Real talk from Dallas parents on school decisions

If you listened to the last episode, you know that we did something different. A few months ago, we collaborated on an event with the North Oak Cliff Branch of the Dallas Public Library. The event was intended to help parents learn more about their school options. I invited three parents to join me, all of whom had made different choices around schools. The prior episode was part one, and I shared seven parent hacks (which you should check out if you haven’t already). For this episode, I handed the microphone over to the three parents who joined me on the panel. They weighed in on the thoughts that went into their decisions and gave noteworthy advice to the parents in the audience.

 

Keri Mitchell: And now we’re going to get to our panel. I am going to just briefly introduce you guys, and then I would love for you to tell us who you are, where you live, what schools you’re zoned to you and where your children actually go to school. Jeff, can I start with you?

Jeff Fahrenholz: Sure.

Keri Mitchell: Jeff, we actually just met in person for the first time this morning, but we’ve emailed a lot, and we found out through emailing that our kids are at … my daughter is at the same preschool that his kids go to school to. So that’s kind of a fun connection.

Jeff Fahrenholz: So, I’m Jeff Fahrenholz. I live in Winnetka Heights, and we’re zoned to Rosemont Elementary. I have kids that are 6, 5 and 4, so first grade, kindergarten and preschool. They go to Lakewood Montessori, which as Keri mentioned, is a private pre-K through sixth-grade school in East Dallas. So we commute out there every day. 

Keri Mitchell: Then on my left is Denise, who has been on a lot of episodes so far.

Denise Rappmund: Yeah. My name is Denise. I have a son who’s 5. He’s in kindergarten at Hogg Elementary. I’m zoned for Roger Q. Mills, which is by the zoo.

Brooke Wise: Roger Q. Mills?

Denise Rappmund: Roger Q. Mills. Yes. (Editor’s note: Roger Q. Mills was an Accelerated Campus Excellence, or ACE, campus in Dallas ISD and next year will reopen as a Talented and Gifted campus.)

Brooke Wise: I’ve never heard that one. Hi, I’m Brooke Wise, and I live in Winnetka Heights. I’m zoned for Rosemont. My children have gone to Rosemont. I have three children: third-grader at Rosemont, a seventh-grader at Travis TAG and a junior at TAG High School. I’ve been in DISD for a long time. They all three went through dual language at Rosemont, and then they’ve gone through the process of going to the magnet school. So I’m here to kind of give the magnet school perspective. Yeah [and] kind of talk about how you go through that process. 

Keri Mitchell: Great. So what I’d like you guys talk about is, first of all, what major factors went into your decision when you were first making decisions about schools, and what did your decision come down to? Brooke, I’m going to start with you. 

Brooke Wise: When we bought in Winnetka Heights, I thought, “Sure.” My husband and I both went to private school growing up. We were sure that we were doing a private school route. Then, I had children, and I talked to people who were homeschooling and I was [like], “I’m going to home school! This is going to be great!” And then I went to what they called a “Rosemont Unplugged,” and it was at someone’s house and was an evening with just parents. There was no administration there. It was just kind of giving you what happens at Rosemont. Why is it good? Why is it bad? You know, giving you the down-low. I left that meeting and was like, “My kids are going to go to Rosemont.” I was just so sure about it. It just felt like the right fit. There was a friend of mine that I went with. I really went with her to support her, and then when it was over, I was like, “I think I’m going to go with you. I can’t teach my kids Spanish. I don’t know how to do that.” So, we both took the leap, and we said every year we’re going to just see how it goes. We have stayed with it, and then when my kids got to third grade at Rosemont, specifically my oldest one, he was kind of … he had been very involved with the school and doing a lot of extracurricular activities. By third grade, he just kind of zoned out, and he wasn’t willing to take part in the afterschool activities. All he wanted was a math club and a chess club, and they didn’t have that at Rosemont at that time. They do now, but that’s all he wanted and he really needed that TAG experience. And so we went and tried, and he got in. Then, the other two have just kind of followed.

Keri Mitchell: I think that answered all the questions. 

Denise Rappmund: OK, so, for any of you who have listened to the podcast, this is maybe a little repetitive, but so yeah, my son’s in Hogg Elementary, which is the school that’s right next to the Rosemont zone. So, and again, I don’t live in the Rosemont zone, and so I think sort of where are you going to send your kid if you don’t live in the Rosemont zone is a popular conversation around this area. We’ve lived here about three and a half years, and we did buy a house over by the zoo. When we first bought that home and I started my search, I saw that the school we were zoned for had low performance. I thought, “Well, no problem. I’m just going to transfer my child into the Rosemont program.” Also, he’s in dual language at Hogg. That was really, really important to me that he was in a dual language program. So that was kind of the plan: We’ll just, I’ll transfer him. You know, it was getting more and more challenging to get, not a transfer spot in the gen-ed [at Rosemont], but a transfer spot as a dual language. In the end, we didn’t get a spot in the dual language program there, and we only got a gen-ed spot. But you know, as I was going through this and knowing that there was a chance we wouldn’t get in, [that’s] when I started branching out my research. That’s where I started to find that there are these other sort of gems, if you will, in the rest of the area that people don’t necessarily know about or talk about. They have some really excellent principals, great dedicated teachers, and Dallas ISD has been expanding out on their programmatic offerings at these schools as well. Ultimately, that’s what sort of led me to Hogg, and what I found, even while I was waiting on that lottery decision from the Rosemont dual language, is that there’s a bit of a distinction between dual language programs within the district. So, some of them are enrichment models, and some of them are immersion models. You can find all that on their website. At least up until now — I heard there may be some changes — up until now, [Rosemont] had been an enrichment model, which from my conversations with them, [I learned] that 30 percent of the instruction was going to be in Spanish. The main distinction was what language students learn to read in first, and at the immersion model, it’s 70 percent Spanish. They learned to read in Spanish first. Where I wanted my son was in the immersion model. Hogg offered immersion. Hogg offered really small class sizes. It’s way under capacity. So, there’s 12 students in his class, and my son, given his temperament, I thought that was appropriate. At Hogg, the principal had all his teachers trained in project-based learning, which is something else that I valued. One of the parents who’s currently sending her child to pre-K there is actually in a podcast episode. [She’s a] staffer at Momentous [Institute] and brought in social-emotional learning curriculum from Momentous to the school. So, all the teachers got trained in that as well. So, I started to see that there were some other really great things happening. I saw some great leadership from the principal, and [I realized] that it was okay that we weren’t going to be going to Rosemont dual language. There’s these other options out there that are also great. Yeah, I guess that’s what kind of helped me. 

