The Montclair kindergarten morning tours have, thank God, ended. The extravaganza not only ate the better part of a whole week, it also consumed my brain cells. Last Monday through Thursday, I listened as six principals sold me their schools. I walked through elementary institutions that were vastly different but still somehow the same. Each day, I grappled with emotions around why I responded to certain schools and disliked others. Thursday, I guiltily revisited an elementary because I didn’t trust my first instinct. Note to self: Trust your first instinct.

I’m not going to sit on a pedestal and say all of Montclair’s schools are equal. They’re not. They each have pros and cons. For example, one school has smart boards in every classroom and another boasts only a handful of the white contraptions. Both of these elementaries boast the top scores on standardized state tests. All I’m saying is that there are reasons some people prefer Watchung and others steer away from Edgemont. (Don’t roast me for dissing Edgemont, it’s high on my list.)

I did figure out three things, and those are my top choices for school next year. I don’t want to jinx my chances by listing my new favorites here. I will say that my original list of schools in order was: Nishuane, Northeast, Bradford, Bullock, Watchung and Edgemont. Now my preferences are completely different.

My husband didn’t have to go on PTA-lead tours, but he still put in his time. While at work, he used the School Report Card button to your right on the Barista Kids home page to crunch data. He factored in test scores, volatility in scores from grade to grade and subject to subject. He made a chart and spreadsheet to view each school side by side. He came up with what he believes should be our top three schools. His list matched mine perfectly. Using statistical prowess, he also figured out the best strategies for getting the outcome we want in the kindergarten lottery. But that’s another story I might write later.

Last Friday, school choice applications were available at the Montclair Board of Education. Parents have to walk the applications to the building on Valley Road along with stacks of documentation between April 25 and 28 from 1 to 8 p.m. It’s nail-biting time after that. Placement letters go out on July 15.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of my kindergarten journey. My fingers and toes are crossed that we get our first choice. Or at least our second. Or maybe our third…

20 replies on “Kindergarten Tour Drama: Part 2”

  1. Kristen….If you’re worried about Montclair Kindergarten, what are you going to be like when it comes to Montclair H.S. time? Will you angst over the public or private decision?? You’ve got nine years to go and life ain’t getting any easier.

  2. Waiit a minute! It depends upon each student and their ability and their goals. I would assume that a majority herein would look down at Bloomfield High. Our son graduated from BHS and got into his first choice of university (Rider Uni.) in Lawrenceville, graduating with a degree in Accounting and recieved the Leonard Olson Alumni achievement award as the top accounting student in the class. Now working for one of the top 3 accounting firms in the USA as a C.P.A., he is working AND in NYU Law School nights to combine a CPA with a LLB. He is only 27.Keep in mind that in Jr. Hi he was a “C” student and a “B” student in Bloomfield high.

  3. Sandy,

    How DARE you add some (much needed ;0) truth to the usual HS/College hysterics found here.

    Do you really mean to say that kids can be successful, happy, AND get into great grad/law schools even IF they didn’t go to private schools and an Ivy???

    For some, this must be shocking.

    To others, like you and me, it’s not.

    Congratulations to your son (and you!). (Though since mine is an NYU home, I’m biased.)

  4. Wow. Spreadsheets and number crunching? Strategies for the desired outcome? To steal a line from the brilliant Kevin Henkes’book Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse: “Wow. That’s about all I can say. Wow.”

    Hope you get what you want.

    And Sandy, nice to hear your son had a positive experience at Bloomfield High. BHS is still a great school–lots of good stuff going on there.

  5. Yes, he liked BHS, had some nice friends (that the parentals aproved of), not that it mattered to him…. He’s a great kid, active in First Aid, on ther Squad of the Springfield First Aid Squad, completed CPR training, has driven the ambulance, part of the First Responder team and has been the Treasurer for the Springfield 1st Aid Squad. Best of all, like his Dad, he loves cars !! But like most…Ma & Pa still worry about him. I come from a long line of seriously terrific worry-worts.

  6. Ok Kristen. I was going to be nice and sympathetic since I just went throught the process last year of looking at schools, but you lost me when you said your husband was making spread sheets and analyzing tooth and nail all of the test scores. My district has kids coming in at 7:30 to prepare for the “test.” The test is about schools bragging not what goes on in the schools. Obviously, it indicates which disticts are really failing.

    When going on the tours last year you were the type of parent my husband I( both teachers)didn’t want our kids around. The one taking pages of notes and pictures. My husband jokingly wanted to know which school was the cuttting and pasting magnet school.

    I am completely happy with the school my daughter is in. She has a wonderful teacher that works very hard. What makes her school great is the experience she is getting that tests scores don’t show. Yes my daughter is learning the “curriculum” and she is aligned with the kindergarten core curriculum. She also comes home with a smile on her face and tells me the funny things that happened that day. She tells me how her “big buddy” from the 5th grade came down and read with her. She tells me about the seal walks she learned gym, and that they went outside even though it was cold to get fresh air.

