Author Topic: School district question  (Read 4132 times)

health.chris10

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School district question
« on: October 29, 2017, 01:10:13 PM »
Hello!
            My husband and I are considering moving closer to our hometown next fall (great job prospects for the both of us), and want to know peoples' thoughts on what school district to move too (our daughter will be starting kindergarten).

The one I want to move to is number #7 or so in the state, out of hundreds, and a genuinely good school. A rental in that area is very reasonable (under $1000 for a 2 bedroom) and we could search around and buy a home by the following year. The other areas where our families live (30 minutes in each direction) have similar housing and rental prices as well, but the schools have low ratings, they are not terrible, but not as good as the one mentioned above. The advantage though is that our daughter could go to the same school as her cousins, and go to a relatives after school vs. going to a new school alone (although making new friends has never been an issue so far) and having to perhaps pay for an afternoon school program (which is still reasonable, I think only $80 a month through the YMCA).

I know it sounds pretentious, but I want our daughter (and hopefully at some point, one more child) to have every advantage possible (and without having to spend too much). Every parents does, and I think it would be nice to finally be closer to family for once, but also know the importance of a good education. Thoughts?

« Last Edit: October 29, 2017, 01:17:14 PM by health.chris10 »

hal

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Re: School district question
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2017, 02:15:18 PM »
You can always visit family on weekends. You can’t change schools nearly as easily as you can make an effort to stay in touch with family. I’d go with the better district. It seems like a much more logical decision.

That being said, if the only factor were “good vs bad schools,” I have two cents of caution. I think that school district rankings are pretty unreliable. I say that as an educator. Generally, a district’s ranking (unless it is in the very, very bottom) is more a reflection of its students’ socioeconomic status than the teacher/school quality. SES is one of the biggest predictors of positive educational outcomes. Some rich schools look great on paper because the students do well because of their upbringing and privilege, not necessarily because of better teaching or bureaucracy.

mm1970

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Re: School district question
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2017, 02:49:44 PM »
Hello!
            My husband and I are considering moving closer to our hometown next fall (great job prospects for the both of us), and want to know peoples' thoughts on what school district to move too (our daughter will be starting kindergarten).

The one I want to move to is number #7 or so in the state, out of hundreds, and a genuinely good school. A rental in that area is very reasonable (under $1000 for a 2 bedroom) and we could search around and buy a home by the following year. The other areas where our families live (30 minutes in each direction) have similar housing and rental prices as well, but the schools have low ratings, they are not terrible, but not as good as the one mentioned above. The advantage though is that our daughter could go to the same school as her cousins, and go to a relatives after school vs. going to a new school alone (although making new friends has never been an issue so far) and having to perhaps pay for an afternoon school program (which is still reasonable, I think only $80 a month through the YMCA).

I know it sounds pretentious, but I want our daughter (and hopefully at some point, one more child) to have every advantage possible (and without having to spend too much). Every parents does, and I think it would be nice to finally be closer to family for once, but also know the importance of a good education. Thoughts?

What is closer to the jobs?

I emphasized that quote, because you are wrong about that.  While there's a certain subset of people (generally highly educated middle and upper middle class) people who feel that way, not everyone does.  In fact, our elementary school is *full* of parents (like me) who looked at the options and said:

- do I want my kid to go to the "best" school where many of the families are upper middle class - where the attitude is elitist, there aren't many poor kids, plenty of "keeping up with the Joneses", but hey, they can go on every sleep away field trip, and get all of the in school and after school extras you can imagine?

- or do I want my kid to go to an okay school with more middle class or poorer families, and get a more realistic view of life?

Generally, those of us who grew up lower to middle class, and had to put ourselves through school - we chose plan B.  On purpose.  And even when my kid got into the magnet GATE program, held at  "school A", we declined.  (Because honestly, what is it like when these kids get to HS, and more than half of the students are on free and reduced lunch?  Let me tell you, it's a culture shock for many of them.)

My kid gets a fine education at School B, even without those fancy camps.  I can pay for the damn camps if I want.  At least he's not betting for month-long vacations to Europe or an iPhone.


Which is why I suggest focusing on where your jobs are.  When I was in school (rural area), I was a nerd, and I really didn't have a choice of where to go to school.  Being a nerd was not the best thing, really, and there were times when I had no friends (because my friends decided they wanted to be more popular).  The one, bright shining exception was my cousins.  I had four.  Same age.  We hung out on the weekends, and it was GLORIOUS.  Even though we didn't "hang" in school.

