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Old 08-29-2018, 07:18 AM
 
60 posts, read 66,054 times
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Hi all,

We are relocating and I’m trying to decide where to move, quality public education is vitally important. Do you look at these rankings? Do you prefer one over the other in terms of accuracy?

Rebecca
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Old 08-29-2018, 07:34 AM
 
Location: Frisco, TX
1,875 posts, read 1,113,383 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RWeston View Post
Hi all,

We are relocating and I’m trying to decide where to move, quality public education is vitally important. Do you look at these rankings? Do you prefer one over the other in terms of accuracy?

Rebecca
If I recall, Niche users self-report ACT and SAT scores and certain other standardized tests.

GreatSchools has changed its methodology. I believe that they now account for improvement in test scores. If a school already performed well, then it’s unlikely that it will improve dramatically. I typically look at GreatSchools more than Niche.

The better option for me is to see if a high school offers a profile with ACT or SAT scores. If the high school performs well in those test, I then assume that any elementary and middle schools that feed into them will be good schools.
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Old 08-29-2018, 07:43 AM
 
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
29,592 posts, read 71,626,462 times
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Neither.

They just provide some measured statistics and compare those stats with other schools stats. They tell you very little about how good a school really is for your child.

Visit the schools you are considering. Talk to teachers, parents, and if you can do it without being creepy kids. Ask to watch a class but significant attention to what goes on between classes. Got to PTO/PTA meetings, go to the local diner or pub and ask people about the local schools. Contact colleges and find out how those schools are viewed - try to find a college that goes by more than the same statistics that are on the websites.

Remember great test scores for the last ten years means nothing if they lose all their experienced teachers and hire newbies to save money. Test scores can change dramatically in two or three years. Your kids will be in school for thirteen years (or possibly fourteen). - not counting college or trade school of course.

When looking at statistical sites, do not just accept their rankings. Look at what they include and how they weight them. They may weight things heavily that you do not care about or they may not consider things that are important to you. Some just use test scores (SAT or ACT; other use State competency testing, some use AP scores). Some consider graduation percentages. Some heavily weight diversity, number of kids receiving lunch program, wealth of the community. Some of these things may be weighted ass a good thing by one analysis and as a bad thing by another. It is not as simple as looking at statistical rankings and saying this school is ranked best by site XYZ and therefore it is the best for my family.

A lot can vary from kid to kid as well. Some kids thrive in a hyper-competitive atmosphere, others smother. Some will thrive in a school where they can be the top student. Some only do well in a laid back atmosphere. Some will do well in a lock step conforming atmosphere, while other need a school that does well with fringe kids, or kids with special needs. Some may have greater opportunities at an arts school, or a technical school, while these specialty oriented schools may be terrible for other kids. For some kids a ton of Ap classes might be critical, while other kids are unlikely to ever take an AP class and diverting resources to AP is detrimental to them.

Problem is if you have many kids, you may have all of these issues. We did.

Fact is, it is more about you and how much you put into your kid's education. Kids who are going to do well in school will do well almost anywhere. Kids who are going to perform poorly in school, will perform poorly anywhere. Rather than school choice work on staying married, trading career time for homework time, hiring tutors and/or private lessons where necessary (without stifling you kid). Those things will matter more than the statistics of the school you choose.


Sorry to burst the marketed popular beliefs. Everyone wants an easy solution. There isn't one. Statistical web sites are not the answer to your kids educational needs and are really barely even relevant.
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Old 08-29-2018, 08:28 AM
 
Location: My beloved Bluegrass
