2017-05-04 / Editorials

Consider the case for neighborhood schools

Acorn Editorial Board

As successful businesspeople can readily attest, it takes years to build a great reputation and only a few minutes to tear it down.

One of the many unintended consequences of 2001’s No Child Left Behind Act, meant to improve school accountability, was that even good schools could be labeled bad ones. That might not be a big deal in less populated rural America, but in the Conejo Valley, where parents can send their kids to the campus of their choosing, the scarlet letter would have damaging, lasting effects (see related story here).

Recall that under the old policy, if a school failed to show adequate yearly progress in NCLB’s Academic Performance Index tests, it was labeled in “program improvement,” triggering a requirement that all parents living within the boundaries of that school be notified of their right to transfer elsewhere.

Understandably, many moms and dads acted on the offer.

What the people behind the sweeping education reform law failed to take into account was how much value would be put on API scores by those parents who didn’t realize the scores were less a reflection of the quality of programs and teachers at a given campus than the makeup of the students there.

It stands to reason that students who are still struggling to speak English—either because it is their second language or because it is not spoken at home—won’t perform as well on a test given in English no matter how much quality instruction they receive. So it should surprise no one that the local elementary schools that landed in PI were the same schools with the highest proportion of Spanish-speaking students.

The now-defunct API scores are still among several factors that have led to an increasing number of CVUSD parents opting against sending their young son or daughter to their designated neighborhood school.

While we fully support school choice, we want to encourage all Thousand Oaks parents to give their neighborhood school a fair shake. You just may be surprised.

Repeated often enough, myths have a way of becoming “truth” around these parts. Despite what you read on Facebook or in that blog or overheard at the soccer fields, (enter name of campus) may just have everything you want in a school. Instead of relying on word of mouth, schedule a tour, do some research, meet the principal.

Sure, there are always going to be special cases, where a family’s neighborhood school simply doesn’t have a specific program or enough choices. But in most instances, parents are opting to waste time and gas simply because they’ve “heard” a particular school has a “bad” reputation.

Test scores aside, and CVUSD’s were some of the highest in the county, Conejo Valley schools are all grade A. Some may perform a little better than others on assessments, but they all have incredible teachers, reasonable class sizes, award-winning extracurricular activities and more than enough technology to do the job.

We stake our reputation on it.

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