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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Please excuse my ignorance. However, I was wondering if some of you could give me some tips on what you consider a, "good" school district/school vs. a "bad" one. I ask, b/c we moved to our current city less than 2 yrs ago. From what I can gather (I don't really know many kids who are old enough to attend the public school), the school system here is not that great, mediocre at best. Our son is not even 1 yrs old yet, but we are really starting to get nervous that he might end up getting a bad education. I can't really ask my neighbors, b/c several of them work for the school system or are retired from the school system, so I know they will be biased and say it's a good school system.

So, I was wondering if you had any tips on things to pay attn to. Like, what would be considered a good student to teacher ratio. What kind of policies are a warning sign about a school system not being the best it could be? Things like that. I never thought I would consider homeschooling, however it seems like the topic of the school district here possibly being a bad one (it's one of those, "we don't believe in a valedictorian" districts, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth, since we actually know the kid that was supposed to be the valedictorian for the class of 2004, and I feel he was jilted, since he earned the right to be valedictorian). So, I'm just wanting to explore my options. There is also a catholic school here too, my DH was very excited about that, since he went to catholic school most of his non-college education (me, not so much, since I do not have a good opinion about catholic schools), but it also seems very mediocre. Then there is a private school too, but I have not really had a chance to look into it, I get the feeling it is basically where all the weathier families in own send their children.

Anyway, if you have any pointers on warning signs or good things to look for in my school district, I would really appreciate it. I know that I supposedly went to a, "good" school district, but honestly, I felt that I got a very poor education and the sad part is that I was one of the cream of the crop students. So, that is why I am questioning, what would define a good vs bad school district from your POV, since I know that most of you probably did intense research before deciding to homeschool. TIA!
 

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I don't think you can make a clear cut list of a good district and a bad district.

We live in a district that is very highly rated but my son was not learning or learning the wrong things.

In part of our city the private schools have become the dumping grounds for the public schools. In other parts they are wonderful.

I would visit and go with your gut. I once went to a school that was considered a bad school/district. In reality the teachers stretch themselves far and were wonderful. I learned a lot in that school, more than book education but how to be a nice human being.

Also a good school can go bad with an addition of one bad apple. It could have good teacher student ratio, good test scores, et but if you has one bully that torments your child it becomes bad.
 

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disclaimer -- I think my kids are better off homeschooling than they would be in any school, no matter how "good"

We move often (due to DH's job) and we perfer to buy our house in a decent school district (easier to resale it). Anyway, I decide based on the schools (or districts) standardized tests scores. I don't want to own a home in a district that is lower than the 50th percentile, and I perfer a bit higher. 80th percentile is really high -- a few school districts manage it but it is mostly seen in private schools. It can be interesting to look at the scores for different schools and grades levels within the same district.

Test scores give only limited information. Some schools make sure that students who will not do well do not take the test. Some schools are so obsessed with the performance of their top students that if your child learns differently they will not get what they need.

The other thing about picking a school is that every teacher is different. What is going on in one first grade class room and be VERY different than what is going on in another 1st grade class room right across the hall.
 

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I haven't figured out my own definition, but I want to offer a caution.

We live in an area districted to a certain elementary school, within a certain high school's cluster. There are four or five different high schools within about 20 minutes of each other (this is a very dense area), and our high school is considered to be 'worse' than the others. Within the cluster, our elementary school is considered to be 'worse' than some of the others.

And it has nothing to do with test scores, the teachers, or the opportunities. The high school in question contains an excellent magnet school. The elementary school has wonderful teachers (I have several friends whose kids are there). Etc. BUT.

If you ask people for a real reason why these schools are perceived the way they are, they can't give a very good reason, because it's actually based on the composition of the student body. ESL students, students representing 52 different countries... yeah, it's diverse. It's one of the reasons we moved into this district, in case dd *did* end up going to school. But more diverse schools can be perceived as 'bad' schools, for whatever reason. So if someone tells you that the district is 'bad,' I'd find out why they think that, specifics. Too many people I've talked to just have 'impressions' that they can't bear out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for all of your opinions about this. They are definitely helpful, things that I had not really thought of, so I will keep them under consideration.

