Author Topic: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute  (Read 9175 times)

Greenbeard

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Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« on: November 13, 2013, 09:27:15 AM »
So I'm changing jobs.  Which means my current commute of 2 miles round trip is going to 19 miles round trip.

I'd love to move closer to my new work for 3 reasons, a shorter commute, cheaper houses and because I'd be moving to another state and eliminating state income taxes (5%).

But, the town I'll be working in has low school ratings, especially compared to my town.  Goodschools.org rates our current schools at 9 of 10.  This new town I'd be moving to is rated 4/10.

The houses in the new town are WAY cheaper than my current town, not surprisingly.  So I would probably eliminate my mortgage.

So in summary, I would trade school quality for a 5% raise, short commute and eliminate my mortgage.

Not sure I want to trade my kids future for money or convenience.  On the other hand, school is what you make of it.  I can spend the time I save commuting helping my kids learn outside school.  Plus I think I could shave a few working years off my FIRE goal.

Opinions?

historienne

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2013, 10:08:01 AM »
We are making similar calculations in deciding where to buy a house.  I'd try to get some qualitative impressions of the schools to help your decision.  The goodschools ratings are basically from test scores - which are, in turn, influenced by many things other than the quality of the schools.  You may find that there are some very good schools which still get mediocre test scores because they are working with a more difficult population (English language learners in particular, but also low-income students).  I'd ask around in the new town, maybe tour some schools, and try to get a feel for whether it seems like your specific kids would do well there.  This also means thinking about the particular needs of your kids - do you have a child who really needs a gifted and talented program?  Or special accommodations for a learning disability?  Or who is musically or athletically inclined, and therefore would thrive at a school with those kind of programs? 

Also, make sure you look at the full range of public school options - are there charter schools or magnets?  While those would likely be lottery-based, again, you can ask around to try to get a sense of how competitive they actually are to get in.

Greenbeard

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2013, 12:04:04 PM »
Are you married? What does your spouse do? Homeschooling is always an option if the local schools aren't up to snuff. We're weighing this now.

Married, spouse is home after school but currently training to be a dog groomer during "mother's hours". 

We wouldn't consider home schooling.  It's our belief that the social aspects of school are an important part of their education.

Guizmo

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2013, 12:40:32 PM »
I went to a crappy school. Graduation rate was 30%. I still went to an elite university and have a good job. As you said, school is what you put into it. I would say just make sure that they are putting your kids in the correct level classes. I probably should have had more advanced mathematics as I didn't learn anything new until 11th grade. You can also supplement much of their learning with the Kahn Academy.

As someone who came from a crappy school, I would move to the new town and just become more active in my kids' education.

Greenbeard

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2013, 12:46:41 PM »

Then I'd start digging further into what the school system offers. Do they have a gifted program where students are in separate classes much of the day? Are most students not very good, but the high school offers enough AP classes that your children will have a good learning environment with similarly motivated classmates?


That's good advice.  I have a close friend who lives in the town and has kids the same age as mine so I can get some good insights first hand.


dadof4

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2013, 12:47:23 PM »
Keep in mind that it's more than just schools. A low school grade is generally a symptom of a community. So your potential neighbors will also be more likely to be less educated, be poorer etc. It might not matter to some, but it's something to keep in mind.


NW Girl

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2013, 12:48:01 PM »
If it is your belief that the social aspects of school are extremely important (as I do), then I would definitely look closely at these schools above and beyond test scores. 

We recently were set to buy my grandparents house in the city I grew up in (but on the other coast from where we were then living).  I loved the city, house, neighborhood ... but the schools were rated poorly.  On a visit home, I toured the school and fell in love with the diversity, supportive and positive atmosphere and all of the innovative teaching this school was doing to help all students achieve.  Another advantage of this school, which was a Title 1 school, was that they received additional federal money to keep class sizes small. 

Ultimately, the job and move fell through, and we recently located to another city, but I sure miss that "underperforming" school.


Bruised_Pepper

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2013, 12:48:20 PM »
Also, might I add:

#FirstWorldProblems

OptimusFrugal

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2013, 12:50:41 PM »
You could change the problem entirely.  Think about changing to a different higher paying job that is within 3 miles of your current house.

auntbecky

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2013, 01:34:50 PM »
I find this also very interesting, as I am watching the housing situation to learn more.  The houses in the areas where we work are on average about 70K cheaper than where I live 15 miles away.  The school ratings are also going from 7/10 down to 1 and 2/10.  If we were to do a move similar to what is described, we could be out of a mortgage in 3-4 years, within walking/biking distance of works/schools/grocery, and in a larger sized but much older (1900) house.  That right there makes me want to just jump in and do it.  But the neighborhoods are rough as are the parks.  I'm still not sure how much of the "bad" part of town is just newspaper hype, or if I'd be introducing my children to new dangers by moving.

