Author Topic: School Choice Struggle  (Read 885 times)

azu612

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School Choice Struggle
« on: July 07, 2017, 07:44:50 AM »
I am still struggling with which school district I should choose for my child.  Currently I live in a nice town.  It has one of the best school districts in Massachusetts (where I live).  The downside is that it's about 30 miles from my work, and the before and after school care can get kind of expensive. 

I'm debating whether or not I should stay here and suck it up for the schools or move somewhere closer to my work but with schools that aren't nearly as recognized as where I currently am.  What do you think?

Cwadda

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Re: School Choice Struggle
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2017, 07:52:49 AM »
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aren't nearly as recognized
Can you elaborate on this? Are the closer schools bad schools? Or are they good schools that aren't extremely well known?

azu612

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Re: School Choice Struggle
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2017, 07:57:48 AM »
I am looking at two schools.  One is urban and has lower test scores, likely because of the high esl population.  Not terrible scores, but not the best.  The other school is small and suburban.  I would consider it decent and average. 

The one thing I do like about these two schools compared to the one where I am is the fact that there is less pressure.  The environment in my current district can be sort of cut throat.

mtn

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Re: School Choice Struggle
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2017, 08:39:25 AM »
Numerous things to look at here. Not nearly as cut and dry as it can seem.

  • The kid--what is best for he/she? Are they super high achieving, and the city school wouldn't offer them opportunities they need?
  • The house itself--how much is the school district propping up the value? For us, our schools are what makes the house worth it, and the reason our area didn't really experience 2007-2009 as bad as other neighborhoods around us
  • Similar to the first point, are there any special resources (SPL, handwriting, reading catch up, etc.) that one school offers that the other doesn't?
  • Extracurriculars--are the right ones offered at either school? If your child is an aspiring artist, but there is no art program at one (or a particularly good one at the other) is it right?

My wife and I both came from competitive schools. We both went to a state college. We're both doing fine. My mother went to a very uncompetitive high school, and went to a private college. She's also doing fine. I know excellent doctors (MD, PhD, DVM) from horrible high schools. I think for the vast majority of people, it doesn't matter all that much--those that are going to succeed will; those that won't are going to become burnouts either way. The fringe kids, it does make a difference though. Those that are on the cusp of making it into college, or making it into an honors program. Just be involved either way as a parent.

Also, my older brother went to a private (Catholic) high school. I did not. We both had good educations; but one was right for him and the other was right for me. My parents and my brother and I made the choices together--we weren't the same person, and there isn't ONE right answer.

Laura33

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Re: School Choice Struggle
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2017, 12:05:29 PM »
Let me add a little food for thought to mtn's reply:  where is your kid likely to fall academically, and what are you thinking in terms of college?  Frequently, parents who are focused on the top school districts also tend to focus on the top colleges, so they choose the excellent, high-pressure schools to give their kids the best chance of getting into a top college/getting a scholarship.  But one thing that I don't see addressed too often is the reality that those top colleges will generally only take a very few kids from even the best schools.  E.g., Thomas Jefferson HS in Northern VA is one of the best math/science HS in the country -- but even they only get a few kids into the top schools.  See e.g.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/tj-grads-headed-to-prestigious-colleges/2013/06/21/efe919a8-da82-11e2-9df4-895344c13c30_story.html?utm_term=.6a51ea47508c.  So if your kid would be valedictorian at your local school but be in, say, the 30th percentile at TJ, which really gives them the better chance to get into that top school?  And would your kid thrive in that kind of environment, or melt under the pressure?  (I have one of each, FWIW)

Of course, it's not all about college admissions, either -- honestly, if my one kid could get an education like that, I'd be sending him to TJ, no questions asked.  You also want your kid to be appropriately prepared for college (or whatever their future plans are), to be surrounded by good kids and in a well-managed school environment, to have an appropriate amount and level of schoolwork, etc. etc. etc.  Also consider whether it would benefit your kid to have you home more to help them over bumps in the road or make sure homework gets done, etc. -- again, this is all about what your own particular kid needs.

