girl in the classroom

Did you find choosing an elementary school as anxiety inducing as I did? Sifting through the information about public, charter, gifted and talented, and private options was so overwhelming—and it seemed like if I made the wrong decision for my kid when she was five years old I was basically dooming her to a life of failure. What if the elementary classroom I chose didn't give her the education she would need to set her up for success in middle grades, high school, and college? Would she end up working the pole? Living a substandard life somehow, robbed of her potential destiny because of my bad decision when she was five? I felt like there was a path from the "right" kindergarten to the Ivy League (or whatever "success" is), and I was tasked with finding it.

In the end, we decided to send our daughter to our zoned public elementary school. Like many families, we couldn't afford a private school. While public charter schools were an option, we didn't want to bus our daughter 45 minutes each way. Moving to a different school district wasn't possible for us, either. Our zoned school got positive reviews from other parents, and we liked the tour, so it seemed best for us. So far, we've been super happy with our decision. Our child is learning a ton, and she enjoys going to school. But, when I saw that the experts at college data website Niche have ranked public elementary schools I got a little nervous. What if our school has a bad grade?! All those old insecurities about dooming my kid came flooding back.

I cautiously entered our school's name into Niche's search box. (You can browse the list of the best, or enter your school's name in the search box and see its scores. (It also has rankings for the best school districts, best public middle schools, 50 smartest public high schools in the U.S., and best private high schools.) Our elementary school got ... a B. Not bad. I was relieved. Then I thought, who cares?

I know my daughter is getting a good education, and I don't need a website to tell me that. I'd give her school an A. Plus, where I sent her to kindergarten won't really determine her future. We don't need to be obsessed with this. Elementary school doesn't need to turn our kids into little Einsteins. It doesn't matter if her school is ranked as one of the best. There is no one path that leads to success or lifelong happiness. There are no right answers. It's scary, but liberating, too.

Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who is sure she will have plenty of other opportunities to screw up her kid's life—just kidding (sorta). Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

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