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Old 04-11-2016, 10:53 AM
 
28 posts, read 24,898 times
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Guys, I was in the same boat few years back. I think I can provide you some really useful information.

First of all, greatschools is not the only place to get the rating. You can get more information from a website like Niche.com. Some ratings in greatschools are misleading. For example - West Plano schools are one of the best in Texas, but its funny that you can see a rating of 4 in their website.

Also refer to the government website link which purely gives you info on academics - https://education.state.nj.us/pr/ (Although its bit old, it can provide you enough stats). You can also check neighborhoodscout.com to get the safety information related to the town.

For a nice single family home with basement and with the budget you are looking for, I can recommend you Piscataway. Safe place, lots of Indians and very good diversity. Better bang for your buck. Schools are in the medium range. This area is serviced by train stations - Edison, Dunellen & Bround Brook depending on where you to live within the town. Society Hill area is quite posh whereas North Stelton area is closer to train station, shops and restaurants. Stelton road resembles like a mini Oak tree road in Edison with quite a number of Indian shops, meats and restaurants.

I wont recommend North Edison as homes are way out of your budget range(They have high pressure school). South Edison can be a better bet, although it looks older than the north and bit hard to fine nicer home. Old Bridge is another nice affordable area, if you can plan to commute to NYC via bus.
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Old 04-11-2016, 10:57 AM
 
452 posts, read 272,688 times
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I always thought a better evaluation for a school district would be to measure the percentage of students who enroll in college within 3 years of high school graduation against the percentage who graduate college within a (lets say) six year time frame. Those who are graduating on time suggest stronger academic preparation in during high school years vs those who drop out. (I am also giving a broader range for graduation to account for "gap years", majors with a longer schedule, students who have to go to school part-time, etc).
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Old 04-11-2016, 11:26 AM
 
115 posts, read 121,981 times
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Ok Thanks. A lot of active discussion and what I believe we have conclusively established is that Great school rankings does have merit but not to discard schools with ranking 6 or 7 over a 9 or a 10 but do deeper dive to understand the merits of the schools with a 6 or 7 ranking to see if it meets the need with good parental involvement.

What I don't believe we have established quite clearly in the above thread is what kind of criteria do we want to look at while investigating a school with a 6 or 7 ranking. I personally feel - student to teacher ratio, the number of extracurricular activities and variety of activities / after school programs, diversity, average SAT scores are important dimensions. Are there other dimensions to look at?
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Old 04-11-2016, 11:59 AM
 
Location: NJ
12,284 posts, read 30,509,083 times
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We moved when my kids were 2 and HS wasn't on the radar - found out later we are in an 8 or 9 district. We just liked the town. I went to a Catholic HS and if it were ranked at the time I'd put it maybe a 3 or 4 - wasn't great by any standard. I'm doing very well so I can easily see "the ranking doesn't matter" argument (obviously not talking about Newark/Trenton/Camden types schools). From what I can see from my HS career -vs- where my boys are is the student body's desire to achieve. The school is competitive, but not hyper-competitive. There is a culture of wanting to doing well, where my school was pretty much a race to the bottom b/c it wasn't "cool". Honor Roll, etc is considered "cool" here. Being around peers who want to do well has an effect on your child. Am I saying a lower ranked school ensures failure? Of course not - I'm proof of that. But the culture of the school is one of those intangibles to consider.

Last edited by tahiti; 04-11-2016 at 12:13 PM..
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Old 04-11-2016, 03:53 PM
 
1,039 posts, read 2,381,674 times
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great schools is just a populariy contest with homeowners in those communities juking the stats in order to claim the prize of "best schools" and as a result, inflate resale pricing in those communities.

Here is what you should be looking for, the njreport card site, the percentage of students who are meeting or exceeding profiecienncy expectations, the number of AP classes a HS offers, and the pecentage of kids getting AP credit. To me as long as the school is offering the classes, and 80% are getting the credit, then thats good.

Kids are tracked anyway. Your brilliant kid isnt going to be in the same classes as the losers of the school.
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Old 04-11-2016, 04:10 PM
 
115 posts, read 121,981 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyStarksNJ View Post
great schools is just a populariy contest with homeowners in those communities juking the stats in order to claim the prize of "best schools" and as a result, inflate resale pricing in those communities.

Here is what you should be looking for, the njreport card site, the percentage of students who are meeting or exceeding profiecienncy expectations, the number of AP classes a HS offers, and the pecentage of kids getting AP credit. To me as long as the school is offering the classes, and 80% are getting the credit, then thats good.

Kids are tracked anyway. Your brilliant kid isnt going to be in the same classes as the losers of the school.
This is exactly the kind of information I wanted to get --- criteria to look for in making our own evaluation on the schools and we are getting to it 4 pages later. Would appreciate if additional discussion on this topic is centered around the criteria to look at like the above response.

However I do have one question....an earlier poster recommended sending the kid to high ranked schools until the middle school level so that they learn to cope if high school was not that great. However the above response suggests ap classes etc. Which leads me to believe the high school is more important. Don't these responses contradict each other?
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Old 04-11-2016, 04:38 PM
 
1,039 posts, read 2,381,674 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adviceseeker View Post
This is exactly the kind of information I wanted to get --- criteria to look for in making our own evaluation on the schools and we are getting to it 4 pages later. Would appreciate if additional discussion on this topic is centered around the criteria to look at like the above response.

