AP Classes, magnet schools, electives…so many middle school decisions

It started with a flyer back in October for an information night about the area magnet schools. And just last month Jase came home with a pink paper listing the classes he could take next year in middle school.

mtmAs the parent of a fifth grader, it feels way too soon to be thinking about the next school year. But I am sure it will be here before we know it. It certainly feels too early to expect kids to be thinking about what they want to do beyond middle school, but that is definitely the feeling I get from the school district and other parents. I know as a fifth or sixth grader I couldn’t tell you what I wanted to do in high school, college or beyond.

Before we got the paperwork on magnet schools, I had not even considered that Jase would go anywhere but the middle school across the street from us. I was surprised to find one of my friends was looking into a charter school for her son.

Magnet schools? Charter schools? I really knew nothing about these choices or why I might want to choose one for Jase instead of the public school across the street.

A magnet school is public school with specialized courses. There are three in our district that accept 6th graders: DATA – Design and Technology Academy, KSAT – Krueger School of Applied Technologies and STEM -Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Yes, they are all technology and science-based schools. Jase’s best friend wants to go to DATA because he wants to be a computer programmer. Now I know that he can of course change his mind later, but I am still amazed that he is thinking far enough ahead to choose a different school to attend now.

A charter school is typically a private-owned school that receives government funding but operates independently from the school district. The school my friend wants to send her son is called BASIS. It is listed as a top school in our area. (Her son is currently on the waiting list for next year.) There is no tuition for either a magnet or charter school.

Jase hasn’t shown any interest in a technology or science field. He heard about the magnet schools in a presentation to the fifth graders. When I asked him if he wanted to go to the additional presentation that parents can attend, he said no. He wanted to go to the middle school in our neighborhood.

At the time, I didn’t argue. But as I hear about all the students from his school who were accepted to other schools (including his best friend), I wonder if I shouldn’t have pushed him more to at least looking into the other schools. Who knows – upon further review one of them could have piqued his interest.

I am of course fine with him attending our neighborhood middle school. As with our neighborhood elementary, it is one of the best in the city. But you want your child to have the best education, so I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t trying as hard as these other parents.

Last month, the middle school course elective sheet came home. The following week the middle school put on a presentation of the electives he can choose from. He gets two electives, and one must be a fine art. Since Jase is in the fifth-grade strings program (a precursor to orchestra) we knew what his fine art class would be.

The teachers at both his school and the middle school suggest that sixth graders take Academic & Individual Motivation (AIM), an enhanced study-hall that in addition to time to complete homework also teaches time management and organizational skills. I did a quick survey of some parents I knew with middle schoolers to find out if AIM was worth it. The resounding answer was YES! That took care of his second elective.

His required classes are math, English, reading, science, social studies and a health/physical education class. Now those first five are also offered as Pre-Advance Placement classes. There was a form to sign if you wanted to sign up for Pre-AP classes. You had to commit to them for the full year. Jase is a solid A/B student. He works hard to get the grades he does, but he doesn’t excel at any of these subjects. We signed him up for the non-AP classes.

Of course after I do this, I hear all these other parents who say they made their kids sign up for the Pre AP classes because they wanted to challenge them with harder work. One parent even said there would be better benefits taking AP courses when looking into college later. Ugh. I don’t want to be thinking about college now when he is still in fifth grade. He has a lot of growing, learning and maturing to do before that should be a concern. I guess I should just stop worrying and stop listening to other parents. I am sure what we have chosen for Jase will be just fine.