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Old 04-14-2014, 02:16 PM
 
143 posts, read 192,720 times
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Hi everyone, my husband and I have an almost two year old daughter and are looking to move out of the city in the next couple years - looking for a house with a yard; safe, family-friendly neighborhoods; good public schools, an overall cute/fun vibe (not sprawling subdivisions); and a liberal, tree-huggy, artsy atmosphere. I went to Northwestern and taught there for a few years after graduating - I love Evanston, and it has everything we could want, except for the middle/high schools. We're not sure whether to focus on Evanston and worry about the middle/high school situation later - ideally, we'd like to put down roots in a community and stay there, so we'd prefer not to have to move again.
I've been reading through this thread and Wilmette has popped up as another suburb to look into. We've driven around and looked at houses/neighborhoods. Our budget would be $650K, so east Wilmette is out of the question. Wilmette does seem like a charming town, and hands down has excellent schools. I'm just wondering - are there neighborhoods in central and western Wilmette that also have a fun, liberal, artsy community (such as the one in North Evanston)?
Thanks in advance, everyone!
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Old 04-14-2014, 05:48 PM
 
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I tend to agree that if you are looking for a longer term situation it makes sense to focus on areas where you are comfortable with the directtion of schools and the various other loccal government prioroties.

The degree to which yoou are gonna find "artsy" is probably of function of the kinds of neighborhood, and frankly sticking to an area of older homes closer to the core is more likely to result in such neighbors than venturing into an area of less charming homes...

Now this is going to some compromises -- $650K won't get a mansion and though this a real charmer it is literally next to commercial space -- 1916 SCHILLER Ave, WILMETTE, IL 60091 | MLS# 08439736 | Redfin

Here is another option a bit further east and dripping in charm, I a guessing the sellers are very similar to the kind of folks you'd be friendly with given their decorating choices, but this place is less fixed up -- 412 Isabella St, WILMETTE, IL 60091 | MLS# 08583149 | Redfin


The nice thing with either of these is the taxes are likely a far better deal than you'd get in Evanston too...
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Old 04-14-2014, 07:16 PM
 
143 posts, read 192,720 times
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Thank you, Chet! That is good advice - we'll have to keep our eyes open for deals that are closer to Central/East Wilmette. I really like the Schiller Ave. house but wish it wasn't right across from a parking lot! The Isabella house is also very charming, reminds us a lot of our current condo (very typical Chicago brownstone).
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Old 04-14-2014, 11:40 PM
 
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I am surprised that you describe yourself as desiring a "liberal, tree-huggy, artsy atmosphere" and then have reservations regarding Evanston's public schools. Typically the types of parents who enjoy that type of environment love Evanston/Skokie 65 schools and absolutely adore Evanston Township High School. The academic and social atmosphere in Wilmette and New Trier Township is almost the exact opposite of what you desire. In addition, neither the GreatSchools.org grading system or the Illinois State Report Card properly take into account the nuances of demography that can affect overall performance of test scores.

Quote:
Originally Posted by US-Traveller View Post
When considering Evanston public schools you have to consider the challenging demographics that each school has to deal with. This certainly has been mentioned in other threads, but it cannot be stated enough.

When evaluating Evanston public schools you cannot simply take Wilmette or Winnetka public schools and do a side-by-side comparison. Evanston elementary schools are dealing with students who are on average 25% low-income and 1/3 minority background. Wilmette and Winnetka schools are virtually all dealing with <1% low-income and <10% minority background.

A good way to compare the performance of Evanston public schools with schools in the surrounding area is to look at the performance of white students. When you do this you quickly realize that there is NO difference between performance of white students in Evanston, Wilmette, or Winnetka. Evanston schools are also on par when it comes to spending per pupil, class size, and teacher qualifications.

Aside from performance I feel that there is a different educational culture that reflects the different cultures of the communities. Evanston public schools tend to lean more liberal and embrace more experimental programs, as can be seen with the incoming mixed-honors program at Evanston Township High School. This is of course a program designed to address the stubborn achievement gap. Wilmette, Winnetka, and New Trier embrace a more traditional educational program.

