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Old 08-25-2008, 12:07 AM
 
33 posts, read 129,703 times
Reputation: 37

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Many of these posts ask for advice on relocation, and schools are naturally an important consideration. Now, *I* know what I would look for when selecting a good school for my kids, and it's not always what is reported in those school reports but often something intangible. What is important to some people is insignificant to others.

For example, one person expressed the desire to have kids attend one school building from K-6, and I agree that it's nice when you have 2 or more kids going to school together and not spread apart. In our old school (Lakota) my two kids, two years apart, would have been in the same building for at least 4 years, but in our current district they were only in the same building one year before my oldest was shipped off to a school that only housed 6th grade. It was good to have them ride the bus together, convenient too, but then again, it's also good for kids to have some independence from their siblings. But what a pain, having them leave for school and get home two hours apart!

Would it influence my choice of school districts? Probably not. Why? Things change! You move to a district because the school houses K-6th? Next year they build two new schools and split it up -- it happens all the time.

Size of the district also has its pros and cons, depending on how well it's handled by the central board. Bigger schools have access to more options, more resources, more educational tracks. For example, Lakota has its own radio station. So do a few other high schools, but certainly not every one. Is that important to you? My high school only taught French and Spanish. Bigger schools offer German, and maybe even Latin and Chinese. But OTOH, smaller schools offer more individual attention...maybe. Depends on whether or not smaller school = smaller enrollment and better teacher/student ratio, which isn't necessarily the case. Smaller schools don't always attract the best teachers. Smaller schools offer better opportunities for a tight-knit student population, but then again, if your kid is kind of an oddball, chances are he might meet other oddballs in a bigger school, vs. being an outcast in a smaller one.

When choosing a school, one is tempted to look at those school ratings -- "Excellent", "Good," "Continuous Improvement", etc. based on Ohio Achievement Tests. While that's a good indicator of school success, I wouldn't give it as much credit as it claims. Think about it - all that means is that teachers have been good at teaching their students how to take those tests. Sometimes that's all a class has time for - no independent study, no creative work, just "this is going to be on the OAT, so learn it." I guess I want more from my kids' school than just teaching them how to do well on a standardized test.

I want the school to teach them to love learning.

Since the OAT and school ratings have been made so important, field trips have been cut drastically. They just eat into the time the teachers have to train kids to do well on OAT's. I can tell you, my daughter's 6th grade class had ZERO field trips. None. But the school's rated excellent. Something is wrong, here. School should be about more than filling in circles with a #2 pencil.

Choose a school based on its lunch menu (seriously, this is a great indicator - tells you how much respect the school admin. has for its students.)
Choose a school based on its extracurricular offerings and fun events.
Choose based on advanced teacher certification.
Choose based on teacher turnover - do they stay more than a couple years?
Choose based on the playground equipment (see #1, lunches, same deal)
Choose based on previous tax levy pass/fail - does the community support the school? If it fails repeatedly it either means the demographics are off (more older people vs. young families) or the school admin isn't popular among the community.
Choose based on the music program - does it offer more than the basic "band" from 6th - 12th grade?
Choose based on building age/maintenance.


How do you choose?
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Old 08-27-2008, 08:29 PM
 
Location: I live in Hyde Park, Cincinnati
21 posts, read 66,499 times
Reputation: 21
Default Love it!

I'm a teacher, and I'm so pleased to read this. All we hear about these days is data, and it's not a great indicator of what is actually going on in schools.
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Old 09-02-2008, 11:45 AM
 
Location: Ohio
17,986 posts, read 13,233,625 times
Reputation: 13765
Quote:
Originally Posted by Juniper. View Post
Choose based on previous tax levy pass/fail - does the community support the school? If it fails repeatedly it either means the demographics are off (more older people vs. young families) or the school admin isn't popular among the community.
A community can repeatedly fail school levies irrespective of demographics. Like many, I'm not paying for computers and IT contracts. Those who want it can donate it, donate money, or volunteer their time.
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:58 PM
 
Location: NKY's Campbell Co.
1,818 posts, read 3,888,080 times
Reputation: 849
If I had to choose a district, I wouldn't know where to begin since I don't have kids. I really should print off your list and store it somewhere cause it makes a load of sense.

Now for a rant on community levies since it was so kindly brought up.

I live in a community that is starting to have a hard time passing a bond issue for new school construction. Personally, I find some of these letters to the editor in our hometown paper downright irresponsible, degrading, and destructive.

Irresponsible on the part that I will now go out and tell people looking to move to the area the truth, thus making them more likely to pass up our community (which appears to lack a strong commitment to public/community education) for the one down the road, who cares for its schools cause they realize it reflects positively in both the public's perception and in real estate tax dollars.

Degrading on the part that I see people attack the character of parents, community supporters, and school admins. The attackers go as far as calling officials outright liars, all for everyone in the community to read. I can somewhat understand smear tactics in a major political campaign, but for a new school or two, its just downright ridculous.

