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Old 05-08-2011, 03:33 PM
 
259 posts, read 446,277 times
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Ok we all know by now (especially if you have been a member of the NoVa sub-forum for at least a few months) how godly Fairfax is in all aspects in which metrics apply (test scores, median household income, etc.).

Ok now my question is this, why are people so obsessed with test scores in relation to the quality of schools in this area...WHEN overall the school systems in Northern Virginia are generally some of the best in the nation? Even "lowly" PWC is ranked overall as one of the best school systems in the US. Of course Fairfax ranks higher, but the other counties are not chopped liver by any means.

Are we really this snobby and spoiled in this area? Or is City-Data forum a self selecting entity of like minded people and not representative of the true population of NoVa?
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Old 05-08-2011, 03:56 PM
 
Location: Arlington, VA and Washington, DC
23,565 posts, read 33,282,476 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by still_waiting View Post
Ok we all know by now (especially if you have been a member of the NoVa sub-forum for at least a few months) how godly Fairfax is in all aspects in which metrics apply (test scores, median household income, etc.).

Ok now my question is this, why are people so obsessed with test scores in relation to the quality of schools in this area...WHEN overall the school systems in Northern Virginia are generally some of the best in the nation? Even "lowly" PWC is ranked overall as one of the best school systems in the US. Of course Fairfax ranks higher, but the other counties are not chopped liver by any means.

Are we really this snobby and spoiled in this area? Or is City-Data forum a self selecting entity of like minded people and not representative of the true population of NoVa?
I think it is a little bit of both. I'm kinda thinking that the most of the regulars on the forum are white and upper middle class (I'm black and income in $20-30k range.) Plus I think with all the money people in NoVA make I think there is a tendency for snobbishness.

I come from the Hampton Roads area (SE Virginia) and a lot of parents there would kill to send their kids to nearly any school in NoVA. While I do think there are quality school systems there i.e. (Virginia Beach and Chesapeake do pretty well among larger cities, York County period) parents who live in Hampton/Newport News and Portsmouth/Norfolk would jump at a chance to put their kids in any school in NoVA. Do NOT get me started on how the public schools are here in Kentucky.

I went to one of the best HSs in Southern VA and there were plenty of my classmates who ended up doing nothing productive so far. I went to TC Williams which some think is the worst high school and have had classmates get scholarships to Yale, Hampton, Howard, UVA, VA Tech, etc. I don't think a school will make a difference to a kid who has strong strict parental input.

I think the emphasis on high test scores is the part of the new thinking in America that the job of raising a child can be done entirely by the school system and blaming a school system for a child who ends up being a loser is easier than accepting responsibility. I spent most of my childhood in a single parent home and while my mom worked a lot she had no problem making time to show me this is what a productive person does out in the world. I think good parenting has the most to do of whether your kid makes something out of his life and not so much if their school diploma says Fairfax County schools or Alexandria City Schools.
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Old 05-08-2011, 05:06 PM
 
19,183 posts, read 28,313,751 times
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Magic 8-Ball Syndrome. People long for something -- almost anything in some cases -- that seems to help make a complicated situation simple. In the real world, test-based school rankings leave out nearly all of the factors pertinent to what sort of education a particular child might receive at a particular school, and they are almost worthless for that purpose for that reason. But who can resist? You read that one neighborhood school got a 5 and one across town got an 8, which neighborhood listings are you going to start focusing on?
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Old 05-08-2011, 05:40 PM
 
Location: Virginia
18,717 posts, read 26,828,884 times
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I'd answer this, but due to the obsession I can only answer questions when they're in the form of a test.
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Old 05-08-2011, 05:48 PM
 
Location: Virginia
18,717 posts, read 26,828,884 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by still_waiting View Post
Ok now my question is this, why are people so obsessed with test scores in relation to the quality of schools in this area...WHEN overall the school systems in Northern Virginia are generally some of the best in the nation?
OK now that I'm done being a smarty pants, I totally agree with you! In fact, I'll even go a step further. Although I think test scores are important, in many ways I prefer a school with a little "balance". Too many kids in our test obsessed world know how to get high grades but don't have the social skills to deal with the majority of the people they'll meet out in the real world.
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Old 05-08-2011, 05:54 PM
 
Location: Fairfax County
1,534 posts, read 3,315,194 times
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Because people "in general" equate quantitative research as doing a Google search, and they cannot even begin to wrap their head around qualitative research.
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Old 05-08-2011, 06:00 PM
 
1,759 posts, read 1,750,418 times
Reputation: 946
Our old school district in NJ was exactly like this.

And one of those brilliant kids ended up at Rutgers, and spied on his roommate last fall, spreading his roommate's personal life on the Internet. And then that poor roommate, Tyler Clementi, jumped off the GW Bridge.

So yay for the WWP district for testing the heck out of these kids, emphasizing grades and accomplishments above all else, and putting them on such a pedestal for it, but an iota of compassion would have been far preferable.
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Old 05-08-2011, 06:45 PM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
14,131 posts, read 27,013,351 times
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Are there upper middle class parents in other places who aren't?
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Old 05-08-2011, 07:22 PM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, NC, formerly DC and Phila
8,555 posts, read 12,617,038 times
Reputation: 8315
Quote:
Originally Posted by still_waiting View Post
Ok now my question is this, why are people so obsessed with test scores in relation to the quality of schools in this area...WHEN overall the school systems in Northern Virginia are generally some of the best in the nation? Even "lowly" PWC is ranked overall as one of the best school systems in the US. Of course Fairfax ranks higher, but the other counties are not chopped liver by any means.
I honestly think you answered your own question. When you talked about PWC being ranked overall as one of the best school systems and Fairfax ranking higher. Well, what do you think they are primarily ranked on? Test scores, of course. And because most school rankings are done based on test scores, that is what most parents/students care about.

While test scores are not a perfect metric, it is the best one that you can use to compare schools with each other. There is so much variance in schools from state to state in courses being offered, requirements to graduate, content that is being taught, etc. Therefore, you cannot compare how many students passed math in one school versus how many did in another school because one school's math program may be harder. You cannot compare how many took honors English in one versus another because what is considered "honors" is different. You cannot even say how many graduated in one school on time versus another because graduation requirements are not the same.

The one thing you can do, however, is give every student the same exact test and score how they do. Then you can rank the schools. Again, I know this is not a perfect metric. Is there test bias against non-English speaking students? Is there a test bias against those in Southern schools or rural schools? Does this lead to too much teaching to the test? Any or all of the above questions may be true, but it doesn't change the fact that we can clearly say, "70% of 10th graders passed the standardized math test in school A, while 45% of 10th graders passed the test in School B. Try doing that with any other metric.

Having said all that, I think most peopole know that test scores do not tell the whole story. That is why, most people on C-D say to take test scores with a grain of salt. And to visit the school. And to talk to the principal. And to talk to the parents. Are students learning in this school? Are there good teachers? If there are low-income students in the school, does it affect, in a negative way, the learning of high-income or middle-income kids? If the school is full of only high-income students, is it overly competitive? However, even though most of us know that test scores do not tell the whole story, they do tell a story and a relatively easy one to interpret at that. And that is why I think people are obsessed with them.

(Full disclosure - I used to work in the standardized testing field and admit to having a bias towards standardized testing.)

ETA: And I agree with CAVA1990, Northern Virginians are not the only ones obsessed with test scores. Go on any state forum on C-D and do a search on test scores or schools and you will find that it is a national obsession, not a local one.
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Old 05-08-2011, 07:55 PM
 
Location: Novastan
384 posts, read 899,403 times
Reputation: 167
I think people here just want the best education for their children.
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