I have heard too much distress in the wind from parents and now I just have to weigh in. It seems like so many people are unhappy about the fact that there are too few "good middle school options".
I have to ask. Do you mean schools with high test scores?
If you are clinging to the safety of high test scores, then you are empowering the tests and you will be supporting that culture; the stress, the prep, the high stakes and anxiety. Live by the sword, die by the sword.
If it is not high test scores, what makes a good school?
A passionate fiscal and educational leader in the principal, who surrounds herself with strong teachers who are 'bringing it' every day. Those schools are out there. They are not a dime a dozen but they absolutely exist.
I find that parents who have been pretty open minded about elementary school choices get VERY conservative about middle school. I know that you are afraid of sex, drugs, rock and roll (AND what you remember that your parents didn't know about what you did in middle school). Get over it.
I remember my lost MS years: my science lab partner trying to set the asbestos block on fire each day, running the guantlet of the "bad kids" (who smoked and kissed) by the stairs as I walked home and singing close harmony with my BEST FRIEND FOREVER (hi Heather!) in the girls bathroom. I had one of the best teachers that I would ever have (Ms. Crouch) for an honors Anthropology class that formed many of my life views. Also, one of the only times I remember my parents in school, to yell at the 8th grade guidance counselor (it was beautiful, man). She told me I was wasting my brain taking both music and art in 9th grade - I got to take the classes. I still remember the joys and humiliations like it was yesterday (not even mentioning getting my period for the first time, the nail polish incident, and the constant -irrational- fear that LSD would be put in my milk). No scarring though.
This is what you need at middle school (and remember it is 3 SHORT years):
- They need to be safe (not some frightened suburbanite's fear of an "urban school" - or some free floating anxiety of bullying - your child can be tormented at the most popular, sought after school, just as well as they can at a school with kids from that other neighborhood).
- They need to come out of it with their self esteem intact. Sometimes being a big fish in whatever size pond is very empowering!
- They need to be surrounded by educators of integrity who are "bringing it".
- And they need to be ready to hit the ground running at 9th grade (the real high stakes choice).
It is likely that this year is a tipping point year for those of you in D15. The numbers of high performing college bound students is reaching critical mass and you all will NOT get seats in 51, 447, 443, etc. There are other good schools out there, but they may not be the popular ones. You may not remember the olden days when 51 was the "only" choice. You are now standing on the backs parents and students before you who built the strength of the "popular schools". It is your turn now. Sorry. Be brave. Step up.