Jeff Fahrenholz: OK, so we’re still kind of on auto-pilot, and so our oldest was in kindergarten. I started out with them at a preschool, at the Kessler School, which is right here in the neighborhood, just because our nieces and nephew had gone there. My wife was staying at home at the time, so we just sort of needed preschool for socialization and a couple mornings a week because we didn’t really think about anything beyond that. You know, kind of where we had to start thinking a lot more was as our oldest daughter entered kindergarten. She has severe social anxiety and ADHD, and so we had to kind of think about what environment would be the best place for her to be learning in. So, that made the idea of a very small school fairly important to her. So we started looking around, and that’s how we kind of came across the idea of Montessori and just the way that learning style was for her and the way that that would work. She could move at her own pace. She could move around the classroom. You’re not sitting in the seat the whole time. That really became the deciding factor for us. She’s now in a classroom of 18 kids, and there are two teachers. So you know, she’s really been thriving under that environment. And then back to Keri’s point kind of about why all of our kids go there: Convenience, truthfully. Our second child would do well anywhere. She would be doing great at the Kessler School. She would be doing great at Rosemont, but we didn’t want to have our three kids at three different schools. As I mentioned, we’re already kind of driving across town. My wife teaches in North Dallas now, so we’re kind of all over the place already. It’s much more convenient. Convenience is what it ultimately came down to. 

Keri Mitchell: That’s a big deal. You all kind of already answered this, but let’s just check one more time. Did you consider any other schools? 

Jeff Fahrenholz: I mean, so we went as far as entering the [Rosemont] dual language lottery for our oldest to do kindergarten, just to kind of keep that on the table. We also, I guess we looked into, and I know this is something that Keri and I have talked about, we thought about Mata [Montessori], but we had heard from another friend that, you know, basically an out-of-district transfer or an out of, I guess kind of, East Dallas transfer would be nearly impossible. So, we kind of wrote it off without even thinking about it, which I guess would be my biggest piece of advice: Your friends aren’t trying to steer you wrong, but their information may have been accurate when they were looking at the school. So, if they were looking at a school two years ago, and they said, “Oh the lottery is impossible if you live in Oak Cliff,” validate that. Because you never know; it’s different year-by-year. And you know, I don’t regret where we are now. It’s just I do wish that we would’ve at least had that information point. 

Denise Rappmund: Did I looked at other schools? Yes. I threw the biggest net. My husband and I knew we were going to send our kid to a public school, so there’s that. We also looked at a number of the public schools throughout Oak Cliff, so besides Hogg and Rosemont, we also went and talked to the principal at Sidney Lanier. So, that’s technically West Dallas, kind of close to the Sylvan Thirty area, and we looked at some other neighborhood schools that have dual language. There are so many — Winnetka Elementary, Henderson Elementary, Reagan Elementary. Yeah. I mean they’re just kind of everywhere. I think a third of the elementary schools here have dual language, and we also did talk to our neighborhood school, Mills. Mills, because of under performance, had become an ACE school, which is a term that maybe some of you have heard of. I can’t remember what the ACE exactly stands for, but it was schools that were targeted for low performance. They sent (the district) their top principals, top teachers, extended the school day, and they had a lot of success there. So just as an aside, there’s some kind-of unidentified benefits to going to an ACE school. You’re going to get these really strong principals and teachers, and you do get that extended school day and some extra program offerings there. In the end, I think Lanier was one that was kind-of high on our list just for all the arts that they offer. That’s technically just for the fourth- and fifth-graders for that vanguard, but it sort of trickles down in terms of school culture and what the younger children are exposed to all the way down. But we knew people that were also going to be going in to Hogg. The fact that I didn’t know any parents that were going to be going in as kindergartners to Lanier versus I did know some people going into Hogg, just made me feel a little more comfortable, even though they’re both excellent choices. 

Brooke Wise: I looked to homeschooling and I looked at private schools. We decided to do Rosemont, but I will say that by our last one for pre-K we applied to Harry Stone [Montessori] and we got in. We did a year at Harry Stone. You know, there are kids that learn really well with Montessori, and I think there are kids that just don’t. He was one of those kids that just didn’t. He kind of sat at the same thing the whole year long, and we met with the teacher the first six weeks and she said, “Oh, he’s working on this, and then he’ll go on and do duh, duh, duh, duh.” Then at the end of the year, I met with her again, [and she said], “Well he’s still working on that.” I’m like, “Well, aren’t you going to move him along?,” and she’s like, “Well, he still feels like he wants to keep doing it.” And I’m like, “I think you need to push him a little bit more, you know?” So we decided that that was just not a good fit for him, and we went to Rosemont Round-Up. I walked in and saw 30 families that I already knew. You know, there’s a lot to be said for walking into a school and you know that other person. The first thing I do when I go to school is I look and take pictures of the classroom list, and I email all my friends on there the first day of school and say, “We’re in the same class! Let’s talk.”

Keri Mitchell: Again, this may be a little repetitive of a the question but we keep digging into good stuff, so let’s keep going. Anything you didn’t consider then when you were making decisions that you would now? 

Denise Rappmund: You know, the thing that really sticks in my craw the most still is the food, but I couldn’t really do anything about it. A public school environment isn’t going to be perfect, and that’s OK. And there’s some things that maybe I’ll want to take on and try to help affect change, and that can be really fun and inspiring. You know, as we go along, maybe food is the thing that I’ll really champion. The district offers free breakfast and lunch to all students, I think because it’s just easier given the fact that such a high percentage of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch. I preferred to make my son’s lunch every day and send it. I know maybe I sound crazy, but I’m just very particular about what my son eats. I wanted to continue to make sure he had this wholesome breakfast at home and that I made his lunch, and I tried to do that the first week but he just wanted to go with the rest of the kids in line and get that lunch. I don’t know, I mean, again, if I’d looked into it even more and understood that more, I don’t know that that would have changed anything. I can’t single handedly change the way the district’s doing food before I’m even there, but that still … that bugs me. 

Jeff Fahrenholz: As you think about what your priorities are and what’s important to you, ask yourself, “Why?” Also, just kind of think about the ramifications of it. One thing for us, we ruled out Montessori almost right away because of the fact that when our kids were really young, we only wanted them to attend preschool three half days a week and Montessori programs, you know, the shortest you could do was five half days. For some reason in our heads, that was going to be the end of the world if we sent our 3-year-old to a school for two hours, five days a week. It sounds as irrational to me now as it did back then. You know, somehow in our heads we had come up with this idea that five full days of school was just going to be too much for our kids. You know, as I said, we ruled out those options based on that, and so we never really questioned maybe the benefits of that environment would offset the fact that we’re less comfortable doing a five day a week program. And so I would just say, kind of question things that you think in your head are some of the most important things that are guiding your decision. Just think about why. 