I think you will have plenty of opportunity to play with the cousins and get together with family on the weekends.  I wouldn't choose my kids' school based on being in the same one as family UNLESS, geographically, the area makes more sense (shorter commute).

Quote
That being said, if the only factor were “good vs bad schools,” I have two cents of caution. I think that school district rankings are pretty unreliable. I say that as an educator. Generally, a district’s ranking (unless it is in the very, very bottom) is more a reflection of its students’ socioeconomic status than the teacher/school quality. SES is one of the biggest predictors of positive educational outcomes. Some rich schools look great on paper because the students do well because of their upbringing and privilege, not necessarily because of better teaching or bureaucracy.

Pretty much this.  I had a mom that I know come by our school festival yesterday.  Her daughter heads to kinder next year.  She was grilling me on why our school only gets a 5.  I said "two reasons".
1. we have the magnet programs for the disabled.  They actually give those kids standardized tests
2. English learners (who are also poor, predominantly).  For some reason, our school does not serve those students as well as other schools in the area.  Maybe because they are bussed.  Our English Origin students score AS WELL as the students at the other schools (including school A).  About 45% of our students are classified as EL, and the overall school ranking reflects that.

ysette9

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Re: School district question
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2017, 02:52:45 PM »
Quote
Generally, a district’s ranking (unless it is in the very, very bottom) is more a reflection of its students’ socioeconomic status than the teacher/school quality

This. Chances are if you are educated and make decent money and provide your kids a stable and enriching home life, they will do just fine, in whichever school. I know the The Economist had an issue on this subject a year or two back. I've also seen it in the dozens of schools in our area I've looked at online through Greatschools.org. There seems to be a very strong correlation between the overall school rating and the % of English language learners and the % of kids receiving free or subsidizes lunches.

From my personal experience I would advocate that good enough is good enough. Meaning, if the school has what you are looking for, whether that be band, or AP classes, or a language immersion program or whatever, and the school is reasonable for safety and funding and teachers, then that is good enough. I don't think your kid will do appreciably better in life if the band wins the state competitions versus just teaching kids music and entertaining parents at the occasional evening concert. My high school was completely middle-of-the-road and yet I still did honors and AP classes, academic decathlon, and went to Berkeley and Stanford. My friend who also went to Stanford (for the same master's degree) and works for the same company as me went to an elite high school with lots of pressure and competition. My high school years were a ton of fun with lots of friends and socializing. Hers was completely stressful. We both ended up at the same place. This is anecdotal which is not data, but I think the data back up my experience.

Cranky

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Re: School district question
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2017, 04:17:54 PM »
Kids get out of school what they take to school.

By and large, “good schools” is a code term for “white kids, upper middle class.”

maizefolk

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Re: School district question
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2017, 04:40:53 PM »
I agree that school district rankings aren't a good representation of the actual quality of the education provided by the teachers and schools in a district, but it doesn't have to mean wealthy and upper class kids.

I was a university brat in a small town growing up. Some of the students in my school district were the kids of professors (maybe a quarter). Probably another 1/3-1/2 were the kids of international grad students and postdocs at the university, with the balance coming from "townie" families. Property values in the town were terribly low, so the school district was woefully under funded. Facilities were decaying and over crowded (my middle school was condemned for black mold the year after I left for high school, lots of classes is temporary structures or trailers). Good teachers got poached away after a couple of years by better funded suburban districts in the nearest major city, bad teachers seemed to never leave or retire. The chapter on evolution in our textbooks was just skipped when biology was taught. We were still generally in the top five districts in the state based on student test scores, percent of students admitted to college, etc.

TL;DR Parents who value education and are educated themselves can compensate for a lot of failings on the part of the public education system in when it comes to school district rankings. Those things don't have to be synonyms for "wealthy" and "speaks english as a first language" (although admittedly sometimes they are).

mm1970

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Re: School district question
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2017, 04:45:23 PM »
Quote
Generally, a district’s ranking (unless it is in the very, very bottom) is more a reflection of its students’ socioeconomic status than the teacher/school quality

This. Chances are if you are educated and make decent money and provide your kids a stable and enriching home life, they will do just fine, in whichever school. I know the The Economist had an issue on this subject a year or two back. I've also seen it in the dozens of schools in our area I've looked at online through Greatschools.org. There seems to be a very strong correlation between the overall school rating and the % of English language learners and the % of kids receiving free or subsidizes lunches.

