Tuesday

a little bitter

I can't help but feel a little bitter when I read stuff LIKE THIS, in which a San Francisco couple is complaining that their kid got into their second-choice public school. They admit that the school is wonderful, with great teachers, students, and classes, but it's three whole miles away! Oh my!

Okay, I realize three miles seems a lot farther (further?) when you live in the city and maybe don't have a car, but damn! In Knoxville, Tennessee, we have extremely limited public school choice. In effect, we have none. You go where your kid is zoned. And on the whole, the schools suck. So many people come up with the money to pay for private schools. My kids go to private schools and I drive - get this - 15 miles EACH WAY to get to their schools. That means that most days I drive at least sicxty miles just getting them to and from school. It's a huge hassle and honestly, if I could wave a magic wand and change one thing about our family life, erasing all that driving would be that thing.

So for those of you with true public school choice, and good neighborhood public schools (I define three miles away as in the 'hood), feel grateful. Feel lucky. Do not complain. It's bad karma ;-)

34 comments:

Katie S. said...

I don;t often, but I have to diasagree with you on this one. Being from California the 3 miles is a big deal especially when there is a school down the street. We had to move from California in order to really afford buying a house and having children. Our modest house we live in now in Colorado would be $700K in San Fran area and I would have no idea what to do about schooling since it is so competitive.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree as well. I live in West Knox and the schools were just fine. Of course, we factored in the quality of the school district when we chose to move to West Knoxville.

Anonymous said...

Well, it seems to me, then, that the only thing that you could change quickly enough for it to impact your children (and your commute time) would be to select where you live based on the public school zone.

Anonymous said...

I live in West Knoxville also. My kids attend West Knoxville's "best" public schools. We moved here from Northern Virginia. I constantly hear people talk about how good the schools in West Knoxville are, and while they may be better than those in the poorer areas of town, that's damning with faint praise. Knoxville's public schools are miles behind those in other areas of the country. The funding is terrible, and the test scores bear out that they just don't measure up compared to other public school systems. I believe West Knox parents have a smugness about their schools that really isn't supported by the objective evidence.

I agree with Katie. Knox County's public schools suck.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess you better high-tail it back to Virginia.

Anonymous said...

..just a thought re: karma..perhaps people who are lucky enough to come up with the money to send their kids to private schools should feel lucky, grateful and non-complaining too?

katie allison granju said...

..just a thought re: karma..perhaps people who are lucky enough to come up with the money to send their kids to private schools should feel lucky, grateful and non-complaining too?

You are 100% correct. I shouldn't complain.

Anonymous said...

When our child went to one of those West Knox. private schools, the education and TCAP scores were not too great. When you realize that the standards in the state of Tennessee probably aren't the highest, it is unacceptable to pay a big tuition and wind up with a barely proficient score in math. After a year of home schooling, all of my kid's TCAP scores were much better with the math moving from barely proficient to above average. Do not assume that you're getting a better education at the private schools! I can tell you from sad experience that it can be money down the tubes. One of the teachers at my kid's old private school said that the kids from one of the better public schools in Knoxville came into their middle school better prepared than the kids from that same private school. Just move and get in a better school zone. It's not as romantic, but it's more practical if you're paying the tuition.

katie allison granju said...

My office is in North Knoxville. Jon's is in Sevierville. Even if we moved to West Knoxville, I would still be driving way too much.

Also, I could never be happy living in a West Knoxville subdivision. I like my old house in an old, funky neighborhood. I like being able to walk downtown. I like sidewalks.

Actually, I take that back. If I could afford a cool, old house in Sequoyah Hills, I'd live there in a heartbeat.

katie allison granju said...

And I did love the little house we lived in in a small neighborhood on the edge of Sequoyah Hills when the children were little. But I couldn't afford a house now in that neighborhood big enough to house our much larger family these days.

Anonymous said...

When you read the local paper, it's interesting to see which children are the recipients of prestigious awards. This year, the Siemens National Math, Science and Tech competition team award went to kids from Oak Ridge HS. No offense, but they weren't crippled by lack of access to N. Virginia public schools. Kids at other, not as well regarded, local public schools do very well in other pursuits. The private schools certainly don't clean up all the prizes or scholars. A lot of success is up to the kid and her motivation!

Anonymous said...

Oh come on! Oak Ridge High School is acknowledged to be one of the best public high schools in the whole country! It is not in any way comparable to even the best West KNOXVILLE high school.

Look at how much money the community of Oak Ridge is willing to spend on its schools. Then look at how much Knox Countians spend on schools. The difference is obvious.

Of course there are some very motivated kids and great teachers at every school, but looking at "the big picture," Knox County school simply don't hold up well in comparison to other public school systems in more progressive communities.