Keri Mitchell: You may have just answered my last question, and then I’ll just open it up in case you guys have anything else you want to say. Any other advice you give fellow parents when they come to you for advice in schools? 

Denise Rappmund: It kind of echoes what Keri and Jeff were saying about just questioning your own values. What does a “good school” mean to you? What does diversity mean to you? You know these buzzwords, and people throw them around a lot and I think they at some point lack real meaning. You have to define it for yourself. I know for my family, that path brought about a lot of soul searching and seeing which of our values sort of bubbled up to the top, and that helped us figure out how we’re going to make these decisions. And [I’d say] trying to avoid being overly influenced by friends and family, not in some kind of malicious sense but just to be able to understand the full picture of facts that you have and making the best decision for your family. 

Brooke Wise: I’m just gonna say on the magnet school front, I think that your child needs to make the decision that they want to go to the school, because if they don’t, they’re not going to be happy. You cannot push them to a different school. If they’re happy where they are, you should let them be happy, and they’ll be happier going to school every day. I know that there are kids that go and, at least at Travis, when they apply and if they don’t want to go, they go in and write on their essay, “I don’t want to apply to this school.” The teachers say they get that every year in their essay, “I don’t really want to come to this school.” So, you don’t have any power to send your kid there. If they don’t want to go, they’re not going to go so make sure that’s what they want. I mean, they have to be an academic kid. If you’re going to go to Booker T. or go to one of the arts schools, they have to really love art, OK? It is because they’re going to live and breathe art. They’re there at 7 in the morning, and they don’t go home until 9 o’clock at night. They are honing that craft at Booker T. We went and saw the dancers perform. Rosemont dance program went to visit the Booker T. kids, and they got to ask them questions about what their day was like. And that’s a lot of dance, and if you don’t like dance that much, you’re going to be really not liking school. So when you’re applying to a magnet school, just consider that you need to love that and have that passion because it will, it will really dry them out over time. 

Keri Mitchell: You guys have great things to say. I shouldn’t have even said anything. Thank you so much for being here and for talking, and we’re going to open it up to questions. We’re happy to take your questions, and if you have a question for a specific person, feel free to mention that. If not, we’ll just kind of take it as the panel.

Person-in-the-audience No. 1: I just wanted to know if you could talk a little bit more about just the fact that when you said that scores aren’t always indicative of your child’s experience, because if obviously you’re parents, you’re looking at sheets and when you see only 4 percent are at grade level, that’s, that’s a scary thing to look at. And then you know, you go and you meet and you have these great principals, and it’s so interesting to hear all these great programs. So, just speak a little bit about what you learned — experience, you know, versus the numbers. Yeah, because I think that’s where it can be scary. 

Denise Rappmund: Hmm. OK, so I know I said this in the podcast, and Keri put it up in like a post-article links thing, but for any of you that are interested in that topic, please look up Nikole Hannah-Jones. She’s a columnist for the New York Times. She also just won a MacArthur Genius grant, and she’s just done so much research and writing on getting behind the numbers on a national scale, and it’s just so helpful. And she changed my life, so she was the one that, like, sort of changed my trajectory on how I look at these things. The reason it didn’t scare me … again I think a good principal was key, though, because you really need good leadership from the top. The first glance at the test scores is very indicative of the student population and not so much the quality of the teaching. So that’s where you have to dig deeper. Students that are not native speakers, that are low socioeconomic status, that don’t have, you know, maybe the support at home, maybe they live in environments that aren’t safe, maybe they don’t have adequate nutrition … all those things that we read about more and more affect how they perform in school. Those were the things that were just so eye opening to me, and I was like, “You know what, I don’t need to write off any of these places just because they’re not doing well on tests.” So I think that was my trajectory of just trying to kind of get past that. I knew that my son wasn’t necessarily going to do poorly just because their test scores were bad, you know? And there were a lot of other things that I wanted in the classroom environment for him. The other thing, though, that now I can say sort of in retrospect, is I did join the site-based decision-making committee at Hogg. The SBDM is what they call them. You don’t have to be a parent. Their charters require that community members are a part of them as well, and so any school you’re interested in, you can go and it’s so eye opening. They’ll talk about kind of digging into the numbers of the curriculum, like how all the principals and teachers are being assessed and how each grade is doing. So one of the things I saw at Hogg in particular is that, you know, the principal has been there, I think this is his third year. So he’s relatively new to the school, and he’s been implementing all these new things. And what they’re seeing is that on an annual basis, each grade where he’s been there is performing higher. At this point, it’s the fourth- and fifth-graders that they can’t quite get, but he wasn’t there when they started. So, each year they add another year that’s performing higher, which is just kind of interesting, too. Does that answer your question? OK. 

Amy Tawil: I really don’t have questions, but I have suggestions for more questions for you guys. One, when you’re looking at student-teacher ratio, it’s very skewed, because they consider every single teacher in the building. So that means your art teacher, your dance teacher, your gym teacher. So that’s not necessarily your classroom teacher-student ratio, so it’s good to go visit and look at the classrooms and see what the actual classroom ratio is. But don’t be lulled by that, because the state law is that, at elementary level, 22 kids can be in your classroom. So you’re not guaranteed that you’re going to keep your 14 or 15 kids. So just keep on top of that at your school. My hope is that every single neighborhood school has a strong school for everyone because I also looked for playmates in my neighborhood for after school playdates, and sometimes when you go across town for school, that limits little playdates for your kids after school, unless you want to do a lot of driving again and picking up and things like that. My other suggestion is, if you’re involved in your neighborhood school and they don’t have an early childhood PTA, start one, and I’m sure Rosemont Early Childhood PTA will help you do that. What makes a strong school is an early childhood PTA, because it gets people involved at a very young age to get strength and support in your neighborhood for your school. A question I’d like to ask, or you may like to ask when you visit, is, “Is it a school that is teaching to the test?” which sometimes you feel like we’re moving toward in DISD, or, “Is it a school that’s interested in educating the whole child? Developing the whole child?” Because I’d give up a few test points if I knew my child was being exposed to a lot more and was not just drilling and killing in their classroom to pass the test. So, that’s something else that will come out if you take a tour and you visit. So test scores, take those with a grain of salt. Go visit and you’ll get a feel of the school. Oh, one thing, when you go to look at immersion programs, be sure to ask how that coincides with standardized testing. So you can choose to test in your child’s native language or your child’s second language, and I don’t think a lot of people know that. So if you’re in an immersion program, your school may want to test you in Spanish, but if you think your child would do better in English, you can request that they are tested in English. So just ask how that works with standardized testing, “Do you stop the immersion program to kind of test prep?” Just ask those questions. Some schools do. Some schools don’t. So Rosemont, I’ve felt it here a little bit. We’ve chuckled back here when when one of y’all said, “Oh, I didn’t get into dual language.” I’m like, “Well, I could have been your kid’s gen-ed teacher.” But anyway gen-ed, not only at Rosemont, I don’t think, has gotten a little bit of a negative connotation. That’s just a curriculum. It’s your core curriculum that the dual language kids also get, you know, it’s just gen-ed. So, we’re now saying FLES [Foreign Language in Elementary School] or dual. So every single student at Rosemont, you don’t have to do a lottery for FLES, you’re just getting it as if you get gym class or art class. You know, every single student will receive Spanish.