    I think it was the book All I Needed to Learn I Learned in Kindergarten.
    These are the things I learned:
    Share everything.
    Play fair.
    Don’t hit people.
    Put things back where you found them.
    Clean up your own mess.
    Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
    Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
    Wash your hands before you eat.
    Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
    Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
    Take a nap every afternoon.
    When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
    Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
    Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
    And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

    NJASK Scores won’t indicate if your child will be successful and happy.

  7. Dbpuck – I couldn’t have said it better myself. I, too, am a teacher (somewhere else) and went on tours this year and thought the SAME as you and your husband… the “If these are the parents of the kids who are attracted to this school, I don’t want my kid at this school.” As a teacher, I, too, know the “value” of test scores, teaching to the test, all the pressure and BS around it. I think differently with my special needs child and looked for different things as I walked around – actually, things that aren’t easy to see on a tour. Things like acceptance and tolerance of differences. My husband was texting me from another school tour that he couldn’t take “these frieko parents” for another second. It makes me wonder – is Montclair changing for the better or worse? Has it always been this way? Did we just notice these people but the majority are not this way? As you noted, we forget what you should learn in Kindergarten, in grade school – all school, LIFE – are the “big picture” things that so many people seem to have lost. It saddens me, and I only hope that the school I choose will have kids and parents who can see that test scores only go so far in life. I fear for my child as he enters school in a way a parent shouldn’t have to fear for a child… the bar raised, the expectations higher than ever, parents often more concerned with a child’s intellectual development and competitive spirit over emotional and social growth, and I think: Will someone please stop the madness?

  8. dbpuck and bethechange, luckily there are plenty of parents and kids you would want your kids to hang out with in this town. Unfortunately, it’s the crazies that stick out on these tours. Although, we did pick a school that was FULL of the same types of parents you describe, luckily in this town you have freedom of choice to move the next year…and we did! Who wants to go through moving your kid though?? So, I say do the best you can to choose a school where there is a good diverse bunch…not just race but economic diversity as well as a wide range of children with special needs. That is the environment I think children thrive in. Test scores? Blahhhh, leave that for middle school and Highschool. I love the comment on which is the cut and paste magnet!! Classic!

  9. As I went through the tours, I didn’t take out a pen, didn’t scribble a single note, didn’t use my iPhone for photos, and I didn’t text my husband any play-by-play. This post was written from a purely emotional perspective. I’m trying not to overthink kindergarten while I overthink kindergarten.

    I know it will all turn out in the end. I am aware that my kids will be okay. But I don’t think I’d be thrilled with a few of the six schools. Magnet systems encourage favorites, and our lottery system causes anxiety.

    At this stage in the game, I think a bit of angst is an appropriate response. It’s a system where I can’t control the outcome, and while that’s life, and I’m down with that, it’s throws me for a loop. So I sit tight and wait.

  10. Actually, I don’t think magnet systems encourage favorites, rather, test scores encourage favorites. Well, I guess having a magnet system in the first place allows parents to chose schools based on test scores. My point being–it seems to be all about test scores for many people.

    And these scores do tell a story but it may not be what you think it is. Scores are very dependent on income level and lower scores among some of the schools is likely due to the SES of the student body.

    I was more interested in the educational philosophy of the schools and the programs in place, i.e., the Lucy Calkins writing/reading program. It just seems like you are very focused on test scores but so is the rest of the nation currently and to each her own I s’pose.

    I know people that sent their child to private school because they didn’t get into Watchung. I found that absurd.

  11. This post was written from a purely emotional perspective.

    Oh, I get it. You were doing as Ernest Hemingway did, telling it truer than it actually happened.

  12. I also goed to a school with low test scores and I never lerned my grammar and spelling and talking rill good. I’s done alright in life, tho. Must be my good looks.

  13. Maybe I should rename myself Tub. But to be honest, ‘roo, I’ve seen thinner marsupials. You might want to consider changing your shirt color–black is more slimming than pink.

  14. I remember the K tour thing, back in the year dot, when the first little wallerooette was of the age. We found ourselves in a gym talking to this really dynamic woman, and we thought, wow, she is terrific. We asked her what grade she taught. Kindergarten, she said. We wrote down her name. Later we wrote a polite letter to the principal requesting her, which was honored, and it was a fabulous year.

    The teacher is everything, in my experience. The rest is window dressing.

  15. Me thinks your husband may have been surfing the Internet while you thought he was crunching the numbers. Surely such a wise man would understand that there is no measure of the students who did not score so highly on these Bush era tests.

    For example the autistic child who is being included at Northeast. That child brings so many things to a classroom ie. The challenge for his typical peers to accept his differences and get to know him. Or perhaps, the child with a specific learning disability that may be studying at Bullock. Can you imagine the lessons a test worthy child would gain from working with his peer? These are the students that bring down the test scores, but who cares?

    It would almost have been better for someone who has the attention of the masses to not draw attention to the petty numbers. Those digits serve to divide us, not unite. They are in no way measure of a school and how your child will adapt. Go with your gut and not a spreadsheet.

  16. I need to express thanks, for real. All of your comments are eye-opening and very helpful.

    My husband was just trying to be helpful by doing what he does best by profession, which is statistics. Of course, we have to consider all of the factors.

    Overthinkingly yours,

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