Catchment Maps Available Online

Thanks so much to Kristin Luebbert for letting me know that catchment maps are now available online. For those of us who have been fighting for quite some time to make this information available online, this is a *huge* step forward. Years ago, to figure out your neighborhood school, you'd have to physically go to the office of the closest school to find out whether you were in the magic zone or not. So, this is great news from the SDP. Thanks again, Kristin!

To find out your school's catchment area, go to the SDP website and check out the sidebar. You'll see "School Lookup" on your right hand side. You can enter a school's name or zip code (you can also look up by location # but who in the world knows that?) and then click on the school's link. At the bottom left, there is a box with a link to "Boundary Map" - click on that and the catchment map will download as a pdf.

I know... having a search box that allows you to just plug in your address is apparently too much to ask. But this will do in the meantime!


Open House Announcements

I have been asked whether I knew about any upcoming open houses for Philly public schools. I will post the events as I hear about them - you can also email me about any that you'd like announced. Thanks!

Discouraging Parents from the Get Go: Why Restricting Pre-K and K is a Bad Idea

It's been awhile since I've posted my thoughts on the blog, my apologies. This time of year, there is a lot going on, both at work and at school - well, you know the drill.

At any rate, I did want to comment on the story about Penn Alexander. I do think that there is a fundamental problem with the way that schools accept students in Philly that has to be addressed, or the district will never really thrive in the way that I (and parents like me) believe that it can.

Here's the problem, as I see it. Parents are more willing than they have been in a long time to give Philadelphia public schools a shot. The easiest way to "experiment" is in the lower grades because if things don't go well, you can make other arrangements while your children are still young and finding their way in the system. And yet, Philadelphia makes it hard to give it a try because of outdated rules meant to "equalize" education across the district.

The situation at Penn Alexander isn't an isolated one. There are variations on a theme all over the city. We have a similar problem at my neighborhood school, starting in pre-kindergarten. Our area offers pre-kindergarten but it is income-restricted, meaning that only low income families qualify. And while I cheer the notion that kids are given a head start (pardon the pun), the real outcome of the decision to limit entry at the youngest age to those with lower incomes is that you are giving those children "preference" for kindergarten at the same school. The reality is that it has made getting your child into kindergarten a real chore for those who live nearby - though those from outside the immediate area may have no problem.

And here's what happens. Those parents who can't get their kids into the pre-kindergarten or kindergarten programs enroll their children in private school for what they tell themselves will be one year. Or two, max. But it becomes three and then four. And since they had been planning on sending their kid to Masterman in the fifth grade anyway - and thus not continuing at our school - the fifth and sixth years at private school become easier to justify.

And just like that, parents who had been willing to give public schools a chance are effectively given an escort out of the system.

Nice, huh? It has that same vibe as the first-come, first-serve selection process for Penn Alexander.

I understand that kindergarten is not mandatory in Pennsylvania. And I know that the school district has to be judicious about its offerings because of the budget. But it's all so short-sighted. Why not get parents - ALL parents, regardless of income or location - excited about the prospect of their kid going to kindergarten in public school?

Phila. School District proposes $3.2B budget | Philadelphia Inquirer | 04/22/2010

Phila. School District proposes $3.2B budget | Philadelphia Inquirer | 04/22/2010