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School Flight Part 1: Why Mesa Verde families transfer out

Special Report

Citing test scores, economic differences with Westsiders, neighborhood families head en masse to Huntington Beach and private schools. But some are coming back.

September 03, 2011|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com

But advocates for the neighborhood schools point out that when you break down the scores, there is room for students to excel. White students score higher than first-generation Latinos, they say. Advocates hope that fact can entice some white Mesa Verde parents hesitant to put their children in classes alongside immigrant children, some of whom are just learning English.

Test scores, though, aren't a very good indicator of a school's worth anyway, some experts say.

"That is not the only measure of quality that you want to look at," Barbara Tye said. Parents should visit a school and get a "feel, rather than seeing a score on a page," she said.

Adams and TeWinkle teachers are top-quality and can help any child excel, say parents with kids enrolled there already, adding that to focus on test scores is shortsighted.

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"[Parents] don't stop to think about issues beyond the teachers' control," said Betsy Forbath, whose son is going to be a sixth-grader at Adams. "Many children are learning English as a second language, some are homeless, and others have parents who aren't accustomed to volunteering at school."

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Will my child fit in?

Those are some of the reasons parents say they pull their children from Adams. They point to class and cultural differences that they worry — without cause, some suggest — can get in the way of friendships, especially in elementary and middle school.

"It's kind of hard for a child to have a relationship with someone living in a motel," said Weichman, the real estate broker who pulled his son out of Adams.

The school, next to $800,000-plus homes, has 26 homeless students out of 460. Some of the poorest children live in motels along Harbor Boulevard or in low-cost Westside apartments. Because of the transient nature of poverty, many families quickly move on, thus severing friendships with their departures.

"[My son] tried to become buddies with them, and six months later they were gone," Weichman continued. " ... It just was not a great social environment."

The kids who live on the Westside also see the differences, particularly when it comes to socializing after school.

Susan Sanchez, who finished sixth grade at Adams last year, is friendly with the kids from Mesa Verde, but those relationships end when the last bell rings.

While that may be a function of geography, her mother Carmen says parents from the Westside sense a distaste toward them from some Mesa Verde parents, especially when they disparage Adams.

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