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jgab74

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Reply with quote  #1 

We are in the process of buying a new house.  We found one that we absolutely love and the sellers accepted our offer, but I'm stressing about the school situation.  The assigned school is lacking in diversity, and it's just mediocre to begin with.  There is a very good charter school just two blocks away, however, the student population is only 7% black.  You're probably wondering why we'd buy a house without considering the schools... well, there is the lottery system here. There are a few decent, diverse schools in our city and we may enter the lottery. Although, there are no guarantees our son would get into our top choices. And, we'd have to drive our son across town to get to these schools. We found this house by chance and we fell in love - that's how we got where we are.

We have an opportunity of buying a different house (from a friend) just a block away from a diverse school (45% black) with a good reputation.  It is our ideal school.  However, the house is small and more money than we are hoping to spend.  Although it's expensive, it's less money than other houses in that area. (Basically we couldn't afford to buy a different house in that area.) My husband thinks this house isn't as much our style and we'd be cramped, but my thought is we should focus on our son's well-being first. My husband doesn't think we'd be as happy as a family living there, and he may be right.  But at least our son would be in a school we felt good about.

Currently, our son is in a diverse preschool and I love that he's always around people who look like him.  I know that this is important.

My brother told me that we need to stop worrying about how diverse a school is, and instead focus on sending him to the best school possible.  "He's going to have to deal with being different/a minority as an adult and he should learn to handle it from an early age", he said.

Here are our options:

  • Buy our dream house and send our son to a good charter school that's only 7% black.
  • Buy our dream house, play the school lottery, and hope that he gets into a diverse school across town.
  • Buy a smaller house (for $20k more) and be one block from the ideal school.

I do feel okay with the high school that's assigned to the house we put an offer on - although, the smaller house does have a slightly better high school assigned to it.

What are your thoughts?  If your child is in a non-diverse elementary or middle school, how has your experience been?

Thank you in advance!


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Jessica
dh Casey
Started adoption process 7/06 for China, LID 4/07
Concurrent adoption from Ethiopia, dossier submitted 6/08
Referral 12/21/09 for precious Melkamu who passed away 1/14/10
Referral 1/26/10 for sweet Mamush, home 5/28/10
fam_minnesota

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Reply with quote  #2 
Hi Jessica,
You are such a thoughtful mom! This issue is soooooooo challenging, isn't it? Our neighborhood school is fantastic and also almost all white. We will not be sending our son here. We are not sure where we are going to go but there are some options that offer the diversity we need.

My opinion is that it is critical that he be in a diverse environment at school. From everything I've read, there is quite a consensus about this among transracial adoptees.

The option that may fit you all best right now is to go ahead and buy your dream house and go for the lottery. If that doesn't work out, pursue other community options for diversity (while you continue to pursue the lottery). For instance, our neighborhood is all white but we attend a church a few blocks away that is predominantly black (this is also a big social network for our family).

My concern would be that having a good school fit but being really unhappy in your home/house situation is not great...especially when you feel so RUSHED into it. Given how young Kavi is, you would have time to reconsider if this turned out to be the wrong move.

No easy answers.....
ann

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Ann & Tony
Minneapolis, MN
Referral 11-19-09 for 4-month-old baby boy!
ShannonC

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Reply with quote  #3 

These are all great questions that we struggle with arent' they? Maddening as they are.

I think this end up playing out differently for every family. I think being aware of the non black factors in our kids life is one step in the right direction. So many will simply say 'the best school and everything else doesn't matter' when we read over and over how very much it does. So consciously going from that as a start point in important.

I've had black men who live here (northern freaking maine) tell me NOT take him to more diverse areas. That this is the place that he will get what he needs to grow. (add it to the pile of information overload)

Here's my thoughts: Live where and how it works for your family. Yes. Your son is a part of the family. But not the whole part.

In addition to the anecdotal and studied experiences of black children in schools and other transracial adoptive kids, that show us that they want/need to  'not be the only' and of course we want them to have diverse mentors/educators/admins--- there is also an element of graduation rates. There are studies that show graduation rates of black men are much higher in the less diverse areas. (and yes. A great deal of that equation is the craptastic inequality of school resources in neighborhoods with high black populations... but it isn't the only factor). Studies. There are a lot of them. How you weigh them is up to you....


And for me what it really comes down to is this... where am I going to best be able to continue to build relationship with my family? Cause it's true that comfort and spacial features matter. (i'm not referring to socioeconomic stuff-- more-- what does my kid/myself need- one floor or two? are stairs a problem? outside neighborhood... am I going to have to be on him about being up in the neighbors business, or taking care of his clothes etc...  or is the set up managable etc...)