Nudelkopf

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2013, 02:05:25 PM »
Then I'd start digging further into what the school system offers. Do they have a gifted program where students are in separate classes much of the day? Are most students not very good, but the high school offers enough AP classes that your children will have a good learning environment with similarly motivated classmates?
That's good advice.  I have a close friend who lives in the town and has kids the same age as mine so I can get some good insights first hand.
This is important. But if your kids are 'average', and/or not bright enough to be in the top classes, then they might suffer. I teach students like this - they're lovely, they try really hard, and they want to do really well, but they've been put into classes with the 'dregs', and they truly suffer from it.  But if they are bright, then they'll probably do well no matter which school they're at.

chasesfish

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2013, 06:24:00 PM »
So I'm changing jobs.  Which means my current commute of 2 miles round trip is going to 19 miles round trip.

I'd love to move closer to my new work for 3 reasons, a shorter commute, cheaper houses and because I'd be moving to another state and eliminating state income taxes (5%).

But, the town I'll be working in has low school ratings, especially compared to my town.  Goodschools.org rates our current schools at 9 of 10.  This new town I'd be moving to is rated 4/10.

The houses in the new town are WAY cheaper than my current town, not surprisingly.  So I would probably eliminate my mortgage.

So in summary, I would trade school quality for a 5% raise, short commute and eliminate my mortgage.

Not sure I want to trade my kids future for money or convenience.  On the other hand, school is what you make of it.  I can spend the time I save commuting helping my kids learn outside school.  Plus I think I could shave a few working years off my FIRE goal.

Opinions?

So, can you describe what you mean by bad schools?  The definitions vary by community, where I grew up all the schools were fine, some were just better than others.

Now I'm in Atlanta and there are clearly some high schools that you don't send your kids to if you have two nickels to rub together, high transient population, gang issues, and communities full of broken homes.

There are good schools verses average schools, then there are decent schools verses schools with severe issues, which are usually very urban areas.

mm1970

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2013, 07:41:55 PM »
By "bad schools" he's probably just going on API scores, which translate to a score out of 10.  A "1" is bad, and means that school is at the bottom.

Our school district is bad.  We transferred out of a school that scored a 1 into a school that scored a 4.  Now our original school is a 3 and we are still a 4, but they are very close in ratings.

I looked at the demographics and the break down.  The school we transferred out of is >95% English learner.  The fact that they brought the overalls scores up 50 points in one year is pretty amazing.  But there are only about 9 Caucasians in the school (because the rest transfer out.  I think the % of students that transfer is about 20-30%).

The school we transferred to is approximately 60-75% English learner (depends on the year and transfers, a lot of Caucasians attempt to transfer to the school that gets a 10.  If they win the lottery - and it is just a lottery for the few spots every year, they score).  However if you look at the break down of test scores among the groups, the Caucasian students score just as well as the 9/10 school.  (Not that test scores are the be-all and end-all, but they are a metric.)

The question becomes, why are the schools low?  Is it the teachers?  (unlikely).  Likely it is related to the demographics.  How do the individual groups score in comparison?

I know that my sons will be fine.  His teachers are amazing and they give him extra work because he can handle it.  That is important.

Guizmo

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2013, 09:34:06 PM »

The question becomes, why are the schools low?  Is it the teachers?  (unlikely).  Likely it is related to the demographics.  How do the individual groups score in comparison?

I know that my sons will be fine.  His teachers are amazing and they give him extra work because he can handle it.  That is important.

As someone not white from a low performing public school that tested like students from the best schools, the reason is poverty. I have always been middle class and there was always the expectation in my household that I would go on to college and become a professional. I can't say that was the case for most of the students in my school.

You are also right about the teachers. One of my friends taught at one of the worst testing schools in the state. There was a lot of push to close down the high school and replace it with two charter schools. The teachers in the public school were demonized during this process. Once the politicians decided to shut down the school many of the teachers went on to teach at different schools. Oddly enough, several landed in one of the best public schools in the state. They recently received a $5k bonus for their excellent performance. The two charter schools are performing worse than the public school which will close this school year. This district is one of the poorest in the state.

Gray Matter

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2013, 04:49:02 AM »
You've gotten lots of good advice here, but I just can't resist chiming in.  :-)

Like others have pointed out, there are many reasons schools will rate lower and most of them have nothing to do with the quality of teaching that goes on in the school, but rather factors outside of school relating to the students body (poverty, education level of their parents, English learners, etc.).  Unless these issues cause serious disruption in the classroom, I believe a student can get as good an education at a lower performing school.

There is some research to back this up.  One study I read about (sorry I don't have a citation) tracked kids whose home school was a low-performing school and who had applied to a higher-performing school in the district.  The study followed the kids for something like 20 years and compared those who had gotten into the high-performing school vs. those who had not (lottery system).  There was no statistical difference in test scores, SAT scores, colleges attended, or salary after graduation--whatever the characteristics were that made them apply to the high-performing school seemed to make the difference, not the actual school attended.