Brooke Wise: I was going to add that I see at Rosemont, kids that don’t do well in the dual language, and they move to the gen-ed. They thrive just like my kid didn’t do well in Montessori. He can move to another school. There’s always an option in DISD. Gen-ed at Rosemont is a great option also, so don’t feel like you can’t do that. It just really is, so I think there’s just lots of options.

Keri Mitchell: Any other questions from the floor?

Person-in-the-Audience No. 2: I’m going to double down on that question that my wife just asked you, which was, you guys are talking about test scores, and I’m just like reading, like if you take Hogg for example, in the column, it says, “How has achievement at this school changed in recent years?” It talks about math scores. It talks about reading scores, and they varied. But it’s the one below that seemed like the big flag to me, which is percentage of students that master grade level.

Keri Mitchell: These little packets that you guys found on the back table were provided by Children at Risk, which is a, I’m not sure if it’s a nonprofit organization, but it’s a scoring organization for schools. In fact, a story that I would love to do, on the horizon and probably at some point, is all the different rating systems for schools coming from different perspectives and for different reasons. This is one. It’s not the only one. I’m not exactly sure what that terminology means, because I’m not as familiar with the way Children at Risk ranks schools as I should be. But does anybody else have any idea? We’ll just throw it out there. Yes ma’am!

Person-on-the-Audience No. 3: I work at Educate Texas, and so we look at these scores a lot. My understanding is there’s like different kinds of categories of cut scores, and so there’s like, “meets grade level,” and then there’s like, ones that are like a little bit lower, like “approaches grade level” and things like that. It’s just like ways to label what bucket of category the score’s in, and so that is one of the, I guess, I think it’s one of the higher buckets. So it’s just a way to kind of bucket out where the scores are. 

Amy Tawil: A lot of these organizations, they’re doing the data for different reasons. It’s just best to go straight to the district to get the data as opposed to Dallas Kids First or Children at Risk, because they’re using their data. I’m not saying it’s wrong. It’s just kind of shown in a different way. 

Person-in-the-Audience No. 3: Children at Risk publishes its report annually, and you can google, “Children at Risk 2017 report methodology,” and they have a separate document that talks through how they arrive at their conclusions. So it’s 15 pages. I haven’t read it all, but it’s all good. There’s a bit of info in there.

Person-in-the-Audience No. 2: Seeing that 2 percent of students have mastered their grade level in math is … that might as well be zero. I mean it’s a negligible percentage. I mean, that’s not even, that’s not even equaling an error on a poll.

Amy Tawil: Well, if that were true, it would be an IR school. That’s why I’m saying take these with a grain of salt. It would be an improvement required school if that were true.

Person-in-the-Audience No. 2: Yeah. So I mean we’ll dig deeper, but yeah, but you know, this is …

Denise Rappmund: If I could just add something, so I’m not going to try to convince anyone to change their mind about anything. You know, I’m just speaking for myself. So, if what’s going on in the test is important to you, then it’s important to you. End of story. You know, what I can say for my son’s experience so far is he excels academically. He’s really strong academically. He has some behavior stuff, whatever. Nobody’s perfect. But his class is 12 kids, right? So the teacher creates little groups, and I’m sure they do this at a lot of the schools. They separate out into groups, and I know that there’s like three kids that are on par with him academically. They get like first-grade work, and then there’s other kids that are maybe more average or struggling in different areas. They get other things. So my son continues to progress at a really amazing rate, and it’s interesting to me, like, not only in the Spanish, but he’s doing really well in English, too. Nothing’s suffering. He’s doing great because of the individualized attention. Again, we all have to go back to our own values or what we want to see from these places. 

Amy Tawil: Teachers are balancing their classroom. They know which kids are moving at what level, and they have them doing that. So they’re giving it in challenges where it is needed at that level.

Keri Mitchell: Did I see somebody else’s hand? OK, go ahead. 

Person-in-the-Audience No. 4: I’m with my daughter here, and we have a very smart granddaughter/daughter. So, we were kind of looking over what school would be best for her, because she’s a very fast learner. I mean you can give her something, and she’ll learn it right away. So, I was going to ask which kind of schools for somebody that’s really smart.

Brooke Wise: I will say, OK, so my oldest son was 5 years — no, he was 4 years old, and we were on a trip. We were in Cancun during a hurricane. We lost electricity. We had nothing to do. So we started teaching him, in the dark, multiplication, and he, the next, like, three weeks later, came in to me when we got home and started doing his fives and his 10s in multiplication. We’re like, “Oh my god. He got it!” He did his threes. He really understood, like you’re saying, he got it. And we had heard from other teachers, other stories of him in class when he was like 18 months that they were just really surprised by him. She challenged him. I love the fact that he had the challenge of the second language at Rosemont. He had a lot of arts, but then when they got to that third-grade level, if you’re at that point, you could go to a magnet school. So there’s lots of options. There’s a ton of options, and the other thing that all of DISD schools offer is a gifted and talented program within the school. So they would get pulled out in kindergarten. They’re learning in kindergarten, first and second grade. They’re learning Algebra there. But if your child gets pulled for that — even if they don’t, don’t think your child is stupid, OK? I want to preface that because I have had — I’ve got two that have gone through it and one that did not. She still has gone to Travis and has done well there. If they’re needing that, they will give you that, OK? 

Keri Mitchell: Your kids will tell you if they’re bored. You will know if they’re bored, and you will also know if they’re excited go to school and know if they love to learn. It’s pretty clear. Are there any more quick questions? I know you guys have been here for a long time now, so if not, we will wrap this — except Julie wants to say something. Maybe we’ll be around for a while and just talk. I’d love to meet you.

Julie Hyatt, North Oak Cliff Branch librarian: Thank you guys for hanging in there. We had some really good information. I hope you learned something. Stick around and talk to these wonderful resources, and I think that’s all I have. Thank you guys. 

 

Thanks for listening to The Uninformed Parent. In the next episode, we’ll talk to a Quintanilla Middle School teacher who lives in the neighborhood where she teaches and wants to see more neighborhood students choose to attend their neighborhood school. This podcast is a production of Advocate Magazines with music by HookSounds.