One final add, cause I feel I'm rambling: But this may be my biggest weight in this equation: A Wise Woman once reminded me: school is just one aspect of any of our lives. She made piece with her son not being in the majority in his family, nor in his neighborhood, nor his school. But she can make sure to go out of her way to get him the extra time on a daily, everyday living basis in other ways. Where you play soccer, basketball, dance etc.. that all matters too.   Good luck. If the house is the one you posted pictures of-- it looks so warm and inviting! I hear laughter already


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Shannon & Teg


Started wait 12/31/08
Referral 8/12/09 for 28 mo Boy
Passed Court 10/21/09
Embassy 1/20/10


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cindyj

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Reply with quote  #4 
I have had my daughter, who is just finishing first grade, in a couple of different schools. She did preschool in a diverse school overseas, kindergarten in a largely white high performing suburban school where she was one of three black kids in her class, and in a diverse urban first grade in a school that is around 50 percent African American and also a 40 minute drive from our house.

By far, the diverse school has been the best option for her for first grade and kindergarten was the worst experience EVER! This may not be true in every school but n our situation, the teacher seemed to be surprised that she was a high performer and had lower expectations for our daughter. I volunteered in the class, and when there was a substitute teacher it was worse, with the subs sometimes doing double takes with my daughter's correct responses to difficult questions. The testing was also subjective, and the teacher, for example, said our daughter didn't know her letters at the beginning of the year testing, which was ridiculous because not nay did she know her letters but was a pretty fluent early reader a the time. And then the nstruction reflected the teacher's misconception of where our daughter was at. Things did improve, but it took months before the teacher was on board. Our daughter was very social and popular but didn't get nvited on play dates for the whole year. And the instruction was often reinforcing stereotypes. They came home from a so-called multicultural lesson with my dd telling me that people use beads for money in Africa and livein huts. Not that this cannot never be true but not really the message I want her to be getting at school. We pulled her from the school.

This year, she is in first grade at a lower performing urban magnet school where no one thinks it's unusual for her to be among the top kids in the class and where her teacher actually likes her and has a good idea of where her true strengths and weaknesses lie. The school is not perfect. The teacher has to spend a lot of time working on getting lower performing students up to grade level, and our dd doesn't always get noticed when she struggles with a concept - because her struggles are different from the struggles of the lower kids. But her teacher is very committed and tries her best. Educationally, I am not sure the school is objectively better - mainly because of the challenges of teaching a class that is neither culturally nor socioeconomic ally homogenous. But our daughter gets ecognized for her success, gets invited to play dates and birthday parties, and is popular and enjoys school. Also, because the school is a turnaround school, they have lots of extras like art, music, technology, foreign language, etc. and they have a longer school day. We'll be moving next year to a neighborhood that's much closer to the school to get rid of the terrible commute.

I think the message is that diversity is important in so many ways, and you may not know what school will work Until your child is in it. But the traditional measures of what makes a school a success may not always be the best measure of what will work for you. In our case, the high performing school, which seemed great n the outside, was terrible once we were there. We had chosen the school carefully, and spoken to parents who loved it, and it was a huge shock how bad it was for us. On the other hand, people look at us like we're crazy when we tell them what school our dd goes to now because it is not a school seen as desireable, but it has been wonderful for us.

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Cindy
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Cinds

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Reply with quote  #5 
First off, you are very lucky to have choices. We used to live in Kansas and diversity was never an option. Now we're in DC and it's such a relief that I don't have to go out of my way to surround my children with kids and adults that look like them (because it is indeed important and I can see that very strongly in at least one of my children who is very prideful about his color).

So my kids went from all white to all black; their school for the last 3 years is about 91% black (the rest Hispanic) and most of the staff is black (as are our neighbors). It's also an under performing school like most DC public schools, though I think the teachers and support staff are pretty great for the most part (for the record, I hate DC curriculum and NCLB mandates, not the school itself). And the school has been fine for us until about this year (grade 1). But now as their cohorts are getting older, we are having big problems with just mean nasty kids - 6 and 7 year olds! One of my kids fights daily and truly hates school (he is very sweet, outspoken, never afraid to show his true colors and let's just say 'unique' - thus the teasing). Anyway, long story short, I am opting out of DC schools and moving to the next county over where the public schools rank among the best (a mere mile away from our current residence - ironic, yes?) and are famous for diversity. We will live in a really tiny cramped house that's not quite as nice as what we have now, and it's a bit crazy, but the hood is very diverse both racially and socioeconomically as are the legendary great schools (about 45% black, 32% white); it helps that the town is known for colorful quirks, trees and cute as a button! I cannot guarantee they will be happier or do better in school, but I hope the added diversity will help add new and more positive dimensions to their school days compared to their current school (relatively no diversity). 