From my personal experience I would advocate that good enough is good enough. Meaning, if the school has what you are looking for, whether that be band, or AP classes, or a language immersion program or whatever, and the school is reasonable for safety and funding and teachers, then that is good enough. I don't think your kid will do appreciably better in life if the band wins the state competitions versus just teaching kids music and entertaining parents at the occasional evening concert. My high school was completely middle-of-the-road and yet I still did honors and AP classes, academic decathlon, and went to Berkeley and Stanford. My friend who also went to Stanford (for the same master's degree) and works for the same company as me went to an elite high school with lots of pressure and competition. My high school years were a ton of fun with lots of friends and socializing. Hers was completely stressful. We both ended up at the same place. This is anecdotal which is not data, but I think the data back up my experience.
For fun (because I'm a nerd), a couple of  years ago, I downloaded the statistics on about 20 different elementary schools in our area.

- % of English Language learners
- % of students on free lunch
- % Caucasian
- Overall school ranking

I loaded the data into my statistical analysis software and didn't really need to.  Excel would have been fine.  It was a straight line.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: School district question
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2017, 04:49:19 AM »
One statistic that is worthwhile is school safety. Are there regular arrests at the high school? Then you don't want to be in that district.

ejacobson

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Re: School district question
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2017, 05:00:27 AM »
Personally I would likely go for the better school. But I would first research the mid-range ones to see if they have attractive programs (robotics, coding, foreign languages, etc).

ysette9

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Re: School district question
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2017, 02:11:43 PM »
Quote
For fun (because I'm a nerd), a couple of  years ago, I downloaded the statistics on about 20 different elementary schools in our area.

- % of English Language learners
- % of students on free lunch
- % Caucasian
- Overall school ranking

I loaded the data into my statistical analysis software and didn't really need to.  Excel would have been fine.  It was a straight line.

What a fantastic contribution. Thank you for sharing. This is what I inferred from looking at schools individually, but I never thought to do the actual analysis. I should probably do that for my area just to confirm the same trend holds.

Ceredwyn

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Re: School district question
« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2017, 01:20:35 PM »
Based on personal experience of going from an average blue collar school district (average school in Mass, so I don't even know how awful an actually bad school would be...) to an affluent top of the state district, I think school district is hugely important. I know a lot of people think that school rankings are flawed because of economic advantages but IMO that's a feature, not a bug.

As a parent you don't care about whether the rankings reflect teaching quality, you care about whether they affect outcomes for your child. From that perspective, I think being surrounded by classmates from "advantaged" households is a huge benefit in terms of fostering ambition and teaching them that they have to compete for good outcomes. It also helps that the teachers were better paid but honestly the problem with the mediocre school district wasn't the teachers, it was a negative & infectious environment where kids didn't care about school.

I know everyone likes to think that parents can offset this but in my experience that was 100% not the case; the few kids who tried to exhibit genuine intellectual curiosity were bullied and eventually squandered their potential in the blue collar town. They did better than the meatheads, but not by much. On the flip side, in the affluent school district you had maybe 50 kids who each individually would have been the valedictorian at a worse school; to me that is more important life experience if your kid later wants to compete for a job at Google or a PHD program at Harvard...
« Last Edit: October 31, 2017, 01:36:00 PM by Ceredwyn »

Sibley

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Re: School district question
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2017, 02:49:42 PM »
My good friend is a teacher at a private Catholic school. In the past 10 years, they've gone from A to now D - with generally the same teachers and administration. The difference is the kids. 10 years ago, all the kids were from families that were paying tuition. Then they started doing school waivers. The % of kids attending on the waiver has gone up gradually, and is now somewhere around 50-60%. These kids are uniformly poor, many are English learners, and there's a good sprinkling of learning disabilities, most of them not yet diagnosed.

If I had kids, and didn't mind the Catholic school, I'd send them to that school without considering. It's a good school. The test scores reflect the student's realities. It's very hard to learn if you're still trying to learn English or are hungry.

ysette9

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Re: School district question
« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2017, 03:25:01 PM »
It sounds like in your case you were not able to separate yourself from the “meatheads” in school with bad results. In my so-so high school we had honors and AP classes which allowed there to be multiple tracks of people. Those who excelled and pushed themselves, regular people, slackers/stoners, the English language learners, etc. That critical mass and ability to pursue an accelerated track was likely clutch in getting a great experience out of an average school.

mm1970

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Re: School district question
« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2017, 03:35:15 PM »
Based on personal experience of going from an average blue collar school district (average school in Mass, so I don't even know how awful an actually bad school would be...) to an affluent top of the state district, I think school district is hugely important. I know a lot of people think that school rankings are flawed because of economic advantages but IMO that's a feature, not a bug.

