Author Topic: Should I worry about my kid's high school?  (Read 3413 times)

Scandium

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Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« on: May 16, 2017, 10:27:02 AM »
Still a decade+ off, but I'm wondering if I should start worrying about the high school my kids would eventually go to. As it looks now it's an "underachiever", to put it mildly.
At the risk of oversharing, it's this one: http://www.greatschools.org/maryland/columbia/790-Hammond-High-School/

Tests scores in algebra is 4% and 14%?! Wow, that's bad. AP participation also very low. The area is pretty nice, but there are a bunch of grimy, shady looking apartments near the school, which probably contribute some of the less than stellar students. With the devaluing of college degrees going on, it seems more and more important to get into a good, proper college (as opposed to a glorified sports facility with a diploma mill attached..). I worry that without a good HS that could be difficult.

More or less a few blocks over from us are excellent high schools. And home prices are barely much more than our current. So would it be a mistake to not just move a few blocks and possible give my kids a better chance? Almost seems stupid not to.. Of course this could all change in the next 10 years, but something I will keep an eye on. What are people's thoughts on moving because of schools? How bad does it have to be?



secondcor521

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2017, 11:18:30 AM »
Lots of people look at schools when deciding where to live...so much so that the schools are listed on most real estate listings around here (and elsewhere in the country I believe).

One thing I would point out, since you mentioned moving a few blocks.  Every so often around here, they'll redraw the school boundary lines, either because the population has shifted or because they've built a new school.  Were I in your shoes, I'd try to mitigate against the possibility of moving a few blocks across the line and then have them move the line so you're on the wrong side of the line compared to where you want to be.  You could do this by moving right next to the high school, moving a bit later in time so there is less chance of it happening and/or you could be grandfathered in if your kid is already in high school, and/or talking to the schools / school districts to get an idea of how things are moving in your area.

There is a good public school across town that is overly full because that area of town built up more than they thought it would when they built the high school, which has turned out to be one of the best public schools in the state.  We have open enrollment where you can enroll your kid in any public school if there's room, and that high school doesn't even do open enrollment.  With my daughter starting high school, I actually considered renting an apartment in that area in order to qualify her to go to that school (I own a house in another part of the city); they can't turn you away if you live in their area of service.  She ended up choosing a private high school which is closer but expensive.  She likes the environment there, though, and almost every kid there is college-prep, which is not true of the public schools.  Worth paying for?  Gosh, I hope so.
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meatface

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2017, 11:23:23 AM »
It doesn't sound like there is any downside to moving in your case.

People move all the time for schools. My wife and I are going to move in the next few years for this exact reason. The schools here are *fine*, but not too far away are some of the best schools in the country and the houses are much cheaper. Sometimes it's a no-brainer.

bender

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2017, 11:49:39 AM »
Another vote for moving.  We are in a similar situation with mediocre-to-poor schools.  We opted for private school instead of moving.  The housing costs are much higher in the better districts, and there aren't any great public schools around us.

iowajes

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2017, 11:59:15 AM »
I would not move a decade before you need the school. The school could change the boundaries could change. Rather I would just have a plan to move 2 to 3 years before it's time to go maybe when your child switches from elementary school to Middle School since that's a school change anyway

Scandium

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2017, 11:59:43 AM »
It doesn't sound like there is any downside to moving in your case.

People move all the time for schools. My wife and I are going to move in the next few years for this exact reason. The schools here are *fine*, but not too far away are some of the best schools in the country and the houses are much cheaper. Sometimes it's a no-brainer.

Well, to be clear there is some cost to moving. Houses would likely go from $400k now to $500k range. If my wife suddenly wants a bigger house/kitchen at the same time she might want a $600k one.. Though if rates are still low most of that will just be building equity so I don't have a huge problem with it, within reason. And still a better investment than $20k/year private school, x2.

Scandium

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2017, 12:01:39 PM »
I would not move a decade before you need the school. The school could change the boundaries could change. Rather I would just have a plan to move 2 to 3 years before it's time to go maybe when your child switches from elementary school to Middle School since that's a school change anyway

yeah that's definitely the plan. Oldest is 12 years from HS, so got a decade or so. Do like the neighborhood we're in now though. More walkable than some others around. Except for the HS. Elementary and middle are great too.

spookytaffy

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2017, 01:41:40 PM »
If your kids are 10 years from high school, then will their elementary school provide enough of a strong background for them to be successful in the other high school? Wouldn't want them to spend 10 years in elementary/middle school in a subpar environment and then struggle in the "good" high school.  Something to think about.  (I'm in education so I know the difference a good foundation makes!)

