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September 02, 2009

Raising Top Students?

Qinzhou school blog

When we were looking to buy a house back in summer of 2006, we restricted our search to homes with excellent schools even though our home-buying dollar didn't stretch very far in those areas.  At the time, Michael was finishing up his final year of High School, Gwenny was not quite two years old, and we expected to add Maddy to our family later that summer. 

We snagged the home of our dreams and moved in and settled into the groove of our crazy life with a kid in college and two in diapers and, somehow, the details of the girl's future K-through-8 school experience just didn't seem that terribly important. 

Until now. 

Now they're both in Kindergarten and I've been pouring over our State's School Ratings for several weeks in a mind-numbing attempt to draw some solid conclusions about what makes a top rated school produce top students.

Is our school a great school because families like us send our kids there?  Or do we live here because the school is great?  What came first?  The Chicken (the good school) or the egg (the good student)? 

What makes a good student?  Is it the teachers?  The child's ethnicity? Their parent's education level?  How much our house cost?

If you look at the big picture of schools in our area, the rankings are all over the map and there are plenty of patterns to examine.   Some made me scratch my head and others made my heart ache but the ones that applied most to me seemed to say that I am the secret ingredient of my children's success in school.   

So here's my question:  WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO BE TELLING OUR KIDS THAT MAKES SUCH A STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE?

Should my Kindergartners be reading at a 2nd grade level?  Should I be mixing fish oil supplements into their trail mix?  How many hours of homework should my 5 year old do each night if I want her to have a decent chance that she'll someday be known for something that doesn't include the terms "heinous" or "serial"?

Both of my daughters are smart and beautiful and funny and in every way AMAZING but I look at that photo at the top of this post and I can see Maddy there.  She has so much potential and would certainly be one of their top students so what should I be doing to make the most of the opportunity she has in our top rated school here in Northern California?

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