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Old 05-27-2010, 08:55 PM
 
6 posts, read 23,860 times
Reputation: 10

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We are looking at neighborhoods in the Stafford and Fredericksburg areas. I have to say that Greatschools.com is scaring the heck out of me with their ratings. As an educator, I know that these scores aren't the end all to whether or not the school is decent, but the low scores of the elementary schools in both areas (3's and 4's) have me concerned. We can't seem to find a neighborhood where there is a "trifecta" of good schools (elem/middle/high school.) For example, Austin Ridge has students going to Anthony Burns Elementary (a 2!) and then on to the middle school and high school with are both 9's.

So those of you familiar with the schools in the area...please give me the lowdown. Are there any schools (elementary/middle/high school) that I should just simply avoid? Any highly sought out neighborhoods in these areas based on the schools? We are looking for the usual---family-friendly neighborhood, some ammenities would be nice (parks, playgrounds, pool perhaps) and our max price would be 400K.

Thanks in advance for your comments!
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Old 05-28-2010, 06:17 AM
 
Location: east coast
250 posts, read 822,690 times
Reputation: 328
We'll I felt the same when we moved here. Of course we moved from a 10/10 school in california and when I saw the greatschool ratings I was freaked out to come. We ended up chosing a school within the spotsy school district after visiting a couple schools within both districts and just getting a feel after speaking with the specific principals.

Spotsy and stafford are essentially the same now with spotsy ending their elementary spanish program (stafford never had this). You'll find 3-4-5-6 ratings within both districts depending on school. Take those ratings with a grain of salt. The school we chose was a "5" and the school itself I do like. The leadership is phenomenal, the principal very personable and the teacher my son had this year was really very supportive, communicated very well and was always available to us.

Big thing if you can is to make yourself seen at school. I drop my child up and pick him up at the end of the day. I see the Principal, VP, teachers (music, art PE, spanish) daily and we chat a bit. I see only 2 other parents do this. Many work so it's not an option but I do think it's made a difference. I have requested specific teachers and the principal is honoring that request.Be involved if you can.

Also keep in mind (if you come from another state) that Virginia does have quite low state standards so although the ratings may be higher in other public elementary schools within the state it's still a lower standard. All I heard was how good of a public school system virginia had when we moved. The school we chose may be very good however the standard is low so my first grader still has not touched a few academic standards that he had mid kindergarten year in CA. Other than that lower standard I am very happy with my son's school and I would rate it (for anything other than state standards that is) as a 9/10 out of 10.

I was told to stay away from any fburg 'city' schools, but I don't know what that exactly means. In my experience those ratings are just that. Somewhat subjective, not always accurate. You can be within the best district and have a bad teacher and vice versa.

Hope this helps a little. Where are you moving from? Oh and austin ridge--and anthony burns. I have a friend whose child goes there-she is also a teacher, very involved and she loves that school. raves about it and her children are very bright.
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Old 05-28-2010, 10:54 AM
 
675 posts, read 1,017,313 times
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I have lived in Stafford county since 1996 and at that time I had my 2 daughters in the County School system and my wife and I were really scared after seeing first hand the condition of schools they were attending. The schools here have improved a lot since then but still have a ways to go imo.

To make a long story short both my daughters have now graduated from College one from George Mason University with a bachelors in business marketing and my younger daughter from Mary Washington University with a
bachelors in Language arts. My point is that Stafford county school system did not hurt my kids in any way they are both very successful young ladies!

If your looking to move here and have Children my advise to you would be research the schools and take a look first hand and get a feel for the teaching staff and administration and then make your decision.
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Old 05-28-2010, 12:17 PM
 
11 posts, read 41,948 times
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I can only speak on behalf of the Stafford County Schools but I can say that you shouldn't judge the school system based on their test scores. Every school in SCPS is nationally accredited (including our newest middle school Shirley Heim); 50% of our teachers hold master's degrees; and 46 teachers are nationally certified to teach. Unfortunately, Stafford schools are taking some hits in ratings right now because of the influx in population and county politics. All-in-all, our teachers are excellent!!!!

In choosing a school, you should first think about how long you are going to be in Stafford (is this a temporary stay or a final destination?) If it is temporary, then I would focus on the schools your children will be in and worry less about the high schools.

