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Old 08-29-2007, 01:12 AM
 
28 posts, read 87,750 times
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My husband and I are moving from CA to VA with our three young kids. New office is in Fairfax off of the 665 near 66 (East of Fair Oaks Shopping Ctr.) IDEALLY, we are looking for the best package of town/school that we can find within 30 - 45 min. commute time of the office. We can consider homes from the $600-700 price range. Is this realistic? I'm really picky about schools - Schools are my number one priority. Is there anyone who can help us figure out which school - town package is best within that commute distance? We're looking at the complete school pyramid - elementary to high school and looking for a "family friendly" area.

Oakton, Fairfax, Vienna, Falls Church, Burke, Springfield, Annandale- are these within decent commute time? Can we consider Arlington and Alexandria or Ashburn, or are these too far? Mapquest times just aren't reliable when you factor in traffic.

Which schools are the best? I'm looking for a school that is nurturing and child oriented (not a test score driven machine - test scores are not my number one priority when looking at a school.) My ideal school (ha ha ha) would have teachers with advanced degrees, would value creativity and allow the child some self directed, hands on learning - not just sit, copy, listen. I can have it all, right?
THANK YOU FOR REPLYING!!!!!!!!!!

Oh - and one more question - on Greatschools, it doesn't list any public middle or high schools in Oakton. Is this accurate info? Which public high do the Oakton students go to?
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Old 08-29-2007, 06:09 AM
 
2,462 posts, read 8,042,957 times
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Which schools are the best? I'm looking for a school that is nurturing and child oriented (not a test score driven machine - test scores are not my number one priority when looking at a school.) My ideal school (ha ha ha) would have teachers with advanced degrees, would value creativity and allow the child some self directed, hands on learning - not just sit, copy, listen. I can have it all, right?

Your ideal school is a private school. If you can't swing that, then you'll have to resign yourself to dealing with a public school system that has been forced by NCLB to spend an inordinate amount of precious teacher nurturing time on assuring that students pass the SOLs. Though test scores are not YOUR highest priority, they are, unfortunately, very important to the people who run the schools. Therefore, beware of the schools with lower test scores, because they generally serve more low-income or limited-English populations, and the emphasis at those schools is even MORE focused on raising the test scores than at those schools that serve mostly affluent students and already have generally high scores.
Your best shot at finding what you want in the public schools is to go for the school pyramids serving the most affluent populations. That would be Langley, McLean, Madison, Oakton, Woodson, Robinson, Lake Braddock. Also George Mason HS in the City of Falls Church.
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Old 08-29-2007, 07:40 AM
 
Location: Manassas, VA
352 posts, read 1,440,286 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by claremarie View Post
Which schools are the best? I'm looking for a school that is nurturing and child oriented (not a test score driven machine - test scores are not my number one priority when looking at a school.) My ideal school (ha ha ha) would have teachers with advanced degrees, would value creativity and allow the child some self directed, hands on learning - not just sit, copy, listen. I can have it all, right?

Your ideal school is a private school. If you can't swing that, then you'll have to resign yourself to dealing with a public school system that has been forced by NCLB to spend an inordinate amount of precious teacher nurturing time on assuring that students pass the SOLs. Though test scores are not YOUR highest priority, they are, unfortunately, very important to the people who run the schools. Therefore, beware of the schools with lower test scores, because they generally serve more low-income or limited-English populations, and the emphasis at those schools is even MORE focused on raising the test scores than at those schools that serve mostly affluent students and already have generally high scores.
Your best shot at finding what you want in the public schools is to go for the school pyramids serving the most affluent populations. That would be Langley, McLean, Madison, Oakton, Woodson, Robinson, Lake Braddock. Also George Mason HS in the City of Falls Church.
I really don't think our friend has to resort to private schools unless they want to - the schools here can be and often are stellar. I'd add Washington-Lee in Arlington to your list of primo school pyramids, and also caution our friend - since she mentioned Annandale in her list of towns she's looking in - that both Annandals HS and W.T. Woodson HS serve the Annandale zip code, 22003. Make ABSOLUTELY SURE that when you're looking in that zip code you are in the Woodson school district - which is one of the best of the best - instead of the Annandale one - which is one of the worst school districts in NoVA. Generally speaking, the Woodson district is 22003 *outside* the beltway.
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Old 08-29-2007, 07:53 AM
 
Location: Manassas, VA
352 posts, read 1,440,286 times
Reputation: 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by movingtova View Post
My husband and I are moving from CA to VA with our three young kids. New office is in Fairfax off of the 665 near 66 (East of Fair Oaks Shopping Ctr.) IDEALLY, we are looking for the best package of town/school that we can find within 30 - 45 min. commute time of the office. We can consider homes from the $600-700 price range. Is this realistic? I'm really picky about schools - Schools are my number one priority. Is there anyone who can help us figure out which school - town package is best within that commute distance? We're looking at the complete school pyramid - elementary to high school and looking for a "family friendly" area.

Oakton, Fairfax, Vienna, Falls Church, Burke, Springfield, Annandale- are these within decent commute time? Can we consider Arlington and Alexandria or Ashburn, or are these too far? Mapquest times just aren't reliable when you factor in traffic.

Which schools are the best? I'm looking for a school that is nurturing and child oriented (not a test score driven machine - test scores are not my number one priority when looking at a school.) My ideal school (ha ha ha) would have teachers with advanced degrees, would value creativity and allow the child some self directed, hands on learning - not just sit, copy, listen. I can have it all, right?
THANK YOU FOR REPLYING!!!!!!!!!!

