Once your child is eligible for elementary school, you are suddenly thrust into a bewildering universe, the world of school choice that will be a large part of the formative influences on your child’s life. Not surprisingly, it is also going to be a part of your family’s life for the next few years, as you become part of a school community. So this becomes a critical choice, and one not easily made. Unless you are so fortunate as to live in a neighborhood with a high quality public school that is also the kind of school you’re looking for, you will have to begin the process of touring and applying to schools.
Whether this process is exhilarating or frustrating, it is always time consuming. It does help to do your homework on what is available, and then narrow your field so as to make the school search more manageable. It also helps to know something about the different types of schools, so that you can make an informed choice about what type of education is right for your child and your family. L.A. School Scout can help you sort through your options, and guide you through the application process. Other than traditional public schools, or some highly academic private schools, there are some other choices out there. Here is a look at some of those choices:
Magnet schools were created as part of the public school system, outside of zoned school boundaries, in order to promote integration. They came into being in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a tool to further academic desegregation. The school was intended to “attract” students from across different school zones. Consequently Magnet schools do two things: 1) they open their enrollment geographically across traditional school zones, but within the same school district; and 2) they provide a learning environment that would attract students from other school zones, thereby encouraging families to desegregate their children to the Magnet school. They usually have something special to offer over a regular school which makes attending them an attractive choice to many students, thereby increasing the diversity of the student population within them.
Magnet schools are different from private or parochial schools in that they remain part of the public school system. They differ from Charter schools in that they remain part of the public school system bureaucratically. Charter Schools have a different organizational model (i.e. they have a charter that releases them from the regular school administration). Magnet schools operate under the same public school administration (they don’t operate on their own). They differ from other public schools in that they receive additional funding to enable them to spend more money on their students, supplies, teachers, programs, etc.
Also distinguishing them from other public schools is the fact that Magnet schools usually have alternative or otherwise compelling modes of instruction. For example, you might find a Magnet school dedicated to a particular area of knowledge, such as technology or the arts; or to a particular type of instruction, such as project-based learning.
Charter schools were created to offer wider school choice, and to help solve the many challenges facing schools today. Their goal ultimately is to improve student learning, including:
Of primary interest to parents is that school choice means that parents can apply to charter schools which are out of their district; while preference is often given to a particular group, such as residents of a particular school district, charter schools are open to enrollment by anyone in the state. This means that Santa Monica residents can attend LAUSD charter schools, and vice versa.
There are “dependent” and “independent” charter schools; some are semi-autonomous conversion charter schools that are funded and function essentially as regular District schools. They follow District policy except for those areas they specifically describe in their charters, such as, curriculum, pedagogy, philosophy, personnel and, or governance. Teachers and staff in dependent charter schools continue to be employees of the school district.
"Independent" charter schools may be either conversion or start up and may be either locally or direct- funded. These charter schools are fully autonomous and have the greatest degree of flexibility to design and implement the goals and procedures described in their charter petition. These charter schools hire their own staff, independent of the District, and have a prevailing philosophy and educational strategy that guide teaching and learning. These schools may be started by a group of parents, educators, community-based organizations, etc., and can include a wide variety of types of schools, including college prep, classical education, arts-based, Project-Based Learning, Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio-inspired, etc.
An affiliated, dependent charter school can use its additional resources to develop and implement innovative programs that best meet the educational needs of its students and those of the District. While choosing not to separate from the District, affiliated charters will have greater fiscal and academic autonomy to pursue program development through increased site management. Affiliated charters will serve as model sites for exploring, developing and disseminating new charter policies and procedures.
Here is a look at a couple of different educational models:
The critical value of the Waldorf approach is not what is taught, but when and how it is taught. This integrated, developmental approach introduces subject matter as it corresponds to each stage of developmental readiness. Founded in 1919 by philosopher, social reformer and visionary Rudolf Steiner, the classical curriculum weaves art into every subject, using music, storytelling, drawing and movement to bring academic subjects to life. Waldorf education balances academics with artistic and practical disciplines, and intellectual learning is always combined with artistic, rhythmical and practical work. Outside the classroom, Waldorf students build wooden structures, work in the communal garden, and are attuned to the world of nature. The changes in season are marked through the school’s festivals, which are normally all-school events with parent involvement.
