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School Flight Part 2: Not everyone chooses to leave neighborhood schools

Special Report: School Flight

Many parents ignore conventional wisdom about class and race and enroll in neighborhood schools. Some see a resurgence at Adams, TeWinkle and Estancia.

September 05, 2011|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com

"I think teachers can teach efficiently at both levels, but many teachers are not equipped to do that," said Eunice Pimentel, a team leader at Families and Schools Together (FAST), a Wisconsin-based global nonprofit that works locally with Westside parents. "While it can be done in a perfect world, it's not happening now."

Pimentel believes bilingual education, which is generally prohibited in California schools, is a better model.

Still, the holdout parents insist any student can excel at these schools.

"I have never had any doubts at all that they are getting the best education possible," said Julie Alighee, a PTA board member and a parent of an Adams student who spoke during a "community information night" designed to promote Adams to Mesa Verde parents.

She and other Mesa Verde mothers climbed the stage in Adams' multipurpose room and talked about how satisfied they were with the teachers and the school's offerings.

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Dora Danesi, whose son Jackson will be starting sixth grade there, agrees.

"I do feel he is challenged," she said.

Jackson scored perfectly on a state standardized math test, she said, and he participates in programs designed for advanced students.

Another mother, Mella Hume, says her son Max excelled once his Adams teacher identified his reading strengths.

Max attended Christ Lutheran School in Costa Mesa before the family moved to Mesa Verde, but they decided to give Adams a shot when they met some satisfied parents in a youth soccer league. He had been struggling in reading at Christ Lutheran and the family had to pay more for tutoring, but as soon as he started at Adams his teacher realized his problem and Max outshined his past performance.

"Immediately, the teacher figured out he wasn't a fiction [book] kid," said Hume, whose children attend Adams, TeWinkle and Estancia.

Besides academics, some parents are drawn to the public schools serving Mesa Verde because they are socioeconomically and ethnically mixed, they say, and knowing people from other backgrounds can help later in life. Experts generally agree.

"All the children at integrated schools, from all backgrounds, learn to understand and work across ethnic lines," said Gary Orfield, a professor of education at UCLA and the co-director of university's Civil Rights Project.

At the elementary level, kids can form impressions based on experience instead of stereotypes.

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