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Old 12-07-2009, 12:02 AM
 
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Default Are these really "bad" schools?

We are moving to NoVa in February, and looking for rentals in a good area with good schools. I was warned that the ratings these schools get are unfair, but without knowing the schools personally, how do I know if a school with a greatschools rating of 2-5 is really a bad school?

So what are your opinions of these high schools in PWC?

Potomac

Gar-Field

Freedom

I just don't get why they are rated so low... the test scores seem fine to me. What gives?
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Old 12-07-2009, 03:02 AM
 
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Have not heard good things about Freedom or Potomac high school. For Gar-field, just make sure your child is in the IB program. It is definitely a "school" within a "school" as the IB students travel together to attend their classes (they have lunch, PE etc. together). Osbourn Park and Forest Park have better reputations but ALL the high schools will have detractors and issues.
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Old 12-07-2009, 05:41 AM
 
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Those are the most troublesome schools. PW schools are very diverse and these schools take diversity to the next level. A lot of very disadvantaged kids in these schools and the accompanying problems that go with that.

Both my kids were slated for Potomac and both go to private high school. One of my son's friends was just kicked out of the private high school and she now goes to Potomac. She told him that the curriculum is WAY easier than the private school she was just kicked out of and she's very happy that she can now "do what she wants" in school instead of being reprimanded for not following the rules.

My daughter's friend is a (or was) a junior at Gar-Field and she finally had to leave because it was so bad (she was not in IB). She is doing virtual high school now. My other daughter's friend graduated from Gar-Field's IB program and did very well.

I know another person who's oldest son went to Potomac and also did well (got accepted to UVA) but the overall experience was not great and the younger kids were put in private high school.

It's really so hard to come out and say or identify a specific problem but, overall, these are the worst high schools in the county and there is just trouble there. That's not saying that if you have a good, motivated child that they can't get a good education there. They just have to be able to rise above it.
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Old 12-07-2009, 09:48 AM
 
257 posts, read 332,224 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristineVA View Post
Those are the most troublesome schools. PW schools are very diverse and these schools take diversity to the next level. A lot of very disadvantaged kids in these schools and the accompanying problems that go with that.

Both my kids were slated for Potomac and both go to private high school. One of my son's friends was just kicked out of the private high school and she now goes to Potomac. She told him that the curriculum is WAY easier than the private school she was just kicked out of and she's very happy that she can now "do what she wants" in school instead of being reprimanded for not following the rules.

My daughter's friend is a (or was) a junior at Gar-Field and she finally had to leave because it was so bad (she was not in IB). She is doing virtual high school now. My other daughter's friend graduated from Gar-Field's IB program and did very well.

I know another person who's oldest son went to Potomac and also did well (got accepted to UVA) but the overall experience was not great and the younger kids were put in private high school.

It's really so hard to come out and say or identify a specific problem but, overall, these are the worst high schools in the county and there is just trouble there. That's not saying that if you have a good, motivated child that they can't get a good education there. They just have to be able to rise above it.
Ok... so what makes a school "bad"? (Serious question.) Although you've given examples about students who weren't happy there, what you've posted doesn't tell us whether the school is bad or the student is bad.
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Old 12-07-2009, 10:27 AM
 
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Originally Posted by anonymous703 View Post
Ok... so what makes a school "bad"? (Serious question.) Although you've given examples about students who weren't happy there, what you've posted doesn't tell us whether the school is bad or the student is bad.
Okay, it's very hard to quantify because it's just a "feel" I get from the students.

The teachers and curriculum in Prince William County, IMO, are very good across the board. I think that even in these "bad" schools, the teachers are good teachers. It is the student body that, overall, can cause the problem.

In the case of these three schools listed, they probably have the highest population of economically adverse students and students from unstable or nonexistent family structures. They also have students that come from solid backgrounds but these schools tend to have the highest concentrations of challenged students.

For instance, Gar-Field high school has the highest rate in the county of non-graduating students. Something like 23% of kids who start at Gar-Field will drop out of school. For a suburb of a fairly wealthy area, I think that's pretty appalling. Some of the PW schools have a drop out rate of 7%. That's a big difference. Much of the gang activity in PWC is concentrated at both Gar-Field and Freedom. I don't think Potomac has so much of an issue with that.

A good friend of mine is a teacher at Gar-Field high school. This person is still in their 20s and is a product of the Fairfax County School System. They just cannot believe the differences in their experience versus what goes on in Gar-Field. Again, no issues with *what* is being taught. It is pretty much the same. I think it is VERY challenging for this teacher to teach at Gar-Field due to the student population.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:43 PM
 
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I agree it is the student population that makes it very challenging to teach at these high schools. The high schools gets these kids who: don't care to learn, put little effort into school work and have discipline issues. Unfortunately Gar-field, Potomac and Freedom are inheriting these kids due to the school boundaries. I would check the school reports of each high school which list the amount of violent incidents. This is found on the PWC site as well as the VA Educ. site.

The curriculum is the same across all the PWC high schools. The teachers will teach what is required but if you are in classes with students who show no interest in learning then your student's experience will be negative. Once again, I can't emphasize how important it is to be among students who are eager to learn and usually you find them in the honors/ap classes.

Once again, I have friends who have kids in the IB program at Gar-field and they love it. Many of the IB students have gone on to UVA and William & Mary. These kids are insulated from the general population at Gar-field due to their class scheduling.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:46 PM
 
257 posts, read 332,224 times
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Originally Posted by ChristineVA View Post
For instance, Gar-Field high school has the highest rate in the county of non-graduating students. Something like 23% of kids who start at Gar-Field will drop out of school. For a suburb of a fairly wealthy area, I think that's pretty appalling. Some of the PW schools have a drop out rate of 7%. That's a big difference.
I'll give you that... it's a remarkable difference. However, to that, I would say, if one's child comes from a solid family background, I would worry less about the higher drop out rate.

Quote:
Much of the gang activity in PWC is concentrated at both Gar-Field and
OTOH, that would be enough to keep my kids (if I ever have them) out of that district. Perhaps the high drop out rate is highly correlated with the gang activity?
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Old 12-07-2009, 02:04 PM
 
5,685 posts, read 5,527,633 times
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Originally Posted by anonymous703 View Post
I'll give you that... it's a remarkable difference. However, to that, I would say, if one's child comes from a solid family background, I would worry less about the higher drop out rate.



OTOH, that would be enough to keep my kids (if I ever have them) out of that district. Perhaps the high drop out rate is highly correlated with the gang activity?
I don't think the kids from decent homes are dropping out. From what I have heard at Gar-Field, the drop out rate is due to kids being from homes where they are fairly poor and they end up dropping out due to economic issues and just going to work. Mostly immigrant families. There's then the issue of a very large number of teen pregnancies at Gar-Field. Many stay in school and their babies go to the on-site daycare, but many others just drop out.

The bottom line is, if you have a spectactular student in your home and that kid goes into anyone of these schools, he/she will be put in high level classes and will be insulated from it. I agree that the IB program is the way to go at Gar-Field. However, if you have have an average student (or even slightly above-average but not a whizz kid) your kids is going to find himself in *some* of their classes with a group of very non-motivated students. My daughter went to one of the PWC public schools (not any of the three listed). She was a fairly average student and there were so many issues in the classrooms with these kids and stuff going on in the halls that somedays school could be very tiring for her. I think that is why her friend dropped out of Gar-Field and went into the online high school through PWC. She was fed up with the crap. On the other hand, her other friend who was in IB had a great time. If you can "insulate" your kid, as the other poster put it, in these schools, it will be okay.
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