As a parent you don't care about whether the rankings reflect teaching quality, you care about whether they affect outcomes for your child. From that perspective, I think being surrounded by classmates from "advantaged" households is a huge benefit in terms of fostering ambition and teaching them that they have to compete for good outcomes. It also helps that the teachers were better paid but honestly the problem with the mediocre school district wasn't the teachers, it was a negative & infectious environment where kids didn't care about school.

I know everyone likes to think that parents can offset this but in my experience that was 100% not the case; the few kids who tried to exhibit genuine intellectual curiosity were bullied and eventually squandered their potential in the blue collar town. They did better than the meatheads, but not by much. On the flip side, in the affluent school district you had maybe 50 kids who each individually would have been the valedictorian at a worse school; to me that is more important life experience if your kid later wants to compete for a job at Google or a PHD program at Harvard...
This is going to vary SO MUCH based on location and kid and even year.

Some kids are going to do better as a "big fish in a small pond" because they are doing well.
Some kids will thrive with a lot of "high quality competitive kids", and some will shut down.
Some schools are able to group kids so that highly motivated kids aren't dealing with bullying.  (I had to deal with it, but that's because the vast majority of kids in  my home town were not into studying.)  But then, the good thing about being bullied for 10 years is that I was pretty much PROPELLED out of that town.  Other people who had a more enjoyable life are still there.  Where there are no jobs.

So, in our case now, we are in a "middling" school.  There are enough interested kids that my kid is challenged and excited about school.  We specifically transferred out of a school that was 95% poor and EL, because we didn't want him to be the *only* (or one of the few) interested kids.  With a larger group, the school does pull-outs for reading, match, etc. so that advanced kids stay advanced, and the kids who are behind get extra help.

We specifically avoided the upper-middle class school next door.  Just not my jam.  A little research showed me that kids of my demographic do AS WELL as all the kids at the other school or schools, and they get to do it while learning about people who are different from themselves. 

That said, even WITHIN a school, there are differences.  When kid #1 went to school, there were a LOT of kids.  We have open transfers in our district.  Meaning, you have to register at your home school, but you can request a transfer to a different school.  You only get one choice, really (though there is one charter school that does its own lottery, and that's pretty much the yuppie school for all the people trying to escape brown people.  No I'm not biased or anything.  But I've heard actual conversations from parents at that school.) 

Anyway, this is where we opted for the "middling" school - it was almost equal distance from our home, just in the other direction (less than a mile away).  We were turned off by "School #1".  Well, School #1 has the GATE program AND it's less than a mile from the school we chose.  So the school we chose loses a lot of UMC families to School #1.  Except that year.  Because: so many kindergartners that year that my kid had 3-4 kids in his class (not grade, class) whose older siblings were at School #1 and they DIDN'T get in on a sibling transfer (which is top of the list, behind only teachers at the school).  These kids didn't get in on a sibling transfer until second grade (so parents had 2 kids at 2 different schools, though some opted to come back to the home school).

The side benefit, for us, is that there are a LOT of highly motivated kids in my son's grate, and by the time the GATE test rolled around, most of us decided to stay rather than transfer.

However, the grade behind him is much smaller.  Has been since kindergarten - only 2 kinder classes vs my son's year that had 3, and they were packed at 29.

So, that grade is weak.  It's smaller.  A lot more families were able to transfer out right from the start.  For the few that stayed - their kids were getting bullied, so they left too.  Now, there are literally 3 kids in the whole grade that are GATE/ advanced, and they are getting bullied.  One of the parents fought for a decade to get parents to stay in the home school and said "well, this is making her miserable - do I keep her here because of my own feelings?" 

Right now, my younger son's class is looking pretty good.  But enrollment is declining in the district.  I already know of 1 or 2 families within a block of the school who didn't even give it a chance.
  If kid #2 starts having issues with bullying, I wouldn't hesitate to transfer him.  Not even a second.

TLDR:
Schools vary by year, by district.  Kids vary too.  You have to know your kid.  What you choose in kindergarten doesn't have to stay that way.

honeybbq

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Re: School district question
« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2017, 03:51:22 PM »
Be careful, they can always re-draw the district lines.