The most well regarded elementary schools in Evanston from my experience tend to be Willard Elementary, Lincolnwood Elementary, Orrington Elementary, and Kingsley Elementary. All of which are located on the northern portion of town. There are other good options and magnet schools, but those four tend to get the most accolades.
I would highly recommend you reconsider your concerns about living in Evanston. In addition to the public schools there are also some private options that you might find attractive. I have known children from Evanston who have or are attending Regina Dominican, Loyola Academy, Roycemore School, North Shore Country Day School, Notre Dame, Baker Demonstration, Chicago Waldorf, Chiaravalle Montessori, and east coast boarding schools.
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Old 04-15-2014, 06:58 AM
 
143 posts, read 192,720 times
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Hi Omoikane, thank you for your response! I completely agree with you on Willard, Orrington, etc. It would be a pleasure to send our child to any of those schools. As I said, it's the middle/high school situation in Evanston that we're not sure about. I would never base my opinion on standardized test scores -- I'm basing it on having taught in both the Evanston and Winnetka School Districts, and researching these school districts (Wilmette included) as part of my Master's thesis. The Evanston School District is wonderful in many ways, and has made great strides in recent years, but I don't think ETHS has the consistency or overall philosophy of education that we're looking for (I've seen teachers yell at students, completely rely on worksheets/textbooks, etc.). You are right - a lot is changing, and by the time our child goes to high school, ETHS might have everything we are looking for.

I do disagree with the quote on Wilmette and Winnetka having a more traditional educational program. I do think the elementary/middle schools in Wilmette and Winnetka have a very liberal, forward-thinking philosophy of education and are great schools. In fact, comparing the schools I taught at in Evanston and Winnetka (the Evanston school NOT being one of the four mentioned in the quote, those are of a different caliber), there's a 180 degree difference in educational philosophy.

However, I am aware of what you're speaking of in terms of the academic/social pressures and atmosphere of New Trier in particular. Sigh - that's why we are so torn.
I think we'll probably look in both suburbs and decide based on the house/neighborhood that seems to fit our needs most, and figure out the high school situation as it comes!

Thank you for the information and advice, I do appreciate it!
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Old 04-15-2014, 08:29 AM
 
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I know EXACTLY what cbsmom is talking about when she says that NTHS has a FAR SUPERIOR educational approach for ALL students compared to ETHS where a disturbingly large percentage of students are in classrooms that are neither particularly forward thinking in their approach nor led by teachers with appropriately high standards. Given the unfortunate decisions to disband some of the classes that were doing the most to challenge students at ETHS it is unlikely that the situation will improve.

To be sure there are some students that do take a majority of AP classes and come out of ETHS extremely well prepared to compete for admission to the most selective colleges but this is a small percentage of the overall enrollment. In contrast my experience is at NTHS even the least traditionally academically talented kids, including those with IEPs, receive a superior level of instruction. The whole philosophy of education is really quite different at NTHS -- teachers themselves have an unusually large stake in the selection of colleagues and teachers that don't demonstrate a commitment to innovation and excellence are not granted tenure. Even when it comes to things like the advisory system the whole faculty at NTHS really takes the seemingly little details of how many kids get involved in various clubs and activities VERY seriously compared to the often perfunctory offerings at most other schools.

In my experience these things matter the most not for the kids whose parents are extremely successful in business or academia but for the kids that fill up the middle and lower portions of the bell curve -- at NTHS these kids will be EXTREMELY well prepared to go on to the kind of colleges that are well regarded for specific programs or have a regional appeal and do VERY well at these schools in all aspects of both the academic and social environment on these campuses while my experience suggests that a depressingly large percentage of such kids at most other schools, include ETHS, may flounder badly...

The fact is that some of the "social orthodoxy" that guides the decisions of too many public schools actually leaves students in the middle of the pack ill prepared to succeed in even mid-tier colleges. The fact is that such colleges try very hard to have their academic programs in areas like the natural sciences / mathematics / technology and the more rigorous programs in finance / accounting have the similar standards as top tier schools. When kids who've been falsely led to believe that being in socially controlled settings are more important that mastery of content find out they're ill prepared they often end up changing majors to easier subjects. When they graduate and find a paucity of employment options for non-specific "business" degree or some pie-in-the-sky social topic it is no wonder that they fall in league with protestors that believe life is unfair to them...

