Visiting public schools--what to look for? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 03-11-2005, 03:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Dh and I are in the slow process of buying a home and trying to figure out where we want to live. We just moved to our current town a month ago and we are living with his parents for the time being. We are pretty certain we want to stay within the same county, and all of the county elementary schools are supposedly "really good" (it's a fairly affluent area), but I wonder how we should go about picking the "best" district to live in. DS is about 18 months so it's not THAT far off, really. There is one charter elementary school that is groovy and cool, but there's a lottery to get in and so I feel like we can't just count on that.

So I thought rather than obsess over test scores or whatever maybe we should actually visit some of the schools. Is that a weird thing to do? To show up or call and ask if we can have a tour? I don't even know what we should look for if we visit.

Anybody have any guidance on this? TIA!
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#2 of 4 Old 03-11-2005, 04:03 PM
 
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i went through this in nc about two years ago. few things:

(nak)

many won't let you actually go and observe a classroom. imo that is what you want. i don't think it is wierd to ask, but they might act like it is.
some will just do a brief tour. helpful. at one school i noticed that everyone had to walk with their hands behind their back.
district doesn't always work. district lines get changed regularly, especially in areas of rapid growth.
all good test scores mean to me is that the school is good at teaching to the test.

what to do? it comes down to intinct i think. go do the tours, classroom visits if allowed and then go with what feels right. also, talk to similar minded parents. don't tell them (school people) how old your child is--they won't give you the time of day. things can change drastically in the next few years also.
i say send out really good charter school vibes.

sorry to sound so cynical. public school, north carolina and i do not get along....
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#3 of 4 Old 03-18-2005, 09:39 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wakeUpMama
all of the county elementary schools are supposedly "really good" (it's a fairly affluent area), but I wonder how we should go about picking the "best" district to live in. DS is about 18 months so it's not THAT far off, really. There is one charter elementary school that is groovy and cool, but there's a lottery to get in and so I feel like we can't just count on that.

So I thought rather than obsess over test scores or whatever maybe we should actually visit some of the schools. Is that a weird thing to do? To show up or call and ask if we can have a tour? I don't even know what we should look for if we visit.

Anybody have any guidance on this? TIA!
What to look for in a school?

Uhhh...the exit door?

Seriously, though, here's what I would look for:

1. TEST SCORES. Schools will juggle books like Barnum and Bailey on almost every other measure that can be measured, especially suspensions, violence, and attendance, all of which are routinely underreported.

However, because they don't have control over the standardized test data, they can't lie about it. Look for below-level scores in two core areas: reading and math.

2. FREE LUNCH.
Sorry to sound elitist, but the schools in lower SES brackets (a good indicator of which is the percentage of kids on free and reduced lunch) are going to have more discipline problems, more transience (more later), and less achievement.

3. Transience rate
Imagine how your kid would fare in a class where only 1/3 to 1/2 of the kids in the class at the end of the year were there at the beginning, and the rest were new. With districts where there is a high rate of transience, teachers can't build on a foundation because it's like trying to build on quicksand. Lots of things get repeated (out of necessity) and the academic standards are far lower.

Hope that helps.
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#4 of 4 Old 03-18-2005, 10:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Charles Baudelaire
What to look for in a school?

Uhhh...the exit door?
I know, I know... homeschooling seems to be ideal but I don't know if I am cut out for it. There really aren't any secular private schools within a reasonable distance. I don't really want DS to attend a traditional public school but it seems prudent to take into account that circumstances might lead to that. For one thing I've seen enough posts on here from moms saying they *wanted* to homeschool but their kid turned out to be much happier at school. Or that they had a harder time than they imagined with the whole homeschool thing. You just never know what can happen.

I appreciate you enumerating what to look for. I would have never thought about the transience thing but it makes a lot of sense.
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