Scandium

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2017, 02:27:12 PM »
If your kids are 10 years from high school, then will their elementary school provide enough of a strong background for them to be successful in the other high school? Wouldn't want them to spend 10 years in elementary/middle school in a subpar environment and then struggle in the "good" high school.  Something to think about.  (I'm in education so I know the difference a good foundation makes!)

That's whats a bit frustrating. Our elementary is great (9 or 10) middle is good (8 I think). Just the high school is poor/below-average. Almost all (if not all) other public high schools in this town are much better.

Mr. Green

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2017, 03:07:03 PM »
A decade is a long time. School's change. You never know, by the time your oldest is going to school it could be a good school.
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ysette9

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2017, 03:17:19 PM »
I don't know how it is in your area, but in mine the API scores and ratings on this type of site almost exclusively are a reflection of 1) the % of students in poverty and 2) the % of English-language learners. These two, often overlapping demographics struggle and their poor test scores are not necessarily a reflection of the quality of the school, or more to the point, how YOUR kid will perform at that school. If you are educated and involved in your kids' lives, if you have good intelligence and hard work ethic, your kids are statistically likely to do just fine no matter where they go.

I realize that doesn't necessarily ease your fears,  it like others have said, ten years is a long time away and lots can change in that time.
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ENT Doc

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2017, 06:25:00 PM »
You should worry.  You are doing the right thing by being concerned.  I'd move for several reasons - and I'd make damn sure I wasn't flirting with any school lines and would research their history of changing them.  First, I'd rather have my child be with classmates in elementary school that feed to the middle school that feed to the good high school.  Second, home values tend to hold and do better in areas with good high schools.  Third, kids learn good studying habits from the parents initially but at some point they need to learn to be independent and self-motivated.  The students that are surrounding your child will help to drive them to succeed.  Sink or swim.  When I think back on what made me succeed in high school and college it was the fact that I was surrounded by smart kids who were busting their ass.  That made me want to do the same.  It's a culture thing.  Good habits for life are learned in those years, and there is no price that can easily quantify that.  I'd move in a heartbeat, especially for the prices you're describing.

MayDay

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2017, 07:04:33 PM »
I will counter many of the PP's a little.

I most schools, once your kid is on the AP/gifted track, they are only in classes with other AP kids. It doesn't really matter whether there are 6 sections of AP English or one-time your kid will be in it. Your kid will not be in remedial pre-algebra.

That's why all the data shows that the best predictor BN of success isn't the great schools ranking, it's the parents.

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KCM5

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2017, 08:44:34 AM »
When you say AP participation is low, does that mean not many AP classes are offered? Or just that not a large percentage take the classes? I went to a school without a lot of AP classes (we were just a small school) and I really think I missed out. I definitely could have graduated earlier or studied abroad, which my class load in college didn't allow.

Also, our district has a magnate program where the kids that take a lot of advanced classes are enrolled in their main high school, but take classes at the central magnate campus. In that way, the school attended really doesn't matter - they all take the same great advanced classes together somewhere else. Does your district have anything like that?

zhelud

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2017, 10:21:24 AM »
That website you refer to (greatschools.org) gives my kids' HS a 6 out of 10.  But rankings like the Washington Post's Challenge Index regularly score it as one of the top high schools in the country. (And I tend to agree with WaPo, it is a truly excellent school.)  So take those internet ratings with a grain of salt. Far better to get off your computer and talk to actual parents.

Milizard

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2017, 11:09:27 AM »
You should worry about your kids' peer group.  Also, moving schools in the middle of their educational career could be difficult for them socially, or not, depending on their personalities.  I have a 1st grader in a good local school who has lots of great friends, plays in sports leagues with them, and participates in scouts with them.  We had initially thought we might move later on to an even better school district, but now worry about him losing friends, and maybe struggling to fit into the other school if we do move.   It's still early, but I think we'll probably stay in the current district now.

Cranky

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2017, 03:58:59 PM »
You know what test scores tell you? The socio-economic class of the kids who attend that school. And that's pretty much it.