Honestly of the many kids that I have known over the years both from my own teaching career as well as friends of my children and children of clients that have bought homes in desirable areas there are very very few that would say any "pressure" at a challenging high schools was not brought on through outside influences -- be that parents that are little overboard on pushing their kids to take courses that even advisers recommend against or participate in too many sports or even the pernicious pressure of those that want to make illicit behaviors more mainstream. If one thinks deeply about these things it is not hard to see why high schools teachers deeply devoted to high levels of academic mastery for ALL students actually empower students to stave off this pressure. NTHS fosters success in all areas to a far greater degree than really any other high school in the region. Even kids that are not as talented in the traditionally academically competitive "pre-professional" undergrad track have LOTS of outlets for success coming from NTHS. Fact is if one comes out of NTHS having done things like successfully participate in even poetry publishing and art exhibits such experiences do make it far more likely that such students can go on to successful vocations including writing or the arts compared to kids that approached such things more casually. This things are not "competitve" so much as "expressive" and folks that are truly liberal in the "small l" sense of being well rounded are much more likely to find teachers that believe in them / foster their interest at NTHS than really all but the very costly private schools in the region...
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Old 04-15-2014, 11:25 AM
 
143 posts, read 192,720 times
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Thank you, Chet- very well said, and a very informative and helpful post!
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Old 04-15-2014, 11:44 AM
 
31 posts, read 52,175 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cbsmom View Post
Hi Omoikane, thank you for your response! I completely agree with you on Willard, Orrington, etc. It would be a pleasure to send our child to any of those schools. As I said, it's the middle/high school situation in Evanston that we're not sure about. I would never base my opinion on standardized test scores -- I'm basing it on having taught in both the Evanston and Winnetka School Districts, and researching these school districts (Wilmette included) as part of my Master's thesis. The Evanston School District is wonderful in many ways, and has made great strides in recent years, but I don't think ETHS has the consistency or overall philosophy of education that we're looking for (I've seen teachers yell at students, completely rely on worksheets/textbooks, etc.). You are right - a lot is changing, and by the time our child goes to high school, ETHS might have everything we are looking for.

I do disagree with the quote on Wilmette and Winnetka having a more traditional educational program. I do think the elementary/middle schools in Wilmette and Winnetka have a very liberal, forward-thinking philosophy of education and are great schools. In fact, comparing the schools I taught at in Evanston and Winnetka (the Evanston school NOT being one of the four mentioned in the quote, those are of a different caliber), there's a 180 degree difference in educational philosophy.

However, I am aware of what you're speaking of in terms of the academic/social pressures and atmosphere of New Trier in particular. Sigh - that's why we are so torn.
I think we'll probably look in both suburbs and decide based on the house/neighborhood that seems to fit our needs most, and figure out the high school situation as it comes!

Thank you for the information and advice, I do appreciate it!
I am glad you have thought this through and I appreciate your perspective.

What schools did you teach at in Evanston and Winnetka, if I may ask?
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Old 04-15-2014, 12:11 PM
 
143 posts, read 192,720 times
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Hi Omoikane, I taught at Walker in Evanston and Hubbard Woods in Winnetka.
Do you currently live in Evanston?
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Old 04-15-2014, 12:12 PM
 
8,280 posts, read 10,217,232 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cbsmom View Post
Hi Omoikane, thank you for your response! I completely agree with you on Willard, Orrington, etc. It would be a pleasure to send our child to any of those schools. As I said, it's the middle/high school situation in Evanston that we're not sure about. I would never base my opinion on standardized test scores -- I'm basing it on having taught in both the Evanston and Winnetka School Districts, and researching these school districts (Wilmette included) as part of my Master's thesis. The Evanston School District is wonderful in many ways, and has made great strides in recent years, but I don't think ETHS has the consistency or overall philosophy of education that we're looking for (I've seen teachers yell at students, completely rely on worksheets/textbooks, etc.). You are right - a lot is changing, and by the time our child goes to high school, ETHS might have everything we are looking for.

I do disagree with the quote on Wilmette and Winnetka having a more traditional educational program. I do think the elementary/middle schools in Wilmette and Winnetka have a very liberal, forward-thinking philosophy of education and are great schools. In fact, comparing the schools I taught at in Evanston and Winnetka (the Evanston school NOT being one of the four mentioned in the quote, those are of a different caliber), there's a 180 degree difference in educational philosophy.

However, I am aware of what you're speaking of in terms of the academic/social pressures and atmosphere of New Trier in particular. Sigh - that's why we are so torn.
I think we'll probably look in both suburbs and decide based on the house/neighborhood that seems to fit our needs most, and figure out the high school situation as it comes!

Thank you for the information and advice, I do appreciate it!
Teachers that yell at their students, rely on textbooks--the horror

As if the kids themselves had nothing to do with all this..

Precious snowflake syndrome, once again..
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