Anonymous said...

Parental participation in any kind of school situation can make a critical difference. Pay attention to what's going on, and be proactive when needed. There is no perfect situation, parents must be there to make certain their kids and the schools are doing their best jobs.

Anonymous said...

All the parental participation in the world can't compensate for a poorly educated teacher who doesn't speak standard English and/or a classroom full of kids who waste everyone's time with behavior and academic problems.

I homeschool my child after we tried Knox public schools for seven years. Trust me, they do suck (the schools). I was the most involved parent you can imagine, but when your child's 4th grade teacher can't identify the continents on a map or doesn't know who the Speaker of the House is or can't name even a handful of the greatest British poets, well...

Anonymous said...

Ouch, that's really bad. Guess that's why I homeschool too.

Anonymous said...

I think KAG should get into education since she knows everything there is to know about everything. Just think how much talent is lost by her just bitching on this blog about how bad the Knox County schools are, how bad the hospitals are and how uniformed the nursing staffs.

Get going, KAG, the world needs your omnipotence.

Elizabeth said...

Well....what they've done in San Francisco has evened out the playing field and made everyone unhappy, seems like. Having lived in SF, but not sent my kids to school there as we homeschool, it seems that there is such a wide range of different kinds of schools all under the public school system which I think is wonderful. But to even out the field they have a lottery system, where you write down your top three choices and then they draw names, and whatever names come out first get their first choice. Three miles *is* a big deal when you're talking about busy city streets. If it were just a straight shot and you could drive right there with a minimum of traffic, that would be one thing. But three miles of traffic when you have to stop every block? A different story.

Also the schools, as well as being very varied in focus, vary in their quality and you can get stuck in a really crummy one. Great for getting kids out of the "poor area means poor schools" paradigm, but still isn't wonderful.

Laura said...

point taken. atually i will admit we have been pretty lucky with our kids' schools. but i will complain, bitch and moan about the special ed choices or lack thereof for my son. currently we are dealing with the school district's final word that we have no choice in waiting one more year to start kindergarten for him whether he is in special ed or mainstreamed and that our child with sensory integration dysfunction will be placed in the special ed kindergarten program that houses students with severe adhd, asperger's and behavioral issues...a great fit for a child who literally shuts down with too much sensory input?
forgive me, but i am bitching loud and long and one way or another, they will work with us to come up with a better plan for him. he deserves it.

Anonymous said...

we bought our house mainly based on school zone, both hubby & I drive quite a distance to get to work.
and there are nice regular houses in west knoxville they aren't all the cookie cutter neighborhoods that are popping up all over these days

Anonymous said...

So what are all you bright women doing to force improvement of Knoxville schools? Fleeing them?That solves nothing.

Anonymous said...

Really, what it all comes down to is what's best for your children, not what the parents like or don't like. Have your fun and indulge your preferences when they're grown and gone. Sometimes, parental sacrifice is required. We have a child with a hobby we never would have selected ourselves and is expensive. Even though we forego some vacation trips, we appreciate that this hobby means the world to this child. I sacrifice my time to make sure that the academic end is covered too.

Anonymous said...

Schools in e. TN do not compare for a lot of reasons. Oak Ridge is consistently listed as a "great" school because it offers so many AP courses (and a portion of the population has very educated parents). I have never taught there but I am also not overly impressed with their curriculum in comparison to other states. I think believing *west* knoxville schools are superior to *east* *south* and *north* schools is pretty much a class issue. Some of the best teachers are at the "lower" income schools and some of the worst are at the "higher" income schools. It seems public schools are doomed to mediocrity based on the NCLB, fear of lawsuits (this is a HUGE issue in education) and lack of appropriating the funding (big issue in KC). It is possible to get an okay public education in any KC school if the parent is involved but is this fair? Isn't public schooling supposed to be based on leveling the playing field? What about kids whose parents are not involved--what happens to them and more importantly what happens to our society? I don't blame any parent for choosing a private school for their child but I wish it did not have to be the better option.

Anonymous said...

With a lower payscale at most private schools I can't see that they would attract superior educators.Wouldn't it be more beneficial if parents put their energy into improving their neighborhood schools instead of supporting private schools that aren't held to the testing standards of public schools?

Anonymous said...

Maybe since you have UT in town and it is supposed to be such a good school, there should be a program in place to offer scholarships to graduates that contract to teach in the local schools.That would help to improve things in a big way.

Anonymous said...

I can sympathize to some extent that the schools in K-town are not equal in all parts of town. That is the result of many variables, income, parental involvement, and parental educational levels to name a few. But, I can assure the last poster that Knoxville does have some good public schools.