Laura33

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2017, 07:12:57 AM »
That website you refer to (greatschools.org) gives my kids' HS a 6 out of 10.  But rankings like the Washington Post's Challenge Index regularly score it as one of the top high schools in the country. (And I tend to agree with WaPo, it is a truly excellent school.)  So take those internet ratings with a grain of salt. Far better to get off your computer and talk to actual parents.

This.  My HS is rated a 5 on that website.  I can tell you from personal experience that that is full of shit -- I went there, I was a NMS and went to a nationally-ranked SLAC, my DD goes there now, she is on the honors track and in challenging AP classes, etc. etc. etc.  As a junior, for example, she will have Project Lead the Way (two engineering classes), AP Physics, and Calculus AB, along with AP English and AP History.  And she has a great friend group of interesting, quirky kids.

The problem is, as many others have said, that we just draw from more of a mixed area than the higher-ranked schools -- we have more poor kids and minorities who have not had the same advantages growing up and so who don't perform as well on those stupid state standardized tests.  You have the same issue -- looks like you are more toward the Elkridge side than the Columbia side, and there is a pretty good socioeconomic split depending on which side of I-95 you are on (yes, I am nearby -- I don't know that particular school, though, but I am hypothesizing based on the similar demographic split to my area).  But if you have a smart kid who is on the honors track, that will not affect you at all.

I would say, before you freak out, go visit the school talk to the principal, talk to parents who have actually sent their kids there.  In our neighborhood, we have a MS that everyone talks trash about, primarily because it draws from poorer areas -- well, lucky us, my son is zoned to go there next year.  (Irony alert: this highly-disparaged MS scores a point *higher* on this website than the HS that these same people happily send their kids to).  But if you actually talk to the teachers, they *love* the school, and the parents who didn't run away speak well of it as well.  Yeah, I'm not particularly happy, but it's because of the distance (he can't walk home safely -- no sidewalks, would have to cross a major highway) and the social aspects (they divided our neighborhood so that literally all of his friends are going to the other MS).  Academically, he will do fine.

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trollwithamustache

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2017, 08:51:52 AM »
Have you ever heard of the "Rural Advantage"? Basically the argument my Aunt made was no one from the low score/rural HS actually applies to high end schools. So if you are smart and do well from one of those places you are more diverse than the next white kid from the fancy suburban HS.

This worked pretty good for two of my cousins. Its tough though because there were certainly more distractions and less savory elements they had to avoid as well.

Scandium

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #19 on: May 19, 2017, 12:42:08 PM »
You know what test scores tell you? The socio-economic class of the kids who attend that school. And that's pretty much it.

This is certainly something I keep in mind. A HS further north is rated 9/10, but is well below state average of minority students, and almost no poorer ones. Then reviews talk of rich parents who push their kids extremely, clique nature of the school, "you're not rich you'll be shunned" etc. Teachers/school isn't necessarily good, it's just the doctor/lawyer parent's pushing their kids (most of which probably on depression drugs..)

The school one neighborhood over is more diverse and sound like a genuinely good school though. I'll spend the next 10 years scoping out streets and keeping eye on new zillow listings. Unfortunately we really love the location of our current house, so can only hope to find something equally set-back with access to walking trails..

jeninco

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #20 on: May 19, 2017, 03:48:48 PM »
You have time, so learn about the culture of the school. (Get to know families who have kids there. Volunteer there -- they can always use someone to help out, and even being there for single-day events like check-in/locker day is helpful. Or volunteer there in the tutoring center!)

Stuff to find out:
Do they offer AP classes? How many? (This is relevant if you think your child will be taking these). Who is in these classes?
Do they offer (whatever sport your kid will be passionate about)? How about sports your kid might enjoy, but isn't his/her major passion?
What's the culture of the school around sports/academics?
What kind of academic supports are offered to kids who need help?
How does the school help the students mingle between groups? Is it super-clique-y, or do the kids all seem to more-or-less get along?
How does the school integrate freshmen? Are they dunked in the creek, or do they have a support class with older students as mentors? ( <-- actual example)

One thing we found helpful all the way through school was this: See if you can sit in on an academic class that your kid will probably be taking. Sit in the back quietly, but pick out the student who reminds you of who your kid might grow into. How does that kid engage with the teacher and the other students, and vice-versa? (Also useful in evaluating middle schools, and elementary schools.)