Intro: If you listened to the last episode, you know that we did something different. A few months ago, we collaborated on an event with the North Oak Cliff Branch of the Dallas Public Library. The event was intended to help parents learn more about their school options. I invited three parents to join me, all of whom had made different choices around schools. The prior episode was part one, and I shared seven parent hacks (which you should check out if you haven’t already). For this episode, I handed the microphone over to the three parents who joined me on the panel. They weighed in on the thoughts that went into their decisions and gave noteworthy advice to the parents in the audience.

Keri Mitchell: And now we’re gonna get to our panel. I am going to just briefly introduce you guys, and then I would love for you guys to tell us who you are, where you live, what schools you’re zoned to you and where your children actually go to school. Jeff, can I start with you?

[?] Jeff Farenholtz [?]: Sure.

Keri Mitchell: Jeff, we actually just met in person for the first time this morning, but we’ve emailed a lot, and we found out through emailing that our kids are at…my daughter is at the same preschool that his kids go to school to. So that’s kind of a fun connection.

[?] Jeff Farenholtz [?]: So, I’m [?] Jeff Farenholtz [?]. I live in Winnetka Heights, and we’re zoned to Rosemont Elementary. I have kids that are six, five and four, so first grade, kindergarten and preschool. They go to Lakewood Montessori, which as Keri mentioned, is a private Pre-K through sixth grade school in East Dallas. So we commute out there every day. 

Keri Mitchell: Then on my left is Denise who has been on a lot of episodes so far.

Denise Rappmund: Yeah. My name is Denise. I have a son who’s five. He’s in kindergarten at Hogg Elementary. I’m zoned for Roger Q. Mills which is by the zoo.

[?] Brooke Wise [?]: Roger Q. Mills?

Denise Rappmund: Roger Q. Mills. Yes.

[?] Brooke Wise [?]: I’ve never heard that one. Hi, I’m [?] Brooke Wise [?] and I live in Winnetka Heights. I’m zoned for Rosemont. My children have gone to Rosemont. I have three children: third grader at Rosemont, a seventh grader at Travis Tag and a junior at Tag High School. So I’m a 16 year old. I’ve been in DISD for a long time. They all three went through dual language at Rosemont, and then they’ve gone through the process of going to the magnet school. So I’m here to kind of give the magnet school perspective. Yeah… [and] kind of talk about how you go through that process. 

Keri Mitchell: Great. So what I’d like you guys talk about is, first of all, what major factors went into your decision when you were first making decisions about schools, and what did your decision come down to? Brooke I’m going to start with you. 

[?] Brooke Wise [?]: When we bought in Winnetka Heights, I thought “sure.” My husband and I both went to private school growing up. We were sure that we were doing a private school route. Then, I had children, and I talked to people who were homeschooling and I was [like], “I’m going to home school! This is going to be great!” And then I went to what they called a “Rosemont Unplugged,” and it was at someone’s house and was an evening with just parents. There was no administration there. It was just kind of giving you what happens at Rosemont. Why is it good? Why is it bad? You know giving you the down-low. I left that meeting and was like, “My kids are going to go to Rosemont.” I was just so sure about it. It just felt like the right fit. There was a friend of mine that I went with. I really went with her to support her, and then when it was over, I was like, “I think I’m going to go with you. I can’t teach my kids Spanish. I don’t know how to do that.” So, we both took the leap, and we said every year we’re going to just see how it goes. We have stayed with it, and then when my kids got to third grade at Rosemont, specifically my oldest one, he was kind of…he had been very involved with the school and doing a lot of extracurricular activities. By third grade, he just kind of zoned out, and he wasn’t willing to take part in the afterschool activities. All he wanted was a math club and a chess club, and they didn’t have that at Rosemont at that time. They do now, but that’s all he wanted and he really needed that tag experience. And so we went and tried, and he got in. Then, the other two have just kind of followed.

Keri Mitchell: I think that answered all the questions. 

Denise Rappmund: Okay. So, for any of you who have listened to the podcast, this is maybe a little repetitive, but so yeah, my son’s in Hogg Elementary, which is the school that’s right next to the Rosemont zone. So, and again, I don’t live in the Rosemont zone, and so I think sort of where are you going to send your kid if you don’t live in the Rosemont zone is a popular conversation around this area. We’ve lived here about three and a half years, and we did buy a house over by the zoo. When we first bought that home and I started my search, I saw that the school we were zoned for had low performance. I thought, “Well no problem. I’m just going to transfer my child into the Rosemont program.” Also, he’s in a dual language at Hogg. That was really, really important to me that he was in a dual language program. So that was kind of the plan: we’ll just, I’ll transfer him. You know, it was getting more and more challenging to get, not a transfer spot in the Gen-Ed, but a transfer spot as a dual language. In the end, we didn’t get a spot in the dual language program there, and we only got a Gen-Ed spot. But you know, as I was going through this and knowing that there was a chance you wouldn’t get in, [that’s] when I started branching out my research. That’s where I started to find that there are these other sort of gems, if you will, in the rest of the area that people don’t necessarily know about or talk about. They have some really excellent principals, great dedicated teachers and Dallas ISD has been expanding out on their programmatic offerings at these schools as well. Ultimately, that’s what sort of led me to Hogg, and what I found, even while I was waiting on that lottery decision from the Rosemont dual language, is that there’s a bit of a distinction between dual language programs within the district. So, some of them are enrichment models, and some of them are immersion models. You can find all that on their website. At least up until now, I heard there may be some changes. Up until now, it had been an enrichment model, which from my conversations with them, [I learned] that 30% of the instruction was going to be in Spanish. The main distinction was what language students learn to read in first, and at the immersion model, it’s 70% Spanish. They learned to read in Spanish first where I wanted my son was in the immersion model. Hogg offered immersion. Hogg offered really small class sizes. It’s way under capacity. So, there’s 12 students in his class, and my son, given his temperament, I thought that was appropriate. At Hogg, the principal had all his teachers trained in project-based learning, which is something else that I valued. One of the parents who’s currently sending her child to Pre-K there is actually in a podcast episode. [She’s a] staffer at Momentous and brought in social-emotional learning curriculum from Momentous to the school. So, all the teachers got trained in that as well. So, I started to see that there were some other really great things happening. I saw some great leadership from the principal, and [I realized] that it was okay that we weren’t going to be going to Rosemont dual language. There’s these other options out there that are also great. Yeah, I guess that’s what kind of helped me. 

