The Value of Not Starting Over

If there’s anything worse than an unexpected snow day, it is a snow day when it doesn’t snow. While he would complain bitterly about having to shovel and not being able to focus on his work, the Parent Imperfect was secretly waiting for the “special serenity” that comes with a thick blanket of snow. It must come from those childhood days in Vermont. In any case, the predicted snow never came, and everyone is back at school today. Both Vince and Connie were hoping against hope for a huge storm that would close school through February vacation. No such luck…

In her recent letter to parents of Hernández third-graders who had been invited to the BPS’s Advanced Work Class, the school’s principal offered five arguments for why parents should keep their children at her school. Over the next few weeks, the PI will struggle in print (of sorts) with each of the five.

1. Students are known by the teachers and don’t have to start over in a new setting. If they move to another school for 6th grade, they will then have to transition again in 7th grade to the exam schools.

Incoming fourth graders are not necessarily known by their teachers, but the point on the importance of continuity definitely rings true. Many of Vince’s friends who enter the nation’s oldest public school with him were going into their fourth school in nine years in the system. Since many of the AWC schools are K-5 schools, they move in fourth grade, again in sixth and then again in seventh. For Vince, at least, it was a very good thing, emotionally, to be at the same school for eight years. Of course, the PI would have felt differently about that continuity if Vince’s school had been obviously bad for him. There isn’t a lot of advantage to the continuity of a negative experience.

On at least three different occasions, the PI and Liz thought seriously about moving Vince out of the Hernández. He did not have the option of AWC in fourth or fifth grade, so the choices were to either leave the BPS or move him to another “mainstream” program. The continuity argument (aided by old-fashioned inertia) always won out. When it came time for Connie to apply for K-1, the question of sibling preference was also important, as it was very unlikely that Connie would have gained entrance to the bi-lingual program if she didn’t have a big brother there.

The PI assumes that there is some research out there about the impact of continuity (and, conversely, frequent school change) on how elementary school children experience school, but the PI doesn’t have that research. With or without the research, the argument about the value of continuity makes sense, and argues in favor of leaving dear Connie right where she is.



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2 responses to “The Value of Not Starting Over

  1. PI 2 (AKA Liz)

    My 2 cents — Actually, Vince was invited to AWC for 5th grade, but moving at that point, to move again for 6th and then, most likely, again for 7th, seemed extremely ridiculous. Vince expressed a lot of preference to move to the Curley, where one of his very good friends from Hernandez chose to go for 5th-6th, but we had to explain that it was pretty unlikely he would get an AWC spot there. To me, the AWC system sets up a grossly unfair (the test to get in is NOT based on the BPS curriculum) and inequitable educational structure.

  2. PI 2 (AKA Liz)

    …ahem…my oh-so-diplomatic partner in PI-ness has clarified for me that Vince was invited for AWC in 5th grade for 6th grade AWC…..let the record show…..

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