Across Ward 6, the back-to-school excitement has started to fade into the background as fall approaches. Students have settled into their routines, fall sports and music programs have begun, and students are engaged in their classes. In the coming weeks, we’ll be celebrating Halloween at the Duck Pond and at Fall Festivals across the Ward.
As we reach this stage of the school year, we also must begin to look ahead. For some families, mine included as my wife and I determine where our daughter will attend high school next year, that means you’ll be looking for a new school in the coming year. The factors in this decision get discussed regularly at the dinner table. They include proximity to home, academic program, out-of-school time programs and activities, program specializations and my daughter’s interests and needs. It’s complicated and it’s consequential. We all want what is best for our children: a joyful, rigorous learning experience in a great school community. But it’s not always easy to figure out which schools will be the best fit for your child.
As a city, we have taken a new step to help parents navigate the choices in our system. This fall, the District will be releasing a new School Report Card that is designed to help all parents better understand their school choices. The report card will provide helpful information about individual schools, including academic programs and extracurricular options, the closest public transportation routes, and the best contact person for parents and prospective families. On the Board, I worked to ensure the report card includes information parents want, including information on teacher tenure and certification. The report card is designed to be a first stop for parents and families as they think about their child’s pathway to graduation.
While the report card is designed to be “easy to use” for parents, it also has its limitations. It will feature a one-through-five star rating system for every school that is based largely on test scores and attendance measures. While we have seen much progress in our schools, there will likely be schools in Ward 6 that receive only 1 or 2 stars, but have strong student growth and satisfied families. I encourage you to think about the School Report Card and its star ratings as a first step only. Much like a hotel, restaurant or Amazon rating, you shouldn’t just look at the star ratings. You also look at the comments from others and our own experiences and interests before you make a reservation or purchase. The same is true for the School Report Card—it is not a replacement for visiting your schools to learn more about what’s really happening inside and talking to parents and teachers in that community to understand the experience of learning and community in that building.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit Amidon-Bowen Elementary and Jefferson Middle School—the excitement in those schools is palpable. They are schools with committed parents, educators and community members who are working together to build upon their history and ensure that the resources and supports are there for accelerating success.
It was more than five years ago when a group of Amidon-Bowen parents sat in my living room to share their vision for their community. In the years since, I’ve offered bits of advice and lessons from my own experiences as the school has achieved so much. I am excited by the growth occurring at Amidon-Bowen and know that it is fast becoming a high-quality, holistic, and diverse neighborhood school.
Similarly, I was a part of conversations among parents and teachers at Jefferson many years ago about their outdated building and stagnant test scores. In the years since, Jefferson has become one of the fastest growing schools in our community, both in enrollment and in test scores, and we’ve finally seen construction begin. While the Jefferson Academy community will experience new challenges during its renovation, I know it will continue to grow and I’m excited to support everything that will happen next in their newly renovated building.
I’m proud of the schools in Southwest and across Ward 6 and I’m always impressed by the commitment of our principals, teachers, parents and students that are working hard every day to make each school unique and successful. There is no School Report Card that can tell you about that—go see it in action yourself.
BY Joe Weedon