Joaquin Miller Elem or private school?


We are trying to decide between accepting a place at a private school (Park Day) for our soon to be kinder daughter or accept our spot at Joaquin Miller, which is our neighborhood school, and were wondering if anyone has more newer experiences with JM...We toured the school this winter and really like the principal, the fact that many retired teachers come back to volunteer, the diversity and the strong parent group. However, we got the sense (perhaps wrongly?) that the school is much more focused on the basics of reading and math, their seemingly really strong SPED program (and we loved that they were putting a focus on what students truly need even if we're not in that boat) and not as much on other "extras" like social studies, history, science, art, music and language - at least in the lower grades. Does that ring true? I also am not sure what to think about the test scores. I know that test scores are by no means the best way to determine whether a school is a great fit for your kid but it worries me a bit that the higher income kids seem to be testing much better than the lower income kids. Mainly, I'm just not sure what that says about the learning going on and whether it's equitable. We could swing private school but it would be a stretch so we're just trying to make sure we know as much as we can before we make a choice. What do you love about JM? What do you wish was different? Thank you so much! 

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Our daughter started JM for Kindergarten in fall 2019, so we don't have much experience there.  But so far it seems good.  If you like, you can contact me if you wanna chat and hear more.

Generally speaking, it seems like there are some really good teachers, and some average teachers, but no bad ones.  And there's competent leadership from the principal.  There's very good diversity in my daughter's class.  We don't live in the JM zone, and I feel like there's somewhat of a divide between the (wealthier) locals and the folks from outside of the neighborhood.  The PTA has expressed interest in working to bridge that divide, but I'm not sure it's happening yet.

I think your assessment is correct, that the focus is more on basics of math and reading.  But that seem appropriate, at least for Kindergarten.  My wife and I have both volunteered in the classroom to help teach reading, and there's lots of kids who are struggling to learn to read.  Which is pretty much the foundation for literacy and learning.  So I don't think you can put too much emphasis on it.  The kids do get some enrichment in other subjects, with teachers paid by the PTA, for science, PE, computer, etc.  I really wish there was an art program.  That's probably the biggest thing we're missing at JM compared to our daughter's pre-school.

Finally, I'd say the biggest thing we've learned is how important the after school program is.  Our daughter spends almost as much time in after school as she does in regular school, so it's a huge part of her experience.  The program, called Kids Club, is OK.  I wish it were ten times better, but I doubt that there's any after school programs in OUSD that are much better than the one at JM.  And there's a waiting list, so you gotta make sure you sign up for it as soon as possible.