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01-07-2010 01:14 PM
Things I could think of:
Pros of elementary--it's the start of formal education; it's long;
Pros of high--teenagers are more prone to bad influence; it's close to college
Another thought is that most families build their financial wealth gradually--so if families with younger kids will find it more difficult to avoid bad elementary schools (move or send kids to private school). In this sense, shoudn't elementary school be the more important factor in choosing a house?
Thanks for your input.
01-07-2010 02:17 PM
I have one left in high school and one in college. I think quality, safe education is important in all levels.
When the kids were pre-school age I focused on elementary schools and in hind site can say that an elementary school education is easier for parents to augment than middle/high school age. If the elementary school offers safety hazards with other students then that might not be the best choice.
If I were buying a home in a decent school district that all schools met my basic standards and some exceeded them I would buy into the boundary of the best high school. Yes things can a will change. The standards have been set and its a parent expectation that the school continue in an achieving direction.
How well does the high school prepare students for college both academically and with what they need to do (extra curricular, volunteering ...) to get into and get scholarships to college? (if that is your expectation)
It would be much easier to fill in gaps and help an elementary student grasp reading, math, language arts and science that it would be to do so in high school. My kids went to two great elementary schools. Each teacher had their pet focus. One year writing was a big focus over math. We did math games that year to compensate and that son improved his writing and stayed on top of math.
01-07-2010 05:18 PM
High school hands down. I am going through this dilemma right now. Due to financial reasons, we had to take our younger 2 kids out of parochial school in 3 and 5th grades and put them in public. They are now in 6 and 8th. We are now moving because the elementary and middle school years, you still have some say in friends and where they can go. Those ages can't get into as much mischief as high school with possible drivers. I do not like my designated high school. I have learned from my 20 year old that who they hang with makes all the difference in the world. Kids start to pull away from their parents usually around 13 and that is when enviroment makes all the difference. If we can't move, I am willing to go into huge debt to send the younger 2 back to parochial school because I feel high school is that important.
Didn't mean to rant, but it is fresh on my mind at the moment...lol.
01-08-2010 06:02 PM
How does one know if a school is good or not? By a test score? by the number of kids who receive free lunch? by the number (or lack thereof ) immigrants?
We were in one of the best schools in Fairfax county. Yes, the kids do well on tests. Yes, it's a mostly affluent area. Guess what? The number of immigrants are lower. The number of low income housing students is lower. Does that mean the teachers are better? Does that mean the organization of the school fits your child's needs?
Those schools pretty strictly taught to the SOL exams to make sure they got high scores- they live and die by those tests, but does it really mean it's a good education?
Before living in Fairfax County we lived in West Des Moines and in Waterloo, Ontario Canada. yes, good schools were chosen, but they were a 'mixed' school of all populations and you know what? Those schools were better. A. they were smaller so there was less bureaucracy and children got more attention in class. B. There was less pretentiousness going on and C. Teachers were TOP NOTCH who had been teaching for years and years and really loved their jobs for the most part. This middle/high school in Fairfax? Mostly new teachers still learning their way and a bit too 'tight' in their rules when dealing with teens (not accepting late assignments, not super clear with directions etc)... just too green.
Now we moved to a school that on paper looks worse than where we moved from. More low income students, more diversity. BUT... it's smaller, already the teachers are in better contact with me and my 8th grader feels more accepted and more taken care of in this environment than in any of the grades 3-8th in Fairfax 3 schools he attended. The people are more 'real' and it feels like a normal community with the rich and poor together and so on.
I used to rely on just the test scores, because what else do you have to go on? But when the tests of Virginia are different from those of Maryland which are different from those of DC... are they testing to the same level? What 'interference' does the school have to get those super high scores.
When I see a score of a HS that has an average SAT say of 1100, I look to see the school make up - Hmmm... mostly white, no or low number of immigrants and minorites.
Immigrants and minorities and low income students will almost always lower the schools test scores because the lower scores of disadvantaged students pull down the overall scores for the school - so it's not a fair comparison. Only if you compared the 'white kids' to the white kids of middle class does it really start to make a difference.
That's why when the HS rankings come out and Thomas Jefferson HS ranks top for years, it's no surprise - HELLO it's a magnet school in a HUGE area, mostly middle and affluent students, and low number of minorities and immigrants - not so hard to be top notch. The school that REALLLLLY impressed me on that list of top HS (they were top ten) was a school in NYC where more than half the kids were low income and minority. THAT shows a good school with good education because they have some more odds stacked against them. Try doing well in school if you have a single parent who works two jobs and had to drop out of HS because of being a teen mom and you live in a neighborhood of like families. Compare that to the college graduate, helicopter parents where there is a mom and dad and mom stays home and volunteers at the school.
Sorry.. this is a beef of mine!
So.... to answer - all levels of schools are equally important in my book, but don't go by test scores alone. Check the crime activity, see how the vibe or safety is with the school and talk to other parents if you can - that's a truer meassure than a test score.
01-09-2010 10:02 AM
There are many ways at looking at schools and each parent looking for good schools have to come up with their criteria. Each child has a distinct learning style that if matched with a school/teacher will excel.
For me test scores are a part of the big picture. I look at district/schools websites to see what they show. I visit schools and try to talk to parents. I look at the curriculum (especially for upper levels) along with the extracurricular activities.
What I've learned is even if a child excels in an average high school they don't always have the foundations for success in college or even to fill out applications to college.
Our oldest (in college) attended a magnet school for math and science and excelled there. It fit him perfectly. The school had a lottery system to get in and was made up of all sorts of backgrounds from extremely poor to extremely rich. The high school he attended did not challenge him and his study habits were not the best. He took passed every AP test he took and many of these tests were for classes he didn't take. On the other hand his cousin at a different high school has homework every day at a very academically demanding school.
01-09-2010 03:10 PM - edited 01-09-2010 03:24 PM
01-09-2010 07:32 PM
Immigrants are too diverse to be classified as one group. Don't you know that almost half of Thomas Jefferson's and a quarter of Harvard's student body consist of Asians? How many Asians are allowed to stay in this county? Not many!Message Edited by Depair on 01-09-2010 03:24 PM
Yes I know how many at TJ , but when those kids are in grade school and don't speak English yet, there scores are lower. Plus, different kids and different groups come from different backgrounds with differing cultural tendencies - these are HUGE generalizations. But many Asian families and the culture in general make education their top priority. Groups and family from other areas may not as much. Add in disadvantaged groups and scores come down.. I'm not spouting nonsense. I've worked in college admissions and have seen it all.