When in doubt, visit both schools, talk to people whose kids go there, etc.  Published rankings pretty much just tell you how wealthy or poor the area is, not how well or poorly the school does with the kids they get.  Heck, my alma mater is apparently rated a "6" on at least one website, we had very little money, and yet I still managed to be a National Merit Scholar and get into several highly-selective schools -- go figure. 
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ysette9

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Re: School Choice Struggle
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2017, 12:33:26 PM »
I like the idea of visiting both schools and seeing what they truly offer, and how that would fit with your kids. The fact that you are online, writing in complete and grammatically correct sentences, have a full-time job, and care enough about your kids' lives to worry about which school to send them to all point to the likelihood that your kids will be perfectly fine almost wherever you send them.

Keep in mind that in many places (certainly where I live) the school test scores are more a reflection of the parents' educational attainment and income level than anything the school itself is doing. By being involved in your kids' lives, reading to them, engaging them, working with them on academic and non-academic things, you are already setting them up for success. Which of two good schools to send them to is like deciding which flavor icing you want on your cake. :)
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LiveLean

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Re: School Choice Struggle
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2017, 01:30:48 PM »
Do you live in an area where you have magnet or gifted or other selective public schools where it doesn't matter what school district you live in so long as you're willing to drive your kid to that school (and your kid gets in)?

Here in Pinellas County, Fla., (St. Pete/Clearwater), we can send our kids to all manner of public schools -- not charter -- so long as we're willing to drive them. It's a pain, but it eliminates having to live in a certain district.
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azu612

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Re: School Choice Struggle
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2017, 04:48:52 PM »
My child is not school age yet, so I'm hoping that I can make a decision and stay in one place.  I think that the consistency is good when growing up.  I will definitely visit them all and speak to people with experience at the schools.  I agree with Laura33 about the whole valedictorian/top school thing.  Of course I think it would be nice to be at a top school, but a state school or even a community college would be fine too depending on the situation. 

It would be nice to eliminate my commute and buy housing in a cheaper town, but I don't want to do it to the detriment of my child's education.  It's a tough one....

Tuskalusa

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Re: School Choice Struggle
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2017, 05:14:04 PM »
I'd recommend checking out https://www.greatschools.org/.  They do a good job out outlining more than just test scores. While my son's school has mid-range test scores, it has an amazing community, and my son has done well there. Test scores can vary for so many reasons...they are not always the best measure of a great school. I think the suggestion of visiting the schools is a great idea too.

It sounds like your kids already have they key ingredient for success in school...involved parents. Given that, you probably can't go wrong with any of your choices!

ysette9

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Re: School Choice Struggle
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2017, 05:21:40 PM »
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but I don't want to do it to the detriment of my child's education.  It's a tough one..

You can have an extremely rewarding and well-compensated life without being valedictorian or going to a top university. You can go to a top university without being valedictorian or even going to a top high school. You can go to a top grad school without going to a top undergrad institution. So much of what it takes to push a good student over the top into crazy achievement is up to that individual person. There is only so much you as a parent can do and should do.

Let me lay out my biases on this subject.
  • My husband and I both went to UC Berkeley for undergrad and Stanford for grad after going through a very middle of the road public high school
  • [We both went to junior college before going to Cal; him for one semester, me for two years. I think my education at junior college was better than what I would have gotten had I done those two years at Cal./li]
    • [We watched some of his cousins be pushed by their parents to excel academically, only to flounder in college and fail to launch even after grad school. The parents pushed the academic achievement bit so much that they failed to develop any real life skills and now don't seem to be able to strike it out on their own. Mom still calls work to excuse the one son when he can't make it in for whatever reason./li]
    I guess my point is that academics are important, but they are not the end-all, be-all. It is important to strike a balance.
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