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Seattle Stories Seattle mom Christal Duyungan successfully navigated the system in her search for a school with good academics and a safe environment for her son who has a peanut allergy.
A San Francisco Mom's Story There seems to be one universal truth that applies to all schools and districts when it comes to getting what you want: communicate. Always communicate.
By Marian Wilde
Regardless of how simple or complicated, competitive or not, your district's system is, there are some basic strategies that can be applied to help your child get into a great school.
1. Look for Those Up-and-Coming, Hot New Schools
"The first tip to figuring out strategies is to broaden your perspective on which schools you would want to apply for," says Deena Zacharin, Director of the Office of Parent Relations for the San Francisco Unified School District. "The best way to do that is to go see the schools themselves. Schools often have reputations that are seven to 10 years old. It takes a long time for a reputation to turn around with a school. But when you go and see the school, you see all the wonderful things that might be happening there."
2. Avoid the Herd Mentality
Parents should look at a school's test scores as a measure of how well students achieve, but that is only part of the picture of a school. "You really have to talk to the principal and see what is going on in the classroom to determine if it's a good fit for your family," says Sandra Halladey, Founder and Associate Director of the San Francisco chapter of Parents for Public Schools. "Just because it's a good fit for all your friends doesn't mean it's a good fit for your family. What your next-door neighbor or your best friend might think is a wonderful school and is a perfect fit might not be the same for you."
3. Don't Mess Up
Don't lose out because of missed deadlines or incomplete paper work. Bryan Hassel, author of The Picky Parent Guide, cautions, "If it truly is a purely mechanical system, such as a lottery, then the most important strategy is to make sure that you get things in on time. Don't mess up. Don't mess up is one of those basic technical requirements."
Even after you've gotten your child into the school, complete all the steps. "Make sure that you read all the paper work that you get from the school district and that you respond in a timely manner to all the deadlines," says Sandra Halladey, of Parents for Public Schools. "If you're offered a seat and if you don't go within the required time frame and accept that seat, then you've lost it."
4. Get Your Information From the Right Source
"Make sure you get information from the correct source, which is the district office," warns Halladey. "Your school secretary or teacher might not have the latest information."
5. Investigate the District's Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Admission Rules
If you believe your child is a bright student, a GATE program might be an entree to a better educational opportunity. Find out if GATE programs in your district are only offered in certain schools. Some GATE programs ask for nursery school assessments, while others might not require anything until third or fourth grade, when a GATE test is administered.
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