Another recent study tracked kids who go to Catholic schools (test scores are generally higher among these students, leading many to believe the quality of their education is superior).  When tracked from the point of entrance, Catholic school students did not improve their test scores more than public school kids.  It's far less about the quality of education and more about the "quality" of student.  (Journal of Urban Economics, March 2014)

Article quoting study:  http://news.yahoo.com/catholic-education-no-better-public-schooling-study-suggests-154050558.html

As others have pointed out, there are other factors--is the neighborhood relatively safe?  Will your kids be free to play outside and go to the parks?  Are there enough people around with shared values that you and your children will feel a sense of belonging (if that's important to you)?

clarkm04

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #15 on: November 14, 2013, 08:06:16 AM »
My only concern for you is the student culture on your child and how he/she will react to this culture.

I'm a teacher that has taught at a wide range of schools (60% Free/Reduced lunches; 50% ESL to 2% F/R lunch; 0% ESL). 

The only color that matters with student achievement in my limited experience is green.  Middle class/rich parents and kids are fairly interchangeable and poor kids likewise have similar values as it pertains to school. 

Racism absolutely still exists, but as far as achievement goes rich black, brown and white students act universally at school whereas poor students, by and large, also have similar behaviors at school.

Some of the brightest minds I taught were at the "worst" performing school I worked at, but because it wasn't cool/socially acceptable to work hard, obey the teacher, much less go to college.  Students generally underperformed. (I have two interesting examples below.)

The two "high" performing schools I teach/taught at have just as many average/below average kids and yet they perform much better because the expectations at home and school culture is to succeed, work hard, pay attention, study, come in for extra assistance and college is absolutely expected (99% of our graduates attend 4 or 2 yr colleges).

Your child should be fine at this lower performing school (or any school outside of the absolute worse inner city schools), but if your child caves to peer pressure (and what child doesn't to some extent?), you'll have to work harder to ensure they are doing the things they are supposed to be doing or have consequences from you.
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Interesting Student interactions at the low performing school

Example #1
The brightest kid I taught at that school was in a gang.  Would only show up once every 15 days to avoid truancy and would knock out 2 weeks of work for me in one 90-minute block with just the book and the worksheets.  He would work quietly and every once in awhile raise his hand to ask questions.

I talked to him twice about how intelligent and awesome I thought he was, and he politely laughed both times and said school/college wasn't for him

Example #2
One of the brightest girls I taught and I had a conversation.  I asked her about her plans after high school.  What college or trade she was interested in given her intelligence and generally liking school.  Her response, "I'm not going to college.  No one in my family has even gone to college."

Me, "You would do well there, but if not what's your goal?"

Her, "Have a baby by 20?"

Me, "That's young and why 20?"

Her, "My mom had me at 18.  I figured being 20 I'll have a better live than her."
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If either of these kids were born into families that valued education, they'd both have gone to college.  Since their home structure sucked and education wasn't valued they most likely didn't.

Dee18

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2013, 08:51:56 AM »
For elementary school I found that a diverse student population (include 1/3 on free school lunch) was great.  Kids want to do what the teacher wants; after school programs provide supervision.  By middle school that changed significantly.  Kids begin to care much more about what their peers think, than adults.  Poor middle-school kids are often unsupervised after school. They come to school talking about having sex and drugs in the afternoon.  Teachers inevitably teach to the achievement level of the class, even though they try to personalize instruction. (Note:  a gifted program with one or two teachers for a whole school will not make a difference.)   I moved my daughter to a private school in 8th grade. The private school is actually more racially diverse, but much less economically diverse.  She has blossomed.  She is still in touch with old friends so we hear about how they read a few chapters of Moby Dick, while she is reading the full text, etc., both in AP classes.  Some of my daughter's comments:  "At {old school} it wasn't cool to be smart; at {new school} it isn't cool to be dumb."  "I think I should take a year of Latin (she was already taking Spanish and Mandarin) so I understand science terms better."  "I haven't had anything stolen since going to {new school}."  (At previous school she had boots, jacket, and jewelry items stolen over the years).   Just our experience...

auntbecky

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Re: Good Schools vs Shorter Commute
« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2013, 08:56:32 AM »
My only concern for you is the student culture on your child and how he/she will react to this culture.

Your child should be fine at this lower performing school (or any school outside of the absolute worse inner city schools), but if your child caves to peer pressure (and what child doesn't to some extent?), you'll have to work harder to ensure they are doing the things they are supposed to be doing or have consequences from you.

I like these points.  It gives me a lot to think about.  Our schools are higher (comparatively) performing, mostly middle/upper class and diversity is almost non-existent.  The lack of diversity makes me want to move.  My oldest of three is going into middle school next year.  He is great academically but tends towards goofing off and getting laughs.  My younger two seem much less likely to get into trouble from peer pressure.  A lot to think about!