloring page 2. a bus ride through the neighborhood 3. a Q&A with the principal and other K teachers. They also brought in some Pattengill teachers so parents could ask questions about the transition in third grade. This last station was probably the most boring for the kids, but necessary for the parents.

    I thought it was a good balance. Honestly, I always assumed that all the schools did roundups the same way. Why reinvent the wheel again and again, you know? I would love to hear what other schools do at roundup. I know lots of people seem to like Open's roundup, just curious what they do. There's always room for improvement!

  9. Sorry Ruth, Didn't see that you had to approve the comment - thought it just didn't go through! You can put up either one!

  10. I moderate comments on older stories because I was getting a lot of spam.

    As to what Ann Arbor Open does, there is really a three-part process. First, there is an Open House (that was held today, in fact) where most of the teachers are there, the parents and kids can wander around classroom to classroom and ask teachers questions. It's not just for kindergarteners, older kids' classrooms are open as well.
    This is not a required visit.

    Anyone who wants to apply through the lottery needs to go through an "Orientation," where parents (and sometimes teachers) talk about their experience of the school, the school's philosophy, and answer peoples' questions about both the practical and the philosophical.

    There is also an opportunity for a classroom visit (that used to be mandatory but now there is another option of having a staff-led tour).

    Post-lottery, for accepted families, there is a more traditional kindergarten roundup (forms, busing information, etc.)

    Information about Ann Arbor Open School enrollment can be found here:

    (be sure to click on the Enrollment Application box if you want one).