My experience is with the schools on the west side of town. I know scores of young people from West Knoxville (public school grads) who have gone on to compete successfully in top-level undergraduate and graduate schools in the country and on into highly successful careers.

Unfortunately, they often move on to other parts of the country or world after leaving here. The lottery incentives may change our local talent flight. I understand that enrollment is up at UT for regional top performing students.

Les Jones said...

If anyone's interested here is a comparative rating of Knoxville schools (and some Blount County schools, also).

Anonymous said...

I am not sure how helpful those rankings are, Les, as they are based on TCAP scores. The validity of those scores is open to debate. For example, West High School is not ranked very high, and it has produced many highly successful grads. West also offers almost as many AP courses as Farragut, which I believe has the most.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to the state report card which is much more accurate:

http://www.kcs.k12tn.net/NCLB/2006/nclb-2006rpt.htm

I could go into a lot of detail about this report card as I am on the data team of my school so am responsible for a lot of the analysis for our school improvement plan but will spare you.

Here is what I have observed:

1. people typically think where their child is enrolled is a "good" school....or they send them to private school.

2. for some reason people in west knoxville look down on all other parts of knoxville even though there are comparable schools (Halls & Powell for example)

3. the number of AP classes is a poor way to look at the quality of the school. the number of AP classes offered is based somewhat on the population but more on the size of the school. farragut is the largest school and has the most AP courses offered (beating Bearden by one).

4. why am i listing out my ideas? i need a beer as it is spring break!

Anonymous said...

Well, you know, it is objective. If your child is the kind who would benefit from AP class schedules, then that is what you would look at, eh?

Same for other services. That is why the ratings don't mean much for the average student.

And, that is what the ratings are based on, I am guessing.

So, for West High to be rated low on the first survey is way off the mark for most folks.

Anonymous said...

West is just an interesting case because it services one of the most affluent (and educated) communities (Sequoyah Hills) as well as very low income (subsidized housing). In my experience, West has the same type of education to offer a student as the other middle-class schools in the area.

Anonymous said...

yeah to the commenter who said something about "sacrifice for your kids"... we have Katie who feels that moms should sacrifice sleep and whatsoever all so they can "attachment parent" however she has NO problem short shifting them once they are older so that she can live where she wants. I will bet if she moved out to the burbs she doesn't like she could cut some of that work time to make sure that her new baby gets lots of magic titty time. She sure would save on the private school bills. Most people I know grow up and do what's right by their kids even if its not exaaactly what they want. The only reason she probably invests so much in Jane's hobby is that it's her hobby too. If Jane was oh, say a classical musician or figure skater I don't imagine Katie would be so nearly interested in sacrificing for her goals. Hypocrisy anyone???
I just get the idea reading this that this woman doesn't want to grow up.

Anonymous said...

Anon,If Katie wanted to forgo the private school thing she could probably well afford the mortgage on a home in West Knox.She is sacrificing for her kids in that respect as well as in many ways that we readers are not privy to.Besides,living in the burbs is not necessarally the best place to raise kids.I have 2 kids-one raised in the city and one raised in a very affluent subburb and the one raised in the city has much more experience based in reality than the other.My youngest is oblivious to alot more than the older,city raised child.(Not to mention exposure to spoiled and self absorbed people that spend no time with their family) Lets not forget that we are only privilege to the things that she WANTS to share about her life.Look,her passions may not be what your passions are-but that is OK.We are all learning as we go.Take it easy...

katie allison granju said...

FYI: My children's grandparents pay their private school tuitions. I do not pay it, neither does their father. I am very grateful that they are giving their grandchildren this wonderful gift.

Different families make different compromises and build different lives to suit their priorities. I drive too much, definitely, but overall, I am happy with the life our family has. Very happy. I love where we live and love our house. I like that my teenager can walk downtown or take a bus when he needs to go somewhere, which are things his friends in the 'burbs cannot do.

My kids would probably tell you they would rather live in the affluent, manicured 'burbs that their friends live in. They don't have many friends at their far-West Knox privat eschools who live in old houses in the city, but I think it's good for them and good for us. I like sidewalks. I like old houses. I like that we can alk to the store and are close to the Food Coop. I like that my office is only a few blocks away.

Actually, even if we lived very close to my kids' schools, I would still be driving just as much because I'd be going just as far in the other direction to get to and from my job.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to build a more neighborhood-centric lifestyle with less driving, but right now, the driving is a compromise we are making.

Anonymous said...

Here where I live (Georgia), our public schools are also notoriously bad. I tried for years to reform them from the inside. You cannot. In fact, at our local public school they did away with the PTO. There is still a PTO-- an adminstration appointed board made up of 'cheerleaders' and non-thinkers. There comes a point sometimes when you have to flee. And Katie, I drive 22 miles one way. Got you beat!