However I do have one question....an earlier poster recommended sending the kid to high ranked schools until the middle school level so that they learn to cope if high school was not that great. However the above response suggests ap classes etc. Which leads me to believe the high school is more important. Don't these responses contradict each other?
I'm an engineer,i had a spreadsheet that highlighted a lot of these issues for a lot of what this board would consider "fringe townships". At the time i was looking at Lawrence, Hamilton (East), South Brunswick and North Brunswick. At the time (5 years ago), Lawrence and North Brunswick offered what i thought was the best value of education vs housing prices. They both were scoring well in profieciency and offered a lot of AP classes where min 80% were passing and getting the AP credit. Was South Brunswicks "stats" better. Yeah, but the equal houses were $150k+ more money. For what resulted in a +100 point SAT score and maybe one or two more AP classes. But who cares if they offer 22 vs 19, your kid cant take that many any how. See what I'm saying, a lot of this school talk is worry over nothing.

A lot of folks here are afraid of diversity. They wont say it, but its true. A common example of this is the Maplewood/South Orange school district. It has great stats and is routinely blasted on this site as being mediocre. Why? Because black and brown kids go there.
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Old 04-11-2016, 05:03 PM
 
115 posts, read 121,981 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyStarksNJ View Post
I'm an engineer,i had a spreadsheet that highlighted a lot of these issues for a lot of what this board would consider "fringe townships". At the time i was looking at Lawrence, Hamilton (East), South Brunswick and North Brunswick. At the time (5 years ago), Lawrence and North Brunswick offered what i thought was the best value of education vs housing prices. They both were scoring well in profieciency and offered a lot of AP classes where min 80% were passing and getting the AP credit. Was South Brunswicks "stats" better. Yeah, but the equal houses were $150k+ more money. For what resulted in a +100 point SAT score and maybe one or two more AP classes. But who cares if they offer 22 vs 19, your kid cant take that many any how. See what I'm saying, a lot of this school talk is worry over nothing.

A lot of folks here are afraid of diversity. They wont say it, but its true. A common example of this is the Maplewood/South Orange school district. It has great stats and is routinely blasted on this site as being mediocre. Why? Because black and brown kids go there.
Can you share details of the spreadsheet so that I can make the same type of analysis for cities with best value?
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Old 04-11-2016, 05:21 PM
 
1,039 posts, read 2,381,674 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adviceseeker View Post
Can you share details of the spreadsheet so that I can make the same type of analysis for cities with best value?
it was on an older computer, i would have to look for it. but it basically had the schools on the left column and the characteristics i looked for across the columns were....

% students who were proficient or advanced in Math
% student who were proficient or advanced in Language Arts
Composite SAT score
# of AP classes offered
% of students taking AP courses
% of students getting AP credit (i.e. passing the exam).
Student to teacher ratio

Again, no one is comparing Trenton Public Schools to West Windsor. But when you start digging into the actual stats like above, you'll see the deltas are not much at all. For example, i just looked up the school report card site, North Brunswicks Composite SAT score was 1561, South Brunswick was 1690. So 130 points higher. Thats expected, as South brunswick is "WEALTHIER". However, when seeing the two houses being completely equal in both townships, the South Brunswick house 150k+ more for the same house, i would argue that that $150k is the most expensive SAT prep course ever, right?

Add in the North Brunswick Train station that is hopefully built soon, and close access to highways, thats why i ultimately chose here. You def have to take the whole picture into account.

I will tell you this, commuting into manhattan from Princeton Junction or further south is for the birds. YOu have small kids (i do too). Spending 90min + each way on a train to get to work sucks.
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Old 06-26-2016, 09:28 PM
 
295 posts, read 687,750 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adviceseeker View Post
Well...I did visit all of them and here is my take.

1. Princeton - Great area but found good houses in my range at 25 minutes drive to the train station.
2. Plainsboro / West Windsor - Close to train station but unaffordable
3. East Windsor / hightstown - I live there. Taxes are high but homes are affordable. But, school rankings are not that good. They are in 6 or 7 range and I do not know enough yet to strike out this option completely without doing more research
4. Robbinsville - Good school district but will increase my commute since I need to go to Hamilton or Princeton Junction to take train
5. Edison - Good school district but prices are high compared to what I can afford for what I need and a bit congested
6. SP/ Cranford / Clark - Good school district and good commute but prices are high compared to what I can afford

So bottom line is although I shortlisted a few areas, none of them match my budget. So, that's the reason for this thread so that I can get some ideas on other areas / options from where maybe I may have a longer drive to the station or maybe need to take the bus but where school districts are ok and houses affordable. I found a few pockets such as:

1. Morganville - Good school district. Affordable but commute takes a hit.
2. Old Bridge - Great prices. Ok School district
3. Piscataway - Great prices. Ok school district
4. Sayreville - Great prices. Ok school district

This is where I am currently.
Sorry to rejuvenate older thread but cannot stop but be curious about glaring omission of Monroe in the list. As of late, that town is new cookie cutter house buyers darling. OP living in E Windsor, so monroe is natural choice for better school system.
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