[?] Jeff Farenholtz [?]: Okay. So we’re still kind of on auto-pilot and so our oldest was in kindergarten. I started out with them at a preschool, at the Kessler School, which is right here in the neighborhood just because our nieces and nephew had gone there. My wife was staying at home at the time, so we just sort of needed preschool for socialization and a couple mornings a week because we didn’t really think about anything beyond that. You know, kind of where we had to start thinking a lot more was as our oldest daughter entered kindergarten. She has severe social anxiety and ADHD, and so we had to kind of think about what environment would be the best place for her to be learning in. So, that made the idea of a very small school fairly important to her. So, we started looking around and that’s how we kind of came across the idea of Montessori and just the way that learning style was for her and the way that that would work. She could move at her own pace. She could move around the classroom. You’re not sitting in the seat the whole time. That really became the deciding factor for us. She’s now in a classroom of 18 kids, and there are two teachers. So you know, she’s really been thriving under that environment. And then back to Keri’s point kind of about why all of our kids go there. Convenience truthfully. Our second child would do well anywhere. She would be doing great at the Kessler School. She would be doing great at Rosemont, but we didn’t want to have our three kids at three different schools. As I mentioned, we’re already kind of driving across town. My wife teaches in North Dallas now, so we’re kind of all over the place already. It’s much more convenient. Convenience is what it ultimately came down to. 

Keri Mitchell: That’s a big deal. You all kind of already answered this, but let’s just check one more time. Did you consider any other schools? 

I mean, so we went as far as entering the dual language lottery for our oldest to do kindergarten just to kind of keep that on the table. We also, I guess we looked into, and I know this is something that Keri and I have talked about, we thought about Mata, but we had heard from another friend that, you know, basically an out-of-district transfer or an out of, I guess kind of, East Dallas transfer would be nearly impossible. So, we kind of wrote it off without even thinking about it, which I guess would be my biggest pieces of advice: your friends aren’t trying to steer you wrong, but their information may have been accurate when they were looking at the school. So, if they were looking at a school two years ago, and they said, “Oh the lottery is impossible if you live in Oak Cliff,” validate that. Because you never know, it’s different year-by-year. And you know, I don’t regret where we are now. It’s just I do wish that we would’ve at least had that information point. 

Denise Rappmund: Did I looked at other schools? Yes. I threw the biggest net. My husband and I knew we were going to send our kid to a public school, so there’s that. We also looked at a number of the public schools throughout Oak Cliff, so besides Hogg and Rosemont, we also went and talked to the principal at Sidney Lanier. So, that’s technically West Dallas, kind of close to the Sylvan 30 areas, and we looked at some other neighborhood schools that have dual language. There are some many, Winnetka Elementary, Henderson Elementary, Reagan elementary. Yeah. I mean they’re just kind of everywhere. I think a third of the elementary schools here have dual language, and we also did talk to our neighborhood school, Mills. Mills because of under performance had become an ACE-school, which is a term that maybe some of you have heard of. I can’t remember what the ACE exactly stands for, but it was schools that were targeted for low performance. They sent, the districts, their top principles, top teachers, extended the school day, and they had a lot of success there. So just as an aside, there’s some kind of unidentified benefits to going to an ACE school. You’re going to get these really strong principals and teachers, and you do get that extended school day and some extra program offerings there. In the end, I think Linear was one that was kind of high on our list just for all the arts that they offer that’s technically just for the fourth and fifth graders for that vanguard, but it sort of trickles down in terms of school culture and what the younger children are exposed to all the way down. But we knew people that were also going to be going in to Hogg. The fact that I didn’t know any parents that were going to be going in as kindergartners to Linear versus I did know some people going into Hogg just made me feel a little more comfortable even though they’re both excellent choices. 

[?] Brooke Wise [?]: I looked to homeschooling and I looked at private schools. We decided to do Rosemont, but I will say that by our last one for Pre-K we applied to Harry Stone and we got in. We did a year at Harry Stone. You know, there are kids that learn really well with Montessori, And I think there are kids that just don’t. He was one of those kids that just didn’t. He kind of sat at the same thing the whole year long, and we met with the teacher the first six weeks and she said, “Oh, he’s working on this, and then he’ll go on and do duh, duh, duh, duh.” Then at the end of the year, I met with her again, [and she said], “Well he’s still working on that.” I’m like, “Well, aren’t you going to move him along?,” and she like, “Well, he still feels like he wants to keep doing it.” And I’m like, “I think you need to push him a little bit more, you know?” So we decided that that was just not a good fit for him, and we went to Rosemont Round-up. I walked in and saw 30 families that I already knew. You know, there’s a lot to be said for walking into a school and you know that other person. The first thing I do when I go to school is I look and take pictures of the classroom list, and I email all my friends on there the first day of school and say, “We’re in the same class! Let’s talk.”

Keri Mitchell: Again, this may be a little repetitive of a the question but we keep digging into good stuff, so let’s keep going. Anything you didn’t consider then when you were making decisions that you would now? 

Denise Rappmund: You know, the thing that really sticks in my craw the most still is the food, but I couldn’t really do anything about it. A public school environment isn’t going to be perfect, and that’s okay. And there’s some things that maybe I’ll want to take on and try to help affect change, and that can be really fun and inspiring. You know, as we go along, maybe food is the thing that I’ll really champion. The district offers free breakfast and lunch to all students. I think because it’s just easier given the fact that such a high percentage of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch. I preferred to make my son’s lunch every day and send it. I know maybe I sound crazy, but I’m just very particular about what my son eats. I wanted to continue to make sure he had this wholesome breakfast at home and that I made his lunch, and I tried to do that the first week but he just wanted to go with the rest of the kids in line and get that lunch. I don’t know, I mean, again, if I’d looked into it even more and understood that more, I don’t know that that would have changed anything. I can’t single handedly change the way the district’s doing food before I’m even there, but that still…that bugs me. 

[?] Jeff Farenholtz [?]: As you think about kind of what your priorities are and what’s important to you, ask yourself “why?” Also, just kind of think about the ramifications of it. One thing for us, we ruled out Montessori almost right away because of the fact that when our kids were really young, we only wanted them to preschool three half days a week and Montessori programs, you know, the shortest you could do was five half days. For some reason in our heads, that was going to be the end of the world if we sent our three-year-old to a school for two hours, five days a week. It sounds as irrational to me now as it did back then. You know, somehow in our heads we had come up with this idea that five full days of school was just going to be too much for our kids. You know, as I said, we ruled out those options based on that, and so we never really questioned maybe the benefits of that environment would offset the fact that we’re less comfortable doing a five day a week program. And so I would just say kind of question things that you think in your head are some of the most important things that are guiding your decision. Just think about why. 

Keri Mitchell: You may have just answered my last question, and then I’ll just open it up in case you guys have anything else you want to say. Any other advice you give fellow parents when they come to you for advice in schools? 