For elementary schools, we have several great schools (Garrisonville, Anne E. Moncure, Hartwood, and Ferry Farm to name a few). Personally, I would stay away from the elementary schools in the south eastern part of the county because they are scheduled for renonvations within the next 5 years and your children will be bused into another school. That said, my personal favorite school is Hartwood Elementary. The principal and their PTO are wonderful!!!!!!!!! They have a lot of community events and really are focused on the community, as a whole. Ferry Farm also has a great community feel, however, it is pretty far out east and it is scheduled for renonvations (TBA). Garrisonville/Anne E. Moncure/Park Ridge/Hampton Oaks are also great schools with great principals. Hampton Oaks and Park Ridge are centered in the middle of the largest housing development in the county and can be within walking distance of your home or the library.

Middle schools are a little more difficult. Specifically, they haven't been performing as highly as they should be, however, our school board is aware of this and our looking into the situation. Our newest middle school is Shirley Heim which opened up last year. Our strongest schools are Drew and Rodney Thompson with all other middle schools showing steady failing test scores over the past 3 years. You should note that Drew Middle recently became home to the center for children with Autism, which is held in one wing of the school.

Finally, our high schools. You should note that a high majority of our students not only graduate from high school but go onto college (somewhere in the 90s for graduation and 60 for college). Mountain View High School is the newest and western most high school but has yet to see great test scores. The school itself is immaculate and the teachers and administrative staff are, arguably, the best in the county (a lot of great staff went to the new high school when it opened)! Colonial Forge, on the other hand is our most successful high school but, keep in mind, that it houses our governor's school students, which may have an impact on the students attending the school. Colonial Forge does have a principal that the students do not respect (contrary to what you may read in the Washington Post) and she has been the subject of some pretty terrible rumors over the past several years. North Stafford (where I graduated) scores well on tests and is a very good school - the teachers are excellent (not that I am biased)!!! Stafford High is the oldest school and physically is in the worst shape but it does have the strongest county roots, the most alumni, and I hear the teachers there are wonderful, as well.

Another thing to keep in mind about the different high schools are the type of vocational programs offered onsite. There are talks about planning for a new vocational high school, however, for the time being individual high schools house their own smaller programs, which is different for each school!

Hope this helps!
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Old 05-28-2010, 03:26 PM
 
4 posts, read 10,763 times
Reputation: 10
I just found this site..check it out for all school reviews and scores...I think its better and true than greatschools.

Data Tools - State/District Profiles
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Old 05-30-2010, 09:44 PM
 
6 posts, read 23,860 times
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Thanks for the responses!!

We will be here at least 6 years, but we could stay longer if we choose so that is why I am looking at the whole spectrum of schools (elem-high school).

I still can't fathom sending my child to a school that only rates a 2/3/4---these are based on test scores, not some biased opinion so that makes me worry. Like "MilitaryMom" we are coming from San Diego where our schools in our neighborhood are ranked a 10, so it is hard for me to accept the fact that we would move to a neighborhood where these schools are ranked so low. When I check out the other stats/demographics of the schools besides test scores (so many kids on free/reduced lunch!) that paints another picture, too. Ugh. That being said, I haven't talked to anyone who thinks the schools are as horrible as they appear so maybe that's saying something.

We are looking at homes in Leeland Station, Austin Ridge, Autumn Ridge, Stafford Lakes, Lee's Hill, Stratford Place, etc. We are also looking into the Ni River school area, but can't find too many family-friendly neighborhoods. So if your best friend was moving to the area, which schools/neighborhoods would you have her avoid (or recommend)?? I am due with a baby this week so my husband will be doing househunting solo (frightening!) so any other advice you could send my way would be appreciated
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Old 05-31-2010, 07:18 AM
 
Location: Arlington, VA and Washington, DC
23,628 posts, read 33,413,509 times
Reputation: 32335
Quote:
Originally Posted by klsassy1 View Post
We are looking at neighborhoods in the Stafford and Fredericksburg areas. I have to say that Greatschools.com is scaring the heck out of me with their ratings. As an educator, I know that these scores aren't the end all to whether or not the school is decent, but the low scores of the elementary schools in both areas (3's and 4's) have me concerned. We can't seem to find a neighborhood where there is a "trifecta" of good schools (elem/middle/high school.) For example, Austin Ridge has students going to Anthony Burns Elementary (a 2!) and then on to the middle school and high school with are both 9's.