Kash-

Your post was very interesting to me, b/c I actually REALLY want our kids to go to a diverse school (my DH and I are asian american), HOWEVER we live in a rather rural area. There is no such thing as diversity, if you get my drift. I myself grew up in a more rural suburb and went through pretty intense teasing (my brothers went through the same thing), based solely on the fact that I looked different (even though I do not have a foreign accent and was born and raised here in the US). So, I am disappointed that our options are so limited, and I'm also dreading the idea that my own kid will probably go through the same teasing that I went through when I was a kid (It was bad too, b/c my parents would not do anything about it, just kept telling us to ignore it).
 

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Well we moved from a suburb that is considered to have a "bad" school system to one that is considered to have a "good" school system and some of the things that I took into consideration.

*The education and training of the teachers - in our previous county a high percentage of teachers were not trained to be teachers and had limited education in the subjects they were teaching.

*There was a MUCH lower percentage of graduates who went onto college and a much higher percentage of children who dropped out before completing high school.

*There were safety issues ranging from more violence in the schools to a problems with bus drivers dropping kids off at the wrong place and extremely high teacher ratios.

*There were less foreign languages offered and less resources devoted to the school system in general.

That being said - I agree with the pp that often the perception of "good" vrs. "bad" schools is based on elitism. Schools with more racial or economic diversity are perceived as "bad" schools. We are running into that a bit with the school we are currently districted into - as several of the neighborhoods that feed into it are fairly low income (as compared with the rest of the county not with the rest of the world) and a few neighbors are considering moving to a "better" school district.

If you want to evaluate the school yourself, I do recommend visiting as well as looking up information on NAEYC.org or NEA.org as they provide guidelines for selecting schools.

BJ
Barney & Ben
 

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My mom is an elementary administrator. She would say to stay away from any school that has over a 30% poverty rate (free or reduced lunch). She says that she spends so much time dealing with poverty issues that there is little time for implementing any ideas she has about improving education.
 

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We live in what's considered a "good" school district. We have high test scores, low student/teacher ratio, award-winning teachers, innovative programs run by grant-winning educators, a low ratio of computers to students, low rate of reported violence, etc. etc.

But...there's still bullying (by both students and teachers) there's tons of homework--even on weekends and holidays and summer vacations, they teach to the test, they've cut programs like music for lack of funding (even though our taxes are astronomical) the building is in poor repair and not large enough for the needs of the school, parent involvement is limited to baking cupcakes and fundraising and supervising class parties.

But, more than that, it's the entire MODEL of schooling that I don't think is good. *I* would see a good school as being more like a community resource center--a place full of art supplies and books and science equipment and other items that could be used by anyone, regardless of "grade level" and with the assistance of mentors/advisors. Testing wouldn't be needed as there wouldn't be a set curriculum. Instead, learning would be interest-driven. Since this doesn't exist within the school system, we homeschool.

I think the definition of what a "good" school is varies depending on your values. Once you clarify what's important to you, you should be able to use that as a measure of how good a particular system is.
 

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Test scores can be telling, but they aren't everything. See if you can tour the school during the school day. Ask for teacher/student ratio information. Ask about things like school librarians, art classes, music budgets, etc. If it's a good district, these things will be in place and be thriving. But I think the best thing is to hang out at the school for a while and listen to what your instinct is telling you.

Where I live (Philadelphia), it's very easy to know that it's a very bad district. Frequent violent and drug crimes, metal detectors and guards starting at the elementary level, terrible student/teacher ratios, etc. It's not a place I would want to even visit, let alone trust to teach our son. There are 2 or 3 schools that are considered to be "good" but they are magnet schools, run by lottery, and the earliest grade they serve is eighth grade.

Tara
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by mags
Please excuse my ignorance. However, I was wondering if some of you could give me some tips on what you consider a, "good" school district/school vs. a "bad" one. I ask, b/c we moved to our current city less than 2 yrs ago. From what I can gather (I don't really know many kids who are old enough to attend the public school), the school system here is not that great, mediocre at best. Our son is not even 1 yrs old yet, but we are really starting to get nervous that he might end up getting a bad education. I can't really ask my neighbors, b/c several of them work for the school system or are retired from the school system, so I know they will be biased and say it's a good school system.
***I am a full-time teacher. I have been one for eight years. I've been multiply recognized for what I do.

