San Diego 101: Choosing a School

San Diego 101: Choosing a School


One of the most common questions we get at
Voice of San Diego comes from parents. And they want to know what are the best schools in our area. There are a lot of great schools in San Diego, but the answer really isn’t as simple as a list. There’s a lot to consider when you’re
trying to figure out which school is right for you. And there are a lot of options. First, let’s start with your neighborhood
school. Every child is automatically assigned to a neighborhood school and if that’s where you want your child to go, there’s really not that much you have to do. But if you want to look beyond your neighborhood,
there is so much more. Just about all of the 42 school districts
in San Diego County have an open enrollment period. And during that time, you can apply to
go to basically any school in the district. Different districts open their windows at
different times. San Diego Unified opens its choice window for about a month in the fall. Lots of the other districts open there’s just a few weeks into the new year. So make sure you double check when the window will be. This is your time to pick other traditional
public schools in your school district. That also includes magnet schools, which usually offer
special curriculums. They may be centered around the arts, or a second language, engineering, international studies. Just because you apply doesn’t mean you’ll
get in. Districts use different priorities like whether a sibling attends the
school or not. And they’ll combine these priorities with a lottery process to decide who gets open seats in each school. But there are also a lot of options outside your school district. You could even apply to have your child attend a different school district if you wanted to. Or you could try to enroll your child in a charter school. Charters are independent schools that are
publicly funded. And just like traditional some are good, some are not so good. Each one has its own choice window, so if there’s a charter you’re interested in, you need to figure out when the choice window opens and apply for that school. Alright, so those are the options. But how
do you decide which school is the best choice for your child? At the end of the day, the best way to do
that is to go and see a school for yourself. Check it out. Does it feel like a safe place where your child can learn and grow? Obviously, visiting dozens of schools is not something most people have time for. So if you can’t do that, there’s a lot of
data you can turn to. I think one of the best indicators about a
school is the Equity Rating, it’s created by greatschools.org. That doesn’t just show you test scores, which can be a super blunt instrument for judging the quality of a school. The equity rating tells you how well a school
is doing in closing the achievement gap. Test scores often mirror the wealth gap in
America. Rich students tend to do well. Poorer students fair not so well. A school
with a great equity rating is closing that gap. Students there are receiving very high quality teaching. There’s so much other data to consider. Another metric I like to use is chronic absenteeism.
That shows you the percentage of students who are absent more than ten percent of the
school year. Looking at how often students are chronically
absent is another great way to understand the school’s atmosphere. Is it a warm, loving
school, where children want to be there? If it’s not, high percentages of chronic
absenteeism will be a sign. For high schools, look at the graduation rate.
You can also look at average SAT scores. Or even better in my opinion would
be how many students take AP tests. If lots of kids are in Advanced Placement courses, that means teachers there are pushing the students to be their very best. There’s so much that doesn’t show up in these numbers. What else is important for you and your family? Maybe you want to know if the school
has a quality music program or sports your child would be interested in. Maybe you want to know if the school provides after-school care. We’ve tried to create a place where you
can find all this information in one spot. To take a deeper dive into the data go to
vosd.org/schools. And remember, sometimes the best thing you
can do to find out information about a school, is to call the school and ask questions.

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