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Old 11-04-2012, 05:51 PM
 
39 posts, read 52,032 times
Reputation: 15

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First thank you in advance for all of your help! I'm new to the area and any help you can provide would be greatly greatly appreciated!

In your opinion what are the top 5/bottom 5 public schools in fairfax county for elementary, middle, and high school? Example (Top: Hunt Valley; Bottom: Silverbrook---as FYI i don't know anything about either of these schools---just google'd for reference)

I've heard about west springfield for high school as being one of the best, but just not sure about any others.

Again any help would be greatly appreciated:

Elementary School (Top; Bottom)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Middle School (Top; Bottom)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

High School (Top; Bottom)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
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Old 11-04-2012, 06:05 PM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
14,131 posts, read 27,083,711 times
Reputation: 6825
All the schools are about the same. Only the students differ.
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Old 11-04-2012, 06:40 PM
 
Location: Virginia
8,113 posts, read 12,682,638 times
Reputation: 3770
Quote:
Originally Posted by CAVA1990 View Post
All the schools are about the same. Only the students differ.
Agreed. I don't even know what the rankings would be based on. A lot of opinions could come into play.
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Old 11-04-2012, 07:01 PM
 
5,071 posts, read 8,638,408 times
Reputation: 2722
High schools in Fairfax get ranked more often than elementary and middle schools, some of which have gifted/talented programs that pull in kids whose base schools are in other neighborhoods.

Simply looking at SAT scores, and excluding TJHSST, a magnet school open to students in all of Fairfax and most neighboring jurisdictions in NoVa, the top five high schools in the most recent year are Langley, McLean, Woodson, Oakton and Madison, and the bottom five are Edison, Falls Church, Stuart, Lee and Mount Vernon.

The Washington Post also ranks schools based on a "Challenge Index" that measures the number of advanced courses (AP and IB courses) taken by graduating seniors. For the most recent year, the top five in Fairfax, again excluding TJ, were Oakton, McLean, Madison, Langley and Woodson, and the bottom five were Hayfield, Edison, Lee, Annandale and Mount Vernon.

US News also ranks top high schools nationally, using a more complicated methodology. In the most recent rankings, excluding TJ, the top five in Fairfax were Marshall, McLean, Robinson, Langley and Woodson. Those rankings do not differentiate among high schools below a certain ranking. I have seen some question the integrity of the data used by US News, but am passing this on as well for completeness.

As others might observe, below average in Fairfax frequently would be above average in many other places. At least at the high school level, it's generally understood that a student with academic aspirations and supportive parents could find a cohort of similar peers at any school.

Last edited by JD984; 11-04-2012 at 07:21 PM..
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Old 11-04-2012, 07:02 PM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
14,131 posts, read 27,083,711 times
Reputation: 6825
You can likely find the info you're looking for here:

Fairfax County Public Schools - School Rankings
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Old 11-04-2012, 07:06 PM
 
3,557 posts, read 3,459,028 times
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Is it fair to assume the middle and elementary schools in those high school pyramids are among the best too?
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Old 11-04-2012, 07:15 PM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
14,131 posts, read 27,083,711 times
Reputation: 6825
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grsz11 View Post
Is it fair to assume the middle and elementary schools in those high school pyramids are among the best too?
All are about equal. Facilities, curricula, and teachers are standard throughout the system. The only variable is the demographic make-up of each school's student body. That information is readily available and evident through the student test scores you can find on the site linked above.
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Old 11-04-2012, 07:26 PM
 
2,612 posts, read 4,767,267 times
Reputation: 3943
Quote:
Originally Posted by clock245 View Post
First thank you in advance for all of your help! I'm new to the area and any help you can provide would be greatly greatly appreciated!

In your opinion what are the top 5/bottom 5 public schools in fairfax county for elementary, middle, and high school? Example (Top: Hunt Valley; Bottom: Silverbrook---as FYI i don't know anything about either of these schools---just google'd for reference)

I've heard about west springfield for high school as being one of the best, but just not sure about any others.

Again any help would be greatly appreciated:

Elementary School (Top; Bottom)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Middle School (Top; Bottom)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

High School (Top; Bottom)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
High school rankings are common, but there are too many elementary schools for that. You can find any info you need at fcps.edu. All the schools are there, along with test scores and demographic info. Generally people prefer schools with high test scores and low numbers of low-income and ESL students.
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Old 11-05-2012, 07:50 AM
 
5,071 posts, read 8,638,408 times
Reputation: 2722
Quote:
Originally Posted by CAVA1990 View Post
All are about equal. Facilities, curricula, and teachers are standard throughout the system. The only variable is the demographic make-up of each school's student body. That information is readily available and evident through the student test scores you can find on the site linked above.
I think what can fairly be said is that all the schools in FCPS are part of a county-wide system that, in theory, follows the same curricula, with the variations most obvious at the high-school level.

The age and condition of facilities vary widely. You will not convince parents at Falls Church HS, who have been lobbying to get their aging school moved up the renovation queue, that the facilities at Falls Church are comparable to those at nearby Woodson HS, which was renovated two years ago. Usually, the condition of a facility in FCPS will not discourage people from sending their kids there if the programs otherwise are very good (Haycock ES, Thoreau MS and West Springfield HS come to mind here), but there are a few exceptions.