That said, we are HOMESCHOOLING....not *in spite* of the fact that I am a teacher, but BECAUSE of it.

I wish you well. It's one of the best decisions we have ever made.

Mags! Don't tar us all with the same brush, okay? I'm a teacher and if you were living where I lived, I'd be happy to tell you which schools sucked and why. I have NO problem dissing the dissworthy, if you know what I mean, and these other teachers might be the same, especially if you specifically asked them for honest feedback.

Quote:
So, I was wondering if you had any tips on things to pay attn to. Like, what would be considered a good student to teacher ratio.
***This is usually an irrelevant number, actually. You'd be surprised, but I have had great classes where it was close to 40 kids and crummy classes where it was closer to 12. It may be a more relevant number for the elementary level, however.

***The number that REALLY matters is the teacher workload. How many students on average is that teacher responsible for teaching? I used to teach around 180 students. That meant that whenever I would assign (for instance) ONE paragraph, that I would actually be reading and grading 180 paragraphs. Okay, you guess if I assigned as much writing as they really needed.

Quote:
What kind of policies are a warning sign about a school system not being the best it could be? Things like that.
***Okay, first of all, TEST SCORES. Those aren't the be-all and end-all, yeah, but they tell a great deal about a school. Your school district *should* have a website online, and quite often they will have something like a "school report card," or "annual yearly progress report" link on the site itself or on the school's site.

***On that site, if they have one, they usually report demographic data, failure rate/transfer/disciplinary actions, etc. Along with that, they usually list how the school did on standardized tests. Take a look at the scores in reading and math particularly. Those will tell a very clear tale about how your child's peers did on that test.

***Now, before some MDC mama jumps down my throat reminding me about how test scores aren't representative of X, Y, and Z, and how you can't infer intelligence from a test, and besides, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and all sorts of other factors can affect how you do on a test -- did I mention all the objections yet? -- I KNOW. However, the test results will tell you how your kid's peers are doing and in part, that will tell you how your kid will fare.

***Let's say your school's data looks very bad -- low pass rates in math and reading. There is a very high likelihood that due to the pressures of the NCLB act, those teachers will spend a great deal of time teaching to the standardized test for next year. If your child is gifted, forget it -- they WILL be "left behind" in favor of concentrating on little Timmy over there who still doesn't get how to hold a book by second grade. That's not little Timmy's fault, not the teacher's fault, not really even the school's fault, but that's the deal: lots of attention will focus on remediation and playing a game of catch-up.

***Another really important thing is this: how's the transience rate? How likely is it that the thirty kids in your kid's class are going to be the same thirty he leaves with at the end of the year? The more transience in a district or school, the worse it is because the teacher's constantly playing a game of catch-up with a student body that's constantly turning over. Discipline tends to suffer BADLY and so does classroom management -- two fundamental things that have to be there or no learning takes place.

Quote:
I never thought I would consider homeschooling, however it seems like the topic of the school district here possibly being a bad one (it's one of those, "we don't believe in a valedictorian" districts, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth, since we actually know the kid that was supposed to be the valedictorian for the class of 2004, and I feel he was jilted, since he earned the right to be valedictorian). So, I'm just wanting to explore my options. There is also a catholic school here too, my DH was very excited about that, since he went to catholic school most of his non-college education (me, not so much, since I do not have a good opinion about catholic schools), but it also seems very mediocre. Then there is a private school too, but I have not really had a chance to look into it, I get the feeling it is basically where all the weathier families in own send their children.

Anyway, if you have any pointers on warning signs or good things to look for in my school district, I would really appreciate it. I know that I supposedly went to a, "good" school district, but honestly, I felt that I got a very poor education and the sad part is that I was one of the cream of the crop students. So, that is why I am questioning, what would define a good vs bad school district from your POV, since I know that most of you probably did intense research before deciding to homeschool. TIA!
 

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tt your children's librarian and ask which are the better elementary schools, staff at your local children's museum are also good people to ask
the best people to ask are not your neighbors, but their children - they will be honest and that POV is the most VIP

i am a former teacher and would not ask other teachers working in the district we are in their opinions of the school system here

I think you could get some good ideas over on the other board about things to look for in a good private or public school
 
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