Denise Rappmund: It kind of echoes what Keri and Jeff were saying about just questioning your own values. What does a “good school” mean to you? What does diversity mean to you? You know, these buzzwords, and people throw them around a lot and I think they at some point lack real meaning. You have to define it for yourself. I know for my family that path brought about a lot of soul searching and seeing which of our values sort of bubbled up to the top, and that helped us figure out how we’re going to make these decisions. And [I’d say] trying to avoid being overly influenced by friends and family not In some kind of malicious sense but just to be able to understand the full picture of facts that you have and making the best decision for your family. 

[?] Brooke Wise [?]: I’m just gonna say on the magnet school front, I think that your child needs to make the decision that they want to go to the school, because if they don’t, they’re not going to be happy. You cannot push them to a different school. If they’re happy where they are, you should let them be happy, and they’ll be happier going to school every day. I know that there are kids that go, and at least at Travis, and when they apply and if they don’t want to go, they go in and write on their essay, “I don’t want to apply to this school.” The teachers say they get that every year in their essay, “I don’t really want to come to this school.” So, you don’t have any power to send your kid there if they don’t want to go they’re not going to go so make sure that’s what they want. I mean they have to be an academic kid. If you’re going to go to Booker T or go to one of the art schools, they have to really love art. Okay. It is because they’re going to live and breathe art. They’re there at seven in the morning, and they don’t go home until nine o’clock at night. They are honing that craft at Booker T. We went and saw the dancers perform. Rosemont dance program went to visit the Booker T kids, and they got to ask them questions about what their day was like. And that’s a lot of dance, and if you don’t like dance that much, you’re going to be really not liking school. So when you’re applying to a magnet school just consider that you need to love that and have that passion because it will, it will really dry them out over time. 

Keri Mitchell: You guys have great things to say. I shouldn’t have even said anything. No. Thank you so much for being here and for talking, and we’re going to open it up to questions. We’re happy to take your questions, and if you have a question for a specific person, feel free to mention that. If not, we’ll just kind of take it as the panel.

Person-in-the-Audience #1: I just wanted to know if you could talk a little bit more about just the fact that when you said that scores aren’t always indicative of your child’s experience, because if obviously you’re parents, you’re looking at sheets and when you see only 4% are at grade level, that’s, that’s a scary thing to look at. And then you know, you go and you meet and you have these great principals, and it’s so interesting to hear all these great programs. So, just speak a little bit about what you learned: experience, you know, versus the numbers. Yeah, because I think that’s where it can be scary. 

Denise Rappmund: Hmm. Okay. So I know I said this in the podcast, and Keri put it up in like a post-article links thing, but for any of you that are interested in that topic, please look up Nikole Hannah Jones. She’s a columnist for the New York Times. She also just won a Macarthur Genius Grant, and she’s just done so much research and writing on getting behind the numbers on a national scale, and it’s just so helpful. And she changed my life, so she was the one that like sort of changed my trajectory on how I look at these things. The reason it didn’t scare me…again I think a good principal was key though, because you really need good leadership from the top. The first glance at the test scores is very indicative of the student population and not so much the quality of the teaching. So that’s where you have to like dig deeper. Students that are not native speakers, that are low socioeconomic status, that don’t have, you know, maybe the support at home, maybe they live in environments that aren’t safe, maybe they don’t have adequate nutrition…all those things that we read about more and more affect how they perform in school. Those were the things that were just so eye opening to me, and I was like, “You know what, I don’t need to write off any of these places just because they’re not doing well on tests.” So I think that was my trajectory of just trying to kind of get past that. I knew that my son wasn’t necessarily going to do poorly just because their test scores were bad, you know? And there were a lot of other things that I wanted in the classroom environment for him. The other thing though ,that now I can say sort of in retrospect, is I did join the site-based decision-making committee at Hogg. The SBDM is what they call them. You don’t have to be a parent. Their charters require that community members are a part of them as well, and so any school you’re interested in, you can go and it’s so eye opening. They’ll talk about kind of digging into the numbers of the curriculum like how all the principals and teachers are being assessed and how each grade is doing. So one of the things I saw at Hogg in particular is that, you know, the principal has been there, I think this is his third year. So he’s relatively new to the school, and he’s been implementing all these new things. And what they’re seeing is that on an annual basis each grade where he’s been there is performing higher. At this point, it’s the fourth and fifth graders that they can’t quite get, but he wasn’t there when they started. So, each year they add another year that’s performing higher which is just kind of interesting too. Does that answer your question? Ok. 

Amy Tawil (???): I really don’t have questions, but I have suggestions for more questions for you guys. One, when you’re looking at student-teacher ratio, it’s very skewed, because they consider every single teacher in the building. So that means your art teacher, your dance teacher, your gym teacher. So that’s not necessarily your classroom teacher-student ratio, so it’s good to go visit and look at the classrooms and see what the actual classroom ratio is. But don’t be lulled by that, because the state law is that at elementary level of 22 kids can be in your classroom. So you’re not guaranteed that you’re going to keep your 14 or 15 kids. So just keep on top of that at your school. My hope is that every single neighborhood school has a strong school for everyone, because I also looked for playmates in my neighborhood for afterschool playdates, and sometimes when you go across town for school that limits little playdates for your kids after school unless you want to do a lot of driving again and picking up and things like that. My other suggestion is if you’re involved in your neighborhood school and they don’t have an early childhood PTA, start one, and I’m sure Rosemont early childhood PTA will help you do that. What makes a strong school is an early childhood PTA, because it gets people involved at a very young age to get strength and support in your neighborhood for your school. A question I’d like to ask, or you may like to ask when you visit, is, “Is it a school that is teaching to the test,” which sometimes you feel like we’re moving towards in DISD, “or is it a school that’s interested in educating the whole child? Developing the whole child?” Because I’d give up a few test points if I knew my child was being exposed to a lot more and was not just drilling and killing in their classroom to pass the test. So, that’s something else that will come out if you take a tour and you visit. So test scores, take those with a grain of salt. Go visit and you’ll get a feel of the school. Oh, one thing, when you go to look at immersion programs, be sure to ask how that coincides with standardized testing. So you can choose to test in your child’s native language or your child’s second language, and I don’t think a lot of people know that. So if you’re in an immersion program, your school may want to test you in Spanish, but if you think your child would do better in English, you can request that they are tested in English. So just ask how that works with standardized testing, “Do you stop the immersion program to kind of test prep?,” just ask those questions. Some schools do. Some schools don’t. So Rosemont, I’ve felt it here a little bit. We’ve chuckled back here when when one of y’all said, “Oh, I didn’t get into dual language.” I’m like, “Well, I could have been your kid’s, Gen-Ed teacher.” But anyway Gen-Ed, not only at Rosemont I don’t think, has gotten a little bit of a negative connotation. That’s just a curriculum. It’s your core curriculum that the dual language kids also get, you know, it’s just Gen-Ed. So, we’re now saying [?] flesch [?] or dual. So every single student at Rosemont, you don’t have to do a lottery for [?] flesch [?], you’re just getting it as if you get gym class or art class. You know, every single student will receive Spanish.