The curriculum is ostensibly similar, but there are parts of the county where a high percentage of students are enrolled in advanced academic programs at the elementary and middle school levels, and parts of the county where the percentage of students enrolled in such programs is much lower. That's something that FCPS currently is evaluating, and may address by expanding the number of "AAP centers" at elementary and middle schools in some school pyramids. At the high school level, some schools offer AP courses, and others offer the IB program. Some schools regularly have at least a half-dozen National Merit Semi-Finalists every year (TJ regularly has 150 or more), and some typically go years without a single semi-finalist.

I think there are dedicated teachers throughout FCPS, and that it's somewhat random as to where teachers end up working. Some teachers might find it more rewarding to work with students who may just be learning English, or come from challenged backgrounds, than to work with kids from families with plenty of money. Others might burn out under those circumstances.

Some schools have scores of extra-curricular activities and so many parent volunteers that parents almost have to campaign to get a slot on a PTA committee. Other schools have more parents who may not know English, or are working two or three jobs, and don't have the time or energy to attend school events. Many schools serve a wide mix of communities, where there are both plenty of volunteers and many parents who wouldn't feel comfortable setting foot inside a PTA meeting.

It's often daunting for newcomers to try and figure all this out, which is why the easiest thing for those who want to put in a bit - but not a lot - of time studying local school communities is often simply to fall back on test scores and demographics. It's the easiest data to make available, while it's harder to assess the intangibles.

Last edited by JD984; 11-05-2012 at 08:16 AM..
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Old 11-05-2012, 08:11 AM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, NC, formerly DC and Phila
8,572 posts, read 12,669,405 times
Reputation: 8333
I don't agree with the others that the schools are generally the same except for the student body. The student body, however, is a big part of what drives the differences among the schools. You will find that the schools, in general, in the richer parts of the county have better test scores. Generally, the more educated the parents, the more successful the children and the greater demand for excellence in schools. Therefore, schools in those richer areas will have more higher-level classes, more academic after-school activities, a stronger, better-funded PTA, more students in the more difficult classes, possibly more specialized teachers who can teach a highly-academic population. The more successful the parents the more vocal and more influence they have on the schools.

In addition to that difference among the schools, there are others. Some schools are Title 1 schools, they serve the poorest part of the county. They have a smaller ratio of students to teachers. Other schools are made up of many students who speak a language other than English as their first language, so those schools are geared toward ESOL. Other schools are magnet schools - focusing on science or arts. Yet other schools are language-immersion schools where the character of the schools is influenced by the language being taught. Yet still other schools (elementary and middle school level) contain advanced academic centers, which houses students from other schools who are academically advanced. Some high schools are AP-oriented. Others are IB-oriented. Some schools are more homogeneous, and others are more diverse, and that affects activities and culture at the school. These are just some of the major differences among the schools in Fairfax County.

To say which one is the best, though, is a bit more difficult. If you are asking in general terms, then the list that JEB77 presents based on test scores would likely be the answer, at least for high schools. And for middle schools would likely include many of the middle schools in those pyramids such as Longfellow, Cooper, Kilmer, Thoreau, among others. For elementary, there are many more, many of which are also in those pyramids: Haycock, WolfTrap, Colvin Run, and many, many others.

However, those high-scoring schools are not necessarily better than the "poorer" schools. Schools with lower test scores might actually be doing a better job of educating less-fortunate children. Their test scores are lower, because the students are not coming from the same place as children of doctors and lawyers. Or, a school that focuses on special needs will clearly have lower test scores, but may actually be working very, very well with the special needs population.

If you have a child who has some special needs or who does not speak English as a second language, he may very well do better at a school that isn't the one with the highest test scores. If you have an average student, an average school might be a better fit than one that moves at a faster pace. If you have an academically-advanced student, one of the high-scoring schools might be best. But perhaps, your child would be better being a "star" at a school with lower test scores than one of the many high-scoring students at a richer school.

While technically, the curriculum is the same at all of the schools, the content can be taught very differently. On a personal level, my children were in a middle-of-the road elementary school in one of the better pyramids in FCPS. Many of my friends' children were in different schools in the same grade. We often compared what our kids were doing. Sometimes, two schools were working on very similar topics. Other times, my friends' schools were focusing on topics my child barely touched on. They even used different text books for math, resulting in very different methods of teaching. Some schools grouped all the "smart" kids together similar to tracking. Others mixed all students up, based on the philosophy that students learn from each other. Our middle-of-the-road school focused much more on the average or below-average student than on the academically-advanced ones. One of my friends' schools which was an academically-advanced center focused much more on the higher-end students, academically (their population was made up of more of those students).

So, while it's very easy to say, the schools are pretty much the same because they have the same curriculum across schools, that's way too general. In just the small number of schools I witnessed, which were all in the same vicinity in the county, the differences were pretty great. The differences between the schools in my area of the county would likely have even greater differences from those in other parts of the county.
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