TheStachery

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #21 on: May 19, 2017, 04:40:48 PM »
My kids are 6 and 9 and my wife is already got us on the path to move before middle and HS because she is aware of which are the better schools.    And we live in a county that has some of the best schools in the state.  They are also talking about a rezone and she read the proposal back to front.  It's not that long off and it's never too early to think about these things.


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cacaoheart

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #22 on: May 23, 2017, 01:40:41 PM »
they can't turn you away if you live in their area of service. 

Where I live, some of the best high schools are sufficiently full that enrollment is only guaranteed to people who lived in their service area prior to a certain time. No one that has moved there in the last few years is certain of getting a spot, even if they live next door, but if they moved there 10 years ago and are now high school age, they get in.

the_fella

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #23 on: June 03, 2017, 07:10:42 PM »
Idk if they do this in your city, but in mine, the public schools do something called "open enrollment". It's designed to be a major pain in the ass for school bus drivers. Jk. Though it probably was. It means that any child who lives within the city limits can attend any public school in the city's public school system, regardless of where in the city they live. That's why we often have kids on one side of the city going to a school on the complete opposite side of the city. There are a couple of schools in the city considered "good". Most of the others are pretty ghetto, tbh. Some of them even have armed guards and/or police officers in the school.

a1pharm

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #24 on: July 13, 2017, 11:46:22 AM »
In order to answer the question, let me see if I have your motivations correct:

Reasons to stay: you like the location, the house is cheaper

Reasons to leave: the high school is currently rated low

Other relevant info: the "good" high school is a few blocks further away

This might sound like a stupid question, but why don't you just stay where you are and have your kid go to the other school?  If you are forced to pay to make this happen, is the price differential less than the amount you would have to spend on a different house?

Given that the US educational system is still hung over from the No Child Left Behind nonsense, we might see significant changes in schooling over the next decade (you know, because the incentives changed).

Chesleygirl

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #25 on: July 13, 2017, 01:59:40 PM »
Property values tend to be lower in worse school districts and also homes near apartment buildings. (That's what an experienced realtor told me).

CupcakeGuru

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #26 on: July 13, 2017, 02:39:50 PM »
That website you refer to (greatschools.org) gives my kids' HS a 6 out of 10.  But rankings like the Washington Post's Challenge Index regularly score it as one of the top high schools in the country. (And I tend to agree with WaPo, it is a truly excellent school.)  So take those internet ratings with a grain of salt. Far better to get off your computer and talk to actual parents.

+1. Just remember that part of the "score" on GreatSchools are reviews. A couple of bad reviews can bring a score down.

jezebel

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #27 on: July 13, 2017, 02:51:12 PM »
That website you refer to (greatschools.org) gives my kids' HS a 6 out of 10.  But rankings like the Washington Post's Challenge Index regularly score it as one of the top high schools in the country. (And I tend to agree with WaPo, it is a truly excellent school.)  So take those internet ratings with a grain of salt. Far better to get off your computer and talk to actual parents.

+1. Just remember that part of the "score" on GreatSchools are reviews. A couple of bad reviews can bring a score down.

Can you point to something that says that?  I read up on more than a couple schools that have very low ratings and universally high reviews.  I assumed that test scores were a big factor.

a1pharm

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #28 on: July 13, 2017, 03:38:29 PM »
That website you refer to (greatschools.org) gives my kids' HS a 6 out of 10.  But rankings like the Washington Post's Challenge Index regularly score it as one of the top high schools in the country. (And I tend to agree with WaPo, it is a truly excellent school.)  So take those internet ratings with a grain of salt. Far better to get off your computer and talk to actual parents.

+1. Just remember that part of the "score" on GreatSchools are reviews. A couple of bad reviews can bring a score down.

Go look on the website.  If they don't disclose exactly how they come up with their "scores" you probably shouldn't trust any of it.  I tend to avoid hand waving and magical thinking, and trusting secret formulas is also in the same bucket.

Can you point to something that says that?  I read up on more than a couple schools that have very low ratings and universally high reviews.  I assumed that test scores were a big factor.

bridget

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #29 on: July 13, 2017, 04:10:08 PM »
In addition to the number of AP classes offered, look at who is teaching them and the pass rates (when you get closer).  I went to a high school in a middle-class neighborhood, and AP teachers varied wildly in quality.  For instance, at my high school we had fewer than 5 people per year, on average, who passed the AP Physics test.  When I told my FIL that a few years later (an AP Physics teacher at a very poor Title I school), he was appalled.  He regularly gets 90% pass rates with much more disadvantaged kids.  I showed him my little brother's syllabus, and he said that the teacher at my high school (who did not give a shit) wasn't even getting to 60% of the tested material during the school year.  My AP European History teacher mostly showed us the model airplanes he made and made long sales pitches for the euro trip he hosted every summer; we pretty much never did practice essays to prepare for the test. 