Destructive on the part that the whole community suffers as a part of this issue. Yes, they may win the battle of not having to pay higher taxes in order to offer little Suzie a new science lab to get a leg up on those at say, Centerville (or heaven forbid, China, Finland, etc.). People will see there is a lack of community support in its public schools (yes, public, cause not every parent, even in middle/upper-middle class suburbia, can pay $5,000+ year tuition to send their children to private schools and don't give me the crap of "why don't you stop paying for your $5 coffee cause when college is $20,000 a year for state schools, families would go bankrupt before their 2nd kid hit college *end mini rant) Personally, I have seen my community slowly tear itself apart and it saddens me. It makes me want to leave and if I come back, not to move back here specifically. I'm sure others feel the same. I'm sure those relocating notice too and thus don't move here.

In the end, please, vote however you wish, just don't destroy the community in the process. You do enough damage when you don't pass the levies/bonds, we don't need people degrading others in the process. It teaches a horrible lesson and shows poor civic pride.

*End rant
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Old 09-05-2008, 04:19 PM
 
45 posts, read 188,791 times
Reputation: 30
the football
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Old 09-05-2008, 04:33 PM
 
Location: NKY's Campbell Co.
1,818 posts, read 3,888,080 times
Reputation: 849
^ or futball
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Old 09-05-2008, 06:41 PM
 
Location: In a happy place
3,707 posts, read 6,563,387 times
Reputation: 7331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mircea View Post
A community can repeatedly fail school levies irrespective of demographics. Like many, I'm not paying for computers and IT contracts. Those who want it can donate it, donate money, or volunteer their time.
Isn't one responsibility of the school to prepare the young people for what they will encounter in the "real" world after they graduate? What percentage of jobs out there now do NOT include using the computer? Do you think that percentage will be increasing or decreasing? In most cases, an understanding of computers, or certainly some computer skills, is going to be very beneficial in getting a decent job, at least in terms of financial compensation.
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Old 03-12-2013, 01:13 PM
 
73 posts, read 72,465 times
Reputation: 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Staliz77 View Post
I'm a teacher, and I'm so pleased to read this. All we hear about these days is data, and it's not a great indicator of what is actually going on in schools.
My Dad was a teacher and I have known many teachers over the years. I am curious, if you have kids, do you send your kids to a public or private school?
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Old 03-13-2013, 12:00 PM
 
Location: Cincinnati
3,335 posts, read 5,725,886 times
Reputation: 2058
the fundamental question that occurs to me is, 'does the rating reflect the quality of instruction or the demographics of the student body?' because if it is the former, we want that school. if it is the latter, the ratings are completely irrelevant.
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Old 03-13-2013, 09:19 PM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
4,730 posts, read 10,929,204 times
Reputation: 6449
The OP's kids may have graduated by now, didn't 'cha notice the thread's start date?
One indicator of school district quality without regard to amenities, state test rankings, etc is that often intangible quality called "pride." Deer Park may not be a conveyor belt to the Ivy League. But few places in the Tri-State come across as better places to raise well-adjusted children. Many families stay put there for generations, which is actually possible from a financial standpoint because most homes are modest and haven't skyrocketed in value. Any time any team or choir or whatever does well the entire community seems to rally around the program and the kids involved. The town gives off a "Mayberry" or "Leave It to Beaver" vibe. Even its local strip mall is still called a Shopping Center. Because the residents' income level is almost entirely working- to middle-class there's little of the snobbery and kid meanness that can plague other communities like West Chester at times. Never does a school levy fail there.
I once could say the same about Finneytown. A noticeable number of my peers from the suburb to the east purposely set up housekeeping there because it was the "anti-Wyoming." The educational quality wasn't significantly lower, the soccer teams routinely carted off trophies, and there as in Deer Park there was no vast income disparity. But then the predominantly post-WWII subdivisions which characterize the area began showing their age, some of the community's rental complexes' and "brick box" apartment houses' landlords started allowing Section 8 tenants, and everything began to slip. These days the almighty state academic rankings place the Finneytown schools toward the middle. Legions of residents who staked claims en masse during the 1950's and '60s and never left are now leaving if not dying. Time does what it does to everyone. The replacement residents are more apt to be not as well off, and they're far less inclined to contribute to neighborhood civic life let alone the schools. A spike in "minority" representation has met with less than universal open arms. So at present the district is in a holding pattern of sorts and viewed by academic types as a "living laboratory" for studying how demographic changes impact the quality of life in general. Not counting Winton Woods not far distant, Finneytown has no destination spots or local attractions to set it apart from other suburbs of its vintage. The home styles are generic and dated. My money is on its continuing to decline albeit slowly. And you'd best believe the quality of the schools will keep sinking too.
Counter-intuitive though it may seem, my tendency would be to steer clear of the districts which tout a 95-100% college acceptance rate and look more favorably toward one where that rate is more like 65-80%. Kids learn in differing styles and don't have uniform individual sensibilities. Someone who's "super bright" may aspire to an artist's or artisan's career but be steered in the direction of an advanced degree. They're usually at a high-echelon public school, or a selective private/parochial one, because their parents purposely bought a house someplace where this would occur. But their values may clash with those set before them and be pushed aside so as to "live up to (parental) expectations" and keep the school looking good. Later for that! Everybody isn't "college material" just because they dwell within a certain ZIP code. Where urban school systems fall short is, the bar is set too low. Few super bright kids are aided in the attainment of academic goals they might have, enough so that they're realized in spite of peer pressure (not to mention apathy on the home front.) If I knew of a district which achieved a happy medium I'd divulge its name for a price and make million$$$. Deer Park, Reading, and Princeton probably are the closest to hitting that mark.
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