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Old 01-06-2009, 08:44 PM
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We are looking at moving to another area of the country. The school system we are currently in and the one we are looking at both have very high academic ratings (although its kind of hard to compare because each state has their own testing.) The big difference is the size of the schools. Our current schools have about 900 kids at the elementary school and around 3,000 at the highschool level. The schools where we are considering moving to have around 500 at the elementary and around 700 at the highschool. I tend to like the idea of a smaller school - more personal, safer, more 1:1 attention, but I'd be interested in other people's opinions - especially if you have any personal experience going to a smaller school or both. TIA.
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Old 01-06-2009, 09:09 PM
Location: Leaving fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada
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This year I left the 5th largest school system in America to go to a district with 11 schools total. Enrollment 300,000 vs. 5,500. High School population 3-4k vs 900. Elementary 800-1100 to vs 200-400 kids. There is no comparison to the personal attention (the administrators know the teachers and the kids), the kids have good relationships with their teachers, and the discipline issue comparison is guns and shootings vs. stealing and fist fights.

Teachers tend to stay and grow in smaller districts (even though professional development in larger districts is more flashy and state of the art). It's more likely that bad teachers are not tenured in smaller districts (just my opinion based on 18 years of experience).

Kids tend to be less transient in smaller districts. Overall things for them are more stable.

Teachers and parents have more opportunities to interact in smaller systems. This means a lot for both parties.

Here is my litmus test for a good elementary school: The principal is visible in the hall. When you go to visit. The kids smile and wave at him/her and say, "hi, Miss, Mr. Dr. __," and the principal's smiling response is, "hi, [kid's first name]." Then the principal tells you something good about that kid, his/her family, or the kid's teacher.

Usually this means the kids are happy and test scores are great, or kids are happy and test scores are on their way up.

The test for secondary schools is exactly the same.

Last edited by photobuff42; 01-06-2009 at 09:19 PM..
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:46 PM
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Thanks for the detailed response PhotoBuff42. Very good info. May I ask if the two districts you are comparing had roughly the same demographics? And, BTW are you a student or teacher??? Thanks.
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Old 01-07-2009, 08:26 AM
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I personally like smaller schools but something to be aware of that is just as important is class size. You can have small school with thirty kids in a class room and a large school with twenty kids in a class. The teacher with less kids is generally going to do a better job.

The high school that my son goes to has almost 1,000 students, and in our district there is one HS, one MS, and three elementary schools. Because there is a smaller pool of talent, it's more likely that you will make the sports teams or get a part in the school play/musical. If you want to be in the band, you don't have to try out. My son is in our schools robotics team and has been since his freshman year. I understand that in some districts they have to limit the members. Because there are only so many classes and teachers there are slightly less AP class offerings. The upside of this is that colleges judge you on what YOUR school offers, so you can take five AP's your whole HS career and still be considered to be attempting the most rigorous schedule, whereas in big schools 8-10 AP's may be expected.

The downside to a small school is more limited offerings for classes. We have many classes that are only offered at a certain time slot and it's not unusual for juniors and seniors to not be able to take all the classes they want because the classes won't fit. The reason that's not a problem for freshman and sophomores is because our particular school has a fairly rigid set of mandated classes that leaves room for just one elective those first two years so there's already not much wiggle room.
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Old 01-07-2009, 09:58 AM
Status: "Happy New Year!" (set 1 day ago)
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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Once again, I agree with toobusytoday.

Larger ele schools can offer a little more flexibility in class sizes, b/c they have more "rounds" of each class. One problem I encountered as a student in a very small ele school (11 in my sixth grade class), is that cliques tend to form, and sometimes there is no place for you! In a larger school, there is usally a place for everyone to fit in.

I once asked a school superintendent what the ideal size of a high school is, disregarding the financial issues, and he said about 1000 students. This is large enough to have a lot of offerings, yet small enough to be personal.
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Old 01-07-2009, 04:46 PM
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I agree that class size is more important than the total size of the school to me. I used to work in a very small school (about 150 kids and 16 teachers). I loved it and the personal feeling. I would definately send my child to a small school if I could. Two or 3 classes per grade is good for me (with fairly small classes).
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Old 01-07-2009, 07:41 PM
Location: Leaving fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada
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Originally Posted by maja View Post
Thanks for the detailed response PhotoBuff42. Very good info. May I ask if the two districts you are comparing had roughly the same demographics? And, BTW are you a student or teacher??? Thanks.
Maja, you are welcome. The two districts have different demographics: large district--over 90 different languages, more transient population, lots of diversity. Smaller district, more stable, less than ten languages, not as much diversity.

I am a special education administrator...Special Educator's Web Pages
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Old 01-07-2009, 08:13 PM
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700 kids in the high school is getting close to too small. A school that size is limited in the course offerings which people tend to forget. In our old school there were 900 kids in the school and some classes were only offered every other year and you weren't guaranteed to get into that class-chemistry and physics were the two big ones. Several kids had to take a summer course at the college to fit in the class. In the English/Social Studies departments you took 10th grade English, 11th grade English, etc. In our school now we have about 1500 kids and there are about 20 different English classes the kids can pick from. This is just one thing to keep in mind.
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Old 01-07-2009, 10:03 PM
Location: Denver
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I think it depends on the kid. Our city has supposedly very good districts (Cherry Creek) and when we went to the high school, it is over 3K, my youngest just freaked out. We put her in a supposedly inner city school that was 1/3 smaller with a smaller program but some electives and sports with the whole school where she was very comfortable. There is such a thing as too small for some kids--if they are are geeks or somewhat oddball, as my middle daughter was, she was very out of place in a small town school and much happier once we got to a larger city school. Class size is great but electives are also important for the "experimenter" type of student.
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Old 01-08-2009, 05:11 PM
Location: Minnesota
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I went to medium sized high school 3,300 kids and I enjoyed it alot. There were so many classes to choose from by the time we were seniors we only had 2 required courses government and english and the rest of the classes we could take what ever we wanted. When I talked to friends that went small schools the did not have as many choices. I felt perfectly safe in the school our high school had security gaurds to keep things in order they rarely had any problems.
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