Oh - and one more question - on Greatschools, it doesn't list any public middle or high schools in Oakton. Is this accurate info? Which public high do the Oakton students go to?
All of the towns you listed, save Ashburn and Alexandria, are very workable within 45 minutes given your spouse's location. Arlington would be a reverse commute so that would work well. Ashburn and Alexandria (and Leesburg) just aren't very convenient to Fair Oaks - it'd be ok if that's what you needed to do, but it isn't as you hold the cards here.

You would do well to add Chantilly and Centreville to your list, as they also have some good schools (Chantilly HS comes to mind) and though they're on the western half of Fairfax County, so is your spouse's job so the commute would be quite manageable.

Finally, there's a great resource - Fairfax County Public Schools Boundary Information - where you can type in addresses of properties you're considering and it'll tell you the ES, MS and HS for that property. Try a couple Oakton properties, and you'll have your answer! This is valuable especially as a lot of the listings won't have the schools listed, or will occasionally be incorrect.
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Old 08-29-2007, 09:04 AM
 
2,462 posts, read 8,042,957 times
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I really don't think our friend has to resort to private schools unless they want to - the schools here can be and often are stellar. I'd add Washington-Lee in Arlington to your list of primo school pyramids,

If you don't have recent experience as a parent of public school students, then you may not fully appreciate the degree to which the SOL tests and other federal mandates have taken over the curriculum, even at "stellar" schools. When one of my kids was in elementary school, he spent MONTHS learning a collection of insipid, poorly-written songs on Virginia history ("Virginia -- Home of Most Presidents!!" comes readily to mind) instead of the traditional folk songs his older brother had learned in the pre-SOL days. Even schools that have many high-performing students are under the gun to show "adequate yearly progress" by continuing to improve, even though virtually all of their students are already passing the exams. Yes, there are still plenty of nurturing and creative teachers, but parents need to understand the primacy of the almighty standardized test scores, because that will be the focus of the administration.
I didn't include Arlington schools on the list, because the original poster's housing dollars won't stretch quite so far there, and its convenience to DC isn't as important when the job is way out in Fairfax. But I would put Yorktown, and particularly the "alternative" H.B. Woodlawn above Washington-Lee. Woodlawn, which began as a sort of "hippy" school, has the highest test scores in the area, and might be a great choice for grades 6-12. Admission to Woodlawn is not a sure thing, so I wouldn't necessarily move to Arlington with one's heart set on that school.
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Old 08-29-2007, 09:44 AM
 
28 posts, read 87,750 times
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This is very helpful - It's sad to think that there aren't any public schools that escape the test score-driven culture.

I don't think that we can swing a private school, but just curious - any real stand outs?
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Old 08-29-2007, 10:58 AM
 
2,462 posts, read 8,042,957 times
Reputation: 995
There are many excellent private schools in the metro DC area, but, unfortunately for VA residents, there are more choices in DC and Montgomery County, especially for those interested in single-sex options. And they are expensive -- the non-parochial private schools typically have elementary school tuition between $8-12K, with high school tuition even higher. It's hard to recommend specific schools without knowing more about what you're looking for.

You can find most of what you are looking for in the Fairfax County public schools, keeping in mind that your best bets will be in the schools serving the highest-income students. Which sounds crass, but that's just the way it is now, unfortunately.
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Old 08-29-2007, 12:31 PM
 
35 posts, read 174,767 times
Reputation: 26
I have been a middle school teacher in NY for the past 9 years and it is the same story. The "higher ups" will tell the faculty and residents that they are not driven by scores, but it is simply not true. Since you are and ought to be an involved parent, they are going to give you they same song and dance. This might take a little work, but this is what I plan on doing (we re relocating as well and my kids will be in Kindergarten next year)... When I talk to the principal, and I do get the "blah blah blah, scores don't matter, good critical thinking teaching does..." routine... I am going to ask for evidence. For example, I taught 7th grade SS, while I did have the state test in mind when comprising my curriculum, I tought the kids the skills they needed in life which in turn help them to figure out some stupid test that is not at all a future performance indicator (my department has held a passing rate of at least 95% for the last 4 years). I hope this makes sense for I am a HUGE proponent of the public educational system. We (teachers) are highly educated and held to MUCH higher standards than the private sector (at least in NY). Good Luck!

Last edited by nmlarkin; 08-29-2007 at 12:33 PM.. Reason: spelling
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Old 08-29-2007, 03:08 PM
 
28 posts, read 87,750 times
Reputation: 16
MARSHALL High School in Falls Church has great reviews on greatschools.net. Should it be considered in the same class as the others previously mentioned or not?
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Old 08-29-2007, 03:34 PM
 
4,711 posts, read 10,861,826 times
Reputation: 3773
Be careful. FCPS just launched a boundary study which affects SIX high schools in western Fairfax County - Chantilly, Oakton, Herndon, Westfield, South Lakes and Madison.

There's no new high school being built. FCPS claims they’re doing this to even out enrollment numbers among the schools. BUT they're not using reliable enrollment statistics to justify such wide-sweeping redistricting! It's as if they simply have a desire to play with the numbers again.

There is a website: Stop Redistricting in Fairfax County (broken link) with more information.
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