[?] Brooke Wise [?]: I was going to add that I see at Rosemont, kids that don’t do well in the dual language, and they move to the Gen-Ed. They thrive just like my kid didn’t do well in Montessori. He can move to another school. There’s always an option in DISD. Gen-Ed at Rosemont is a great option also, so don’t feel like you can’t do that. It just really is, so I think there’s just lots of options.

Keri Mitchell: Any other questions from the floor?

Person-in-the-Audience #2: I’m going to double down on that question that my wife just asked was you which was you guys are talking about test scores, and I’m just like reading, like if you take Hogg for example, in the column, it says, “How has achievement at this school changed in recent years?” It talks about math scores. It talks about reading scores, and they varied. But it’s the one below that seemed like the big flag to me, which is percentage of students that master grade level.

Keri Mitchell: These little packets that you guys found on the back table were provided by Children at Risk, which is a, I’m not sure if it’s a nonprofit organization, but it’s a scoring organization for schools. In fact a story that I would love to do, on the horizon and probably at some point, is all the different ratings systems for schools coming from different perspectives and for different reasons. This is one. It’s not the only one. I’m not exactly sure what that terminology means, because I’m not as familiar with the way Children at Risk ranks schools as I should be. But does anybody else have any idea? We’ll just throw it out there. Yes ma’am!

Person-on-the-Audience #3: I work at Educate Texas, and so we look at these scores a lot. My understanding is there’s like different kinds of categories of cut scores, and so there’s like “meets grade level” and then there’s like ones that are like a little bit lower like “approaches grade level” and things like that. It’s just like ways to label what bucket of category the score’s in, and so that is one of the, I guess, I think it’s one of the higher buckets. So it’s just a way to kind of bucket out where the scores are. 

Amy Tawil ??: A lot of these organizations, they’re doing the data for different reasons. It’s just best to go straight to the district to get the data as opposed to Dallas Kids First or Children at Risk, because they’re using their data. I’m not saying it’s wrong. It’s just kind of shown in a different way. 

Person-in-the-Audience #3: Children at Risk publishes its report annually, and you can google, “Children at Risk 2017 report methodology,” and they have a separate document that talks through how they arrive at their conclusions. So it’s 15 pages. I haven’t read it all, but it’s all good. There’s a bit of info in there.

Person-in-the-Audience #2: Seeing that 2% of students have mastered their grade level in math is…that might as well be zero. I mean it’s a negligible percentage. I mean, that’s not even, that’s not even equaling an error on a poll.

Amy Tawil ??: Well, if that were true, It would be an IR school. That’s why I’m saying take these with a grain of salt. It would be an improvement required school if that were true.

Person-in-the-Audience #2: Yeah. So I mean we’ll dig deeper, but yeah, but you know, this is…

Denise Rappmund: If I could just add something, so I’m not going to try to convince anyone to change their mind about anything. You know, I’m just speaking for myself. So, if what’s going on in the test is important to you, then it’s important to you end of story. You know, what I can say for my son’s experience so far is he excels academically. He’s really strong academically. He has some behavior stuff, whatever. Nobody’s perfect. But his class is 12 kids right? So the teacher creates little groups, and I’m sure they do this at a lot of the schools. They separate out into groups, and I know that there’s like three kids that are on par with him academically. They get like first grade work, and then there’s other kids that are maybe more average or struggling in different areas they get other things. So, my son continues to progress at a really amazing rate and it’s interesting to me like not only in the Spanish but he’s doing really well in English too. Nothing’s suffering. He’s doing great because of the individualized attention. Again, we all have to go back to our own values or what we want to see from these places. 

Amy Tawil ??: Teachers are balancing their classroom. They know which kids are moving at what level, and they have them doing that. So they’re giving it in challenges where it is needed at that level.

Keri Mitchell: Did I see somebody else’s hand? No? Okay. Go ahead. 

Person-in-the-Audience: I’m with my daughter here, and we have a very smart granddaughter/daughter. So, we were kind of looking over what school would be best for her, because she’s a very fast learner. I mean you can give her something, and she’ll learn it right away. So, I was going to ask which kind of schools for somebody that’s really smart.

[?] Brooke Wise [?] I will say, okay. So my oldest son was five years. No, he was four years old, and we were on a trip. We were in Cancun during a hurricane. We lost electricity. We had nothing to do. So we started teaching him in the dark multiplication, and he, the next like three weeks later, came in to me when we got home and started doing his fives and his tens and multiplication. We’re like, “Oh my God. He got it!” He did his threes. He really understood like you’re saying, he got it. And we had heard from other teachers, other stories of him in class when he was like 18 months that they were just really surprised by him. She challenged him. I love the fact that he had the challenge of the second language at Rosemont. He had a lot of arts, but then when they got to that third grade level, if you’re at that point, you could go to a magnet school. So there’s lots of options. There’s a ton of options, and the other thing that all of DISD schools offer is a gifted and talented program within the school. So they would get pulled out in kindergarten. They’re learning in kindergarten, first and second grade. They’re learning Algebra there. But if your child gets pulled for that, even if they don’t, don’t think your child is stupid. Okay? I want to preface that, because I have had I’ve got two that have gone through it and one that did not. She still has gone to Travis and has done well there. If they’re needing that, they will give you that. Okay? 

Keri Mitchell: Your kids will tell you if they’re bored. You will know if they’re bored, and you will also know if they’re excited go to school and know if they love to learn. It’s pretty clear. Are there any more quick questions? I know you guys have been here for a long time now, so if not, we will wrap this except Julie wants to say something. Maybe we’ll be around for a while and just talk. I’d love to meet you.

Julia Hyatt: Thank you guys for hanging in there. We had some really good information. I hope you learned something. Stick around and talk to these wonderful resources, and I think that’s all I have. Thank you guys. 

Closing: Thanks for listening to The Uninformed Parent. In the next episode, we’ll talk to a Quintanilla Middle School teacher who lives in the neighborhood where she teaches and wants to see more neighborhood students choose to attend their neighborhood school. This podcast is a production of Advocate Magazines with music by HookSounds.

By |2019-02-20T09:21:53-05:00February 20th, 2019|Dallas ISD, Education, News, Podcast|Comments Off on Real talk from Dallas parents on school decisions

About the Author:

Keri Mitchell is an Advocate editor and reporter. Email her at kmitchell@advocatemag.com or follow twitter.com/thequotablelife.