(To be fair, the AP English, World History, Art History, and Calculus teachers at my school were phenomenal, I'm just saying the presence of AP classes alone is not necessarily the info you need to know).   

jezebel

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #30 on: July 13, 2017, 05:35:14 PM »
That website you refer to (greatschools.org) gives my kids' HS a 6 out of 10.  But rankings like the Washington Post's Challenge Index regularly score it as one of the top high schools in the country. (And I tend to agree with WaPo, it is a truly excellent school.)  So take those internet ratings with a grain of salt. Far better to get off your computer and talk to actual parents.

+1. Just remember that part of the "score" on GreatSchools are reviews. A couple of bad reviews can bring a score down.

Go look on the website.  If they don't disclose exactly how they come up with their "scores" you probably shouldn't trust any of it.  I tend to avoid hand waving and magical thinking, and trusting secret formulas is also in the same bucket.

Can you point to something that says that?  I read up on more than a couple schools that have very low ratings and universally high reviews.  I assumed that test scores were a big factor.
What is handwaving and magical thinking a reference to?

I never considered whether great schools, etc was trustworthy because I don't care.  I visted schools and talked to a lot of neighborhood parents who send their kids to them before making a decision.  That's how you truly get a feel for a school.

Mustache ride

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #31 on: July 17, 2017, 07:36:37 PM »
Personally I think it's who you surround yourself with, and if there's more bad than good, the chances increase that they will copy that behavior. With that said, I was a terrible student in the nice school and didn't care about education. I had good parents and eventually got my act together, just a bit later than most. 
« Last Edit: August 18, 2017, 05:26:48 PM by Mustache ride »

Lepetitange3

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #32 on: July 17, 2017, 08:04:51 PM »
How many kids do you have?  Is it cheaper to spend 100k more on a home in a better district or to plan to pay for private school at the high school level.  The MD area has enough competition in private schools that last I knew they hadn't climbed too crazy high.

meatface

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #33 on: July 19, 2017, 12:00:51 PM »
If your kids are 10 years from high school, then will their elementary school provide enough of a strong background for them to be successful in the other high school? Wouldn't want them to spend 10 years in elementary/middle school in a subpar environment and then struggle in the "good" high school.  Something to think about.  (I'm in education so I know the difference a good foundation makes!)

That's whats a bit frustrating. Our elementary is great (9 or 10) middle is good (8 I think). Just the high school is poor/below-average. Almost all (if not all) other public high schools in this town are much better.

Here's an interesting thought: The kids that currently make your elementary and middle schools ranked so high will continue on to the high school, so that by the time your kids get to high school, it will be ranked much higher. Possible?

Scandium

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Re: Should I worry about my kid's high school?
« Reply #34 on: July 19, 2017, 12:10:46 PM »
Hammond is not a very good HS. I went to one of the "nice" schools in the county and had a couple friends that I met through sports that went there. I know it's anecdotal evidence but they didn't amount to much. I actually lived across from Hammond for about a year while looking for a place to buy, and personally I wouldn't want my kid going there. I ending up buying in the WL district, but I'll move again to the "nicer" schools when it's time for my kid to start attending. As someone mentioned already, I think it's more important to have a good foundation in elementary and middle school, and you have a better chance that they ignore the bad stuff in HS. Personally I think it's who you surround yourself with, and if there's more bad than good, the chances increase that they will copy that behavior. With that said, I was a terrible student in the nice school and didn't care about education. I had good parents and eventually got my act together, just a bit later than most.

Thanks.
While I agree a good foundation is important, on the other it's what you do in HS and habits formed there, that can decide whether you get into a good college, and how well you do there.

Funny enough we saw a proposed redistricting plan recently which would put is unto one of the best HS around, the one we considered moving closer to. Of course this can change again in the next decade. We'll just have to keep an eye on it, and when the time comes move away from hammond if that's our school. Considering we could move to a much better school, and house prices aren't that much higher (if at all) it's probably the choice we'd make