Thursday, November 15, 2012

School Report #2

I visited our second elementary school today, Phineas Bates Elementary.

After a hectic day where I worked at 2 different hospitals, I rushed to preschool, picked up the girls, stopped by the house to pick up a container of much-anticipated celery (!?!), and dashed to the other side of Roslindale to find The Bates. We found it. It wasn't too far away, as it is in our 1-mile radius "walk zone".

A teacher met us at the front door. The doors were locked, and we had to ring a doorbell to be let inside. BestestHusband mentioned that the school is in a higher-crime area and has gone into "lockdown" on several occasions. Lovely! 

Once inside, we saw the familiar trappings of an old-school Boston school building, with ugly brick walls and "quaint" windows and trim. Somehow, they did a lovely job of making it look cheerful and inviting. We met first in a Kindergarten classroom. The girls were invited to join in at the play area. They dove right in. The walls were papered with artwork and educational tools. I loved the room. It was full of action, even when we parents were sitting quietly. MeToo wandered around looking at all of the displays and teaching activities. When it was time to take the tour, she cried. She didn't want to leave that room. So the teacher of that class invited all of the kids to stay and play or color. My girls cheerfully waved me off and dove into the crayon box. I loved that teacher. 

The school was much like The Kilmer. It was boxy. It had multiple levels with old stairwells. It had a large playyard and good playground structure. But it had an additional Cafetorium, a mixed-use room that had a curtained stage to create a largish auditorium. 

This school had a large number of partnerships to augment the educational basics, using external community partners to provide additional resources and activities. The student population was not as white as the Kilmer. Or, more importantly, it wasn't as West Roxbury-ish as the Kilmer (ie. more affluent, with more dual-parent families, regardless of race/nationality). In other words, more was offered because the students needed more. The MCAS proficiency average was 22 points lower than the Kilmer, but the SGP (student growth percentage) was also 8 points lower. So the data also suggests that the student population struggles more, and the teachers aren't overcoming it as well. But the school had Advanced Work classes for 4th and 5th grades, equivalent to the Gifted and Talented programs that BestestHusband and I recalled so fondly from our childhoods. In fact, it's the only school in Roslindale that offers Advanced Work classes. So, given likely changes to BPS school assignments, if we want our girls to get AW opportunities in the later grades, it's good to start out here to make sure we can get in.

So again, it's another school I can see the girls going to. Tomorrow I'll visit a third school. Wish me luck.


  1. Hi Joy, So glad you are posting detailed reviews, as I am not sure how many schools we're going to get a chance to visit before we need to submit our rankings. Keep them coming!

  2. Sounds nice. I think most schools are locked during the school day nowadays - ours is. We almost went into lockdown when the Arlington Heights bank was robbed, too. I think lockdown is getting pretty common, because no one wants to be held responsible for not taking precautions if something actually happened. It sounds so drastic, though. Maybe it's the name 'lockdown'.
    I'm glad you're finding schools you like. It's a complication I'm happy not to deal with. Talking about schools last night at the Mom's group, and reading your descriptions, I am struck by how much nicer they all are than the ones I went to... I turned out okay I guess, but it's nice to be able to give my kids more opportunities than I had.