Houston Private Schools

Diversity in Schools: How it matters in school selection


Whether we are talking about racial or socioeconomic diversity, we cannot deny the impact diversity plays in choosing schools for our children. In some cases, this is deliberate: we want our kids to be exposed to and relate to people from all walks of life, and so we gravitate towards schools that embody this value. In other cases, we focus on a school’s academic performance in a vacuum, and those instances, we rely on rankings, turning a blind eye to diversity altogether. 

The reality is, diversity influences quite a bit more than our kids’ experiences with each other–it influences one of the most important factors in choosing a school: how teachers teach.

Take a look at these two photos: one represents a classroom at one of the highly ranked public schools in Houston (not one in particular, just in general terms) and the other picture represents a school a little farther down the list, but still in the A/B range. 

When you look at the picture on the left, one naturally sees kids who all look the same, but when you look at the photo on the right, you see variety in color.  Obvious, right? But here’s the point: when you look at the photo on the left, it’s actually harder to see the diversity that exists there because on the surface everyone looks the same. It’s harder to “see" the boy who needs to touch things in order to understand or to identify the girl who needs to hear from a friend in order to truly grasp the concept. If the diversity is harder to see, it’s harder to respond to. Because you can easily see the diversity in the second photo, you naturally expect to have to approach that group different purely based on the various shades in the image. This is true for teachers as well. When they look out onto a class of kids who on the surface are by and large the same, the teaching methods they use are by and large the same. However, when teachers look out onto a class of kids that looks diverse, they are visibly reminded that their kids come with varying academic levels, learning styles and preferences. And the reality is, we address and respond to what we can see easily–that applies to teachers as well.

If you have a child who is a natural learner, who can sit, listen to a lesson, follow the instructions given and do the work, you’re good. This may mean very little to you. However, if you have a child who needs to hear things a few times before she understands it, or if you have a child who needs to move around and engage physically before he’s able to process and “get” it, you may want to consider a school where the diversity not only makes it more likely that your child will be “seen” but that (s)he will also see himself in others. 

Truly gifted teachers know kids have various learning styles, and that the only way to be effective is to teach in the way students learn. And while it takes years of experience and training to recognize the different learning styles and effectively employ teaching methods that engage all students, you might find that teachers who do this best are tucked away in schools that wouldn’t initially be on your radar. They may even be hiding in the neighborhood school you’re avoiding.

So as you prepare to visit schools as a part of HISD’s Magnet Thursdays, which start this week and run through December, I encourage you to broaden your search. Be deliberate in thinking about the role diversity plays in how your child experiences school, both in and outside of the classroom. 

For a parent’s perspective on choosing a diverse school, check out Our School is Title I and We Like It. If you want to talk diversity in schools or about how to honor your children by choosing schools that fit them, email me at aisha@crumbineed.com


Boarding Schools: Don't sacrifice what's best for what's local


This morning, I had the absolute pleasure of sitting around the table with admissions counselors from The Ten Schools, a group of ten distinguished college preparatory schools in the country. Present today were Phillips Academy, The Taft School, Choate Rosemary Hall, St. Paul, The Hotchkiss School, Deerfield and Phillips Exeter, seven of the country's highest performing schools. We spent the time discussing what we can be doing collectively to encourage more families to take advantage of the enormous opportunities these schools provide. 

I don’t have to tell you how competitive it is getting into a great school in Houston or how the supply lags so far behind the demand that we could open full schools with the number kids on waitlists. The variety here is good, but many students find themselves unable to find or get into a school that meets both their academic as well as personal needs. In my work with families, I encourage parents and students to first take a long look at who their kids are right now and then spend time figuring out where they want their kids to be academically and personally four years from now. My job is to guide them through that process and help them figure out which schools are likely to help their son/daughter get from here to there. Sometimes those schools are within our city limits. Other times, the schools here are good but they aren’t the best for their son or daughter. When that happens, I ask parents, “Is it more important that your child be in the place where they feel like home–where they can thrive and have their academic and personal development needs met? Or is it more important that they be home?”

Parents pause.

Every parent wants to know which school is the best. What if I told you that the best school for your child wasn’t in Houston? That there was a school where your son or daughter could thrive beyond your wildest hopes and dreams for them? What if I told you that despite the myths you’ve heard, sending your son or daughter to boarding school doesn’t mean you love them less? Your love for your child is a constant, no matter near or far. What if I told you that your daughter could learn to be a better advocate for herself with the deliberate, proactive support and advising at a boarding school? What if I told you that your son, surrounded by students from over 26 states and 10 countries, could be challenged to see–literally visit and see–the world from various perspectives while being pushed to grow academically and personally? That your budding young adult could be in the place where he can become the best version of himself because he’s in the school that is the perfect fit for him?  

Every single parent wants their child to be in a place where s/he can develop confidence, grow academically, find their passion, and more importantly find their place in the world. Sure, those things happen in Houston, but sometimes they don’t and families shouldn't sacrifice what's best for what's local. 

So I ask you, “Is it more important that your child be in the place where they feel like home–where they can thrive and have their academic and personal development needs met? Or is it more important that they be home?”