I don't know what my point is, but just to say diversity is a gift, especially when your kid stands out alone for something (and not just skin color). But then so is a dream house and I understand that totally. (FYI - We're renters in DC so we can more easily hop around and see what fits so of course buying adds extra layers - I would never buy a house I didn't looooveeee.)

Good luck.

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Cindy (& Jerry)
Triplet Boys!!!
Home Dec, 2006, at 5 months old
http://ethiopiantripletland.blogspot.com/
canadianfamily

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Reply with quote  #6 
We are in a cramped house in the city but have a diverse school. Wouldn't trade it for the world for what it has done for our daughter and her comfort in her own skin. Square footage matters little for us in the grand scheme of things. We asked to be a transracial adoptive family, but she didn't.

Best wishes to you as you figure all this hard stuff out.
smoon

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Reply with quote  #7 
Hi Jessica!
My two cents here: diversity at school has been really great for our family! We moved last year and chose a pre-school that had a diverse student and teacher population. For our DD having friends (and their parents) of many different shades has been an important part of her daily life, but also having a great teacher who in her words "looks like me!" has been invaluable! The picture of the house on your blog is adorable so I would aim for the lottery.



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DD born 5/9/09 ~ home 10/16/09

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jgab74

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Reply with quote  #8 
THANK YOU ALL for your feedback.  I really appreciate it and I've been thinking a lot about what each of you shared.

I spoke to an African American man I work with about my dilema.  He didn't have an easy answer, but he felt diversity was probably the most important thing... diversity as in a wide mix of people (including Asian, Hispanic, etc), not just an environment of black and white people.  We have settled on our dream home and there are a couple of school options nearby.  I was pretty set on one school - one of the most diverse schools in our school system - until my friend told me he had subbed there.  He said, "Those kids come from rough backgrounds.  If your son goes there, he won't really be getting an education."  We haven't ruled out it, though.  I like that 21 different languages are spoken by the students.  They also have a great school/community garden.  My co-worker suggested (as I think someone else had suggested) putting our son into some kind of after-school academic program-- something that would give him what the school couldn't give him academically.

Thank you again!

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Jessica
dh Casey
Started adoption process 7/06 for China, LID 4/07
Concurrent adoption from Ethiopia, dossier submitted 6/08
Referral 12/21/09 for precious Melkamu who passed away 1/14/10
Referral 1/26/10 for sweet Mamush, home 5/28/10
mtmb

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Reply with quote  #9 
 
Reply with quote #2
Our experience with a diverse school was different than what we expected. We sent our daughter to a 5th and 6th grade 98% non-white school. The population is made up of many different cultures. There was even another Ethiopian girl (not adopted) in her class. She feels like she doesn't fit in at all. The other Ethiopian girl is in a clique of girls (one from Burma, one from Thailand, and one African American) and she wasn't open to a new friend. She has had a couple of girls who aren't bullies, but are not nice to her, and they happen to be African American. Her saving grace has been the teachers, who have gotten to know her and bring out her abilities and specialties. The teachers have been white males. Go figure. One of her biggest issues is the fact that we are the only white parents at events.

We are now in the position of looking for a new school for junior high for her. I wonder if she would, in some ways, be more comfortable in a whiter school. At least she wouldn't be teased for having white parents. Another adoptive family here said the white kids were much more open to their Ethiopian children than the diverse school was. It sounds upside down, but maybe there's something to it. I do not want to get my own stereotypes or "certain" thinking to get in the way of what's right for her.

Another note: she and her sisters spend time with Ethiopian friends five or more days a week, so they also get that input.

Just another experience to throw out there.

Mary
jgab74

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Reply with quote  #10 
Quote:
At least she wouldn't be teased for having white parents.


I could definitely see this happening in a school that has such a small percentage of white students.  I was considering a school for our son that's 90% black, and then it occurred to me that my/my husband's skin color might make our son feel uncomfortable (when we drop him off, pick him up, etc.).

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Jessica
dh Casey
Started adoption process 7/06 for China, LID 4/07
Concurrent adoption from Ethiopia, dossier submitted 6/08
Referral 12/21/09 for precious Melkamu who passed away 1/14/10
Referral 1/26/10 for sweet Mamush, home 5/28/10
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