So those of you familiar with the schools in the area...please give me the lowdown. Are there any schools (elementary/middle/high school) that I should just simply avoid? Any highly sought out neighborhoods in these areas based on the schools? We are looking for the usual---family-friendly neighborhood, some ammenities would be nice (parks, playgrounds, pool perhaps) and our max price would be 400K.

Thanks in advance for your comments!
Uggh, let me guess, that stupid greatschools site?

I'm a graduate of T.C. Williams HS which ranked a 2. I consider myself a decent student when I decide to be (3.4 GPA junior in college). T.C. Williams was an enriching educational experience, despite its reputation. I'm not telling you to totally disregard greatschools.com, I'm just saying don't let it be the end all be all due to an arbitrary rating system.
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Old 06-01-2010, 11:41 AM
 
389 posts, read 1,090,880 times
Reputation: 149
Quote:
Originally Posted by klsassy1 View Post
Thanks for the responses!!

We will be here at least 6 years, but we could stay longer if we choose so that is why I am looking at the whole spectrum of schools (elem-high school).

I still can't fathom sending my child to a school that only rates a 2/3/4---these are based on test scores, not some biased opinion so that makes me worry. Like "MilitaryMom" we are coming from San Diego where our schools in our neighborhood are ranked a 10, so it is hard for me to accept the fact that we would move to a neighborhood where these schools are ranked so low. When I check out the other stats/demographics of the schools besides test scores (so many kids on free/reduced lunch!) that paints another picture, too. Ugh. That being said, I haven't talked to anyone who thinks the schools are as horrible as they appear so maybe that's saying something.

We are looking at homes in Leeland Station, Austin Ridge, Autumn Ridge, Stafford Lakes, Lee's Hill, Stratford Place, etc. We are also looking into the Ni River school area, but can't find too many family-friendly neighborhoods. So if your best friend was moving to the area, which schools/neighborhoods would you have her avoid (or recommend)?? I am due with a baby this week so my husband will be doing househunting solo (frightening!) so any other advice you could send my way would be appreciated
We use a great private school this year, but my neighbors are both very happy with Stafford Elementary. I firmly believe that your child's education has much more to do with how involved the you are as a parent than a greatschools rating. I do know people that live in Austin Ridge, Stafford Lakes, and Stratford Place, but they all use private school or homeschool. Sorry I can't be more help.
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Old 06-01-2010, 08:34 PM
 
Location: Fredericksburg, Va
38 posts, read 113,211 times
Reputation: 53
Hi, I went through stafford county public schools. Grafton Village and Ferry Farm, Drew Middle School, and Stafford High School (08'). I now go to Virginia Tech and I definitely don't feel like the school system failed me, I even felt more prepared than quite a few people at college. I think all but one school could offer a good education for your kids, and that one school is Drew Middle. It was different than when I went, since then newer middle schools have opened and the school population dropped to like 400 kids and I feel like the county has just forgotten about the school. I'd recommend your kids going to stafford schools over private school, just because private is so expensive and your kids will be sheltered away from all other walks of life. I agree with the previous poster, though, that the most important thing is how involved you are as a parent, if your kid comes from a good home, you have nothing to worry about no matter what school they go to.
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Old 06-03-2010, 08:25 PM
 
Location: Northern VA
3,872 posts, read 7,769,841 times
Reputation: 3130
My kids go to Rocky Run (the parents there LOVE the school and the principal and vp). It's an AWESOME school. I can't recommend it enough. Stafford Lakes feeds into there also.

Gayle MS is ok. My son went there last year. It's not bad but nothing spectacular, except for one of the math teachers. She was amazing. The kids all loved her.

This year my son goes to Colonial Forge. It's been ranked among the top 1000 high schools in the nation. Love it.

Stafford Lakes, Cardinal Forest, England Run, etc. are great places here to live. I wouldn't live anywhere else in NoVA. We lived in Manassas for a year when we first got here and hated it.
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