Waldorf teachers are qualified in a unique pedagogy with a global perspective that promotes peace and humanity. They are prepared to deliver their lessons orally, without the use of textbooks. Waldorf faculty members receive Waldorf teacher certification and attend training programs offered at accredited specialty colleges and research institutes.
Waldorf education offers a meaningful alternative to a standard academic curriculum. At the heart of the approach is the idea that the gifts of childhood must be valued and protected. The imagination is cherished and given every opportunity to bloom.
The Reggio Emilia Approach to education was started by parents and educators, rebuilding the preschools of the city of Reggio Emilia in Italy after World War II. In this approach, children, teachers and parents are considered the three central protagonists in the educational process. There is an emphasis on work in small groups; the educational approach is based on the social constructivist model which supports the idea that we construct our own knowledge and learn best through our interaction with others, objects, and symbols. Reggio-inspired education utilizes the project-based approach to learning, based on the theoretical work of John Dewey, Maria Montessori and Lev Vygotsky, among others.
In a Reggio-inspired school teachers follow the children's interests rather than adhering to a set curriculum. They facilitate children’s exploration of themes and work on short-and long-term projects, and guide experiences of open-ended discovery and problem-solving. Academic and other subject matter is addressed within the context of multi-disciplinary project work; consistent with Howard Gardner's notion of schooling for multiple intelligences, the Reggio Emilia approach calls for the integration of the graphic arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development. Presentation of concepts and hypotheses in multiple forms of representation – writing, verbal, art, construction, drama, storyplay, music, etc. -- are viewed as essential to children's understanding of the experience.
Teachers encourage children to conduct research to find answers to their own questions rather than giving children standard texts with the “correct” answers. The Reggio approach to learning, which allows for differences in developmental levels, interests, and learning styles, is ideally suited to the classroom which includes all types of learners.
Documentation of student learning is unique in a Reggio learning environment, and teachers spend a great deal of time and thought on the documentation of their work with the children. The documentation acts as an assessment of the student’s learning, and helps make their learning visible for parents, teachers and children. The documentation fits into and is a critical part of the design and use of space, which is itself a vital component of Reggio-inspired education, where the school environment is seen as the “third teacher.” It has an underlying order and beauty in the organization of all the space in a school, the classroom itself, and the equipment and materials within it.
While the Reggio methodology is largely known for preschool, the approach has expanded to include Reggio-inspired elementary and middle schools in many cities and countries as well.
If searching for a high-quality preschool with available space was a challenge, navigating the bewildering variety of elementary schools can be even more overwhelming. Coupled with the need for 2 hour blocks of time for each school tour, just keeping the names and philosophies behind each school becomes a very lonely and demanding task.
L.A. School Scout is your partner in this process, offering skilled professional assistance to help families in Los Angeles find and choose an elementary school that is a good match for your family’s expectations of what “school” is about, and which will foster your child’s academic, creative, physical and social-emotional growth.
We provide each family with in-depth knowledge of local educational programs, including charter schools, magnet schools, “regular” public schools, church- or synagogue-based schools, and private schools. Services include: a family interview and assessment, a list of referrals to “best match” elementary schools, a schedule of school tours, application forms and informational packages, and follow up even after you’ve applied. Our goal is to find you the best possible match – if we can save you money by finding the free public school of your dreams, so much the better.
Navigating the bewildering variety of preschools and K-12 schools can be overwhelming. Coupled with the need for two hour blocks of time for each school tour, just making the time for this and keeping the names and philosophies straight becomes a very lonely and demanding task.
L.A. School Scout™ is your partner in this process, offering skilled professional assistance to help families find and choose a preschool that is a good match for your family’s expectations, and which will foster your child’s cognitive, creative, physical and social-emotional growth. Services include: a family interview and assessment, a list of referrals to “best match” preschools, a schedule of school tours, application forms and informational packages, and follow up even after your application is in.
General Consultation ONLY AVAILABLE ABOUT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Comprehensive Consultation, Preschool or K-12
All items in the family consultation above plus the following:
This service was developed especially for those relocating to Los Angeles, or to a different neighborhood within Los Angeles, or for those who need an emergency mid-year placement, this service includes:
L.A. School Scout serves the entire Greater Los Angeles area.
Your school search can be customized to meet your specific educational needs. Call with any questions – we want to help you find the best possible placement for your child. We can be reached at 877.877.6240 or by Email.