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Old 06-07-2008, 08:02 PM
 
73 posts, read 204,497 times
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Default What makes a good school "good"?

I'm thinking about relocating this summer (I'm currently in NE Salem) and since I work from home, my main criteria right now is the possibility of my nephew coming to live with me. He's 12 years old and has had issues concentrating and arguing with some teachers, and it probably stems in large part from having a hectic home life. If he stays with me, things will be much calmer for him and I expect his behavior and performance improve, but I'd like for him to be in a school that I can work with if it takes longer than expected.

I'm poking around and reading about people looking for "good schools" but others seem to have different criteria than I do. I'm not looking for gifted programs, AP courses, sports teams, etc. My priority is that he's able to adjust and develop decent study habits, not excel and get into an Ivy League school. (We can always relocate for that later.) So right now I'm thinking that a decent school in a small community (and accessible teachers) will be better for him than a very reputable school in a larger community with all the bells and whistles. Can anybody shed light on which schools would fit the bill, or offer advice in general? Right now I'm eying Silverton. Any feedback?
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Old 06-07-2008, 10:14 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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I would start visiting schools, observe the children and talk to the teachers. What you want is a calm enviornment in the classroom. Middle school is tough for kids under the best of circumstances.
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Old 06-08-2008, 12:18 PM
 
Location: Salem, OR
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Most people define good schools as schools with 1) a stable teaching staff. Having teachers that aren't stressed out due to school politics is important in order for them to give their all to kids; 2) good test scores. If the kids are generally testing well, they are getting good instruction; 3) behavior issues. If many kids are getting suspended or expelled then the demographic feeding into the school is a difficult one. This means school teachers and counselors are spending their time dealing with behavior problems and NOT teaching. 4) Extracurriculars. While you aren't interested, a school with a healthy budget can afford to have these for kids. Since these are the first things cut, it may mean they don't have money for the academic needs of kids. 5) Advanced academics. Whether or not your nephew needs these or not doesn't matter. What matters is that schools that have AP programs have the FUNDING. No AP program means lack of funding, which may mean not as strong academics.

I think the piece that you are missing is this...schools that have all of the bells and whistles, good test scores, etc tend to have a more stable demographic base which tends to mean a more highly educated population which tends to mean more invested/involved parents which tends to mean fewer behavior problems which tends to mean can actually spend their time teaching.

If he is going to relocate and move in with you (transition #1), and go into a new school (transition #2), get him into the most stable school that you can. He is going to have enough on his plate without being in a marginal school. Middle school is difficult no matter who you are. As a parent, of an 8 and 6 year old, I would be focused on reducing his stress level which for me would be the best school district that I could comfortably live in.

Visit Silverton schools (school year ends on Tuesday) and ask about behavior problems in classes. How often are kids getting sent to the principal, referrals written, detentions given, suspensions. Then look at test scores. Get into a school with the least behavior problems and best test scores.

Sublimity and Scio have well reputed K-8 schools as well.
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Old 06-08-2008, 01:01 PM
 
73 posts, read 204,497 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silverfall View Post
Whether or not your nephew needs these or not doesn't matter. What matters is that schools that have AP programs have the FUNDING. No AP program means lack of funding, which may mean not as strong academics.

I think the piece that you are missing is this...schools that have all of the bells and whistles, good test scores, etc tend to have a more stable demographic base which tends to mean a more highly educated population which tends to mean more invested/involved parents which tends to mean fewer behavior problems which tends to mean can actually spend their time teaching.
All very good points. Thanks for explaining. I'm a complete "newbie" at this so this is very informative.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silverfall View Post
Visit Silverton schools (school year ends on Tuesday) and ask about behavior problems in classes. How often are kids getting sent to the principal, referrals written, detentions given, suspensions. Then look at test scores. Get into a school with the least behavior problems and best test scores.
Who would I ask? Teachers? Principals? Parents? I was thinking about spending time in Silverton this summer, getting involved with the community and asking around about schools.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silverfall View Post
Sublimity and Scio have well reputed K-8 schools as well.
Good stuff. I might take a drive out there today.
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Old 06-08-2008, 02:00 PM
 
Location: Salem, OR
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Talk to the principal for the behavior stats. Then I would ask parents. If you can find a parent that volunteers in the school or is involved in the Parent Teacher Council that would be great.
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Old 06-08-2008, 04:22 PM
 
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Silverfall and Nell have really good info... good points... it would also seem like a K-8 school would be ideal for consistency and stability for the next few years for him. Middle school is so tricky, especially for boys as their inner "bear" wakes up (puberty...testosterone...)... They must learn how to manage the bear on top of adjusting to changing schools and all the new expectations and whatnot. It's a very tricky time, so the more we can do to lessen change and keep things consistent and stable the better. Also, have you thought about making sure he has some strong male role models around? Maybe a swimming teacher, basketball coach, art teacher, neighbor, somebody? Boys need responsible adult men around to look up to. Men represent reality while women represent home and unconditional love... it's important that children have both in their lives even if it's not the traditional mom and dad scenario.
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Old 06-09-2008, 12:11 PM
 
Location: West Coast
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Greatschools.net is a great place to find school scores and stuff. They also rate the schools. I find it a very informative site.
I agree with all Silverfall said. Also, you don't have to be in a city to have good test scores. Some of the smaller towns have good scores too.
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Old 06-09-2008, 01:15 PM
 
73 posts, read 204,497 times
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Thanks so much, everyone, for your advice so far--all very helpful.

I'll try to visit schools before they're finished for the year.

I agree about role models--I think a child should have a variety of good role models, both male and female. I'm in a relationship with someone who's great with my nephew, and I hope that by getting more involved with the community my nephew will find even more people who'll set a good example.

Thanks for the site recommendation! Looks like a great resource.

And, I definitely agree about there being good schools to be found in small towns. I'm looking in both big cities and small towns right now.
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Old 06-09-2008, 03:16 PM
 
Location: Albany, OR
540 posts, read 1,314,056 times
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I was listening to the radio this morning and one of the talk shows (I apologize in that I can't remember which one) made a great point...it has as much (or MORE) to do with the presence of good parenting...its NOT a socio-economic point other than from the perspective that two-parent families may have more resources available - but the key element was the TIME they spent.

I like the schools where my kids have been here in Albany, primarily because of the parental involvement levels. In my daughter's 3rd grade class a few years ago (she's in 7th grade next year), my wife had to lobby hard to get time to volunteer in the classroom because so many of the other parents had taken the spots. Parents WANT to be there -and the kids feed off that.

My point here - look at parental involvment when you are talking with the principals, and look around the schools for signs of it.

good luck.

DaveP
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Old 06-09-2008, 04:08 PM
 
Location: Salem, OR
10,682 posts, read 17,019,221 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavePautsch View Post
I was listening to the radio this morning and one of the talk shows (I apologize in that I can't remember which one) made a great point...it has as much (or MORE) to do with the presence of good parenting...its NOT a socio-economic point other than from the perspective that two-parent families may have more resources available - but the key element was the TIME they spent.
I disagree that socioeconomics has nothing to do with it. The fact is that parents that HAVE to work full time can't volunteer in a school because they have to put food on the table. If only one parent has to work, then the other parent can volunteer.

You can't separate the traits out. I agree that there are good parents on all socioeconomic levels, and I agree that parent volunteerism is a good indication of a quality school. I just think you'll find that parent volunteerism is generally higher in middle to uppper middle class neighborhoods. It really is a matter of money because by having enough to pay the bills, you are afforded options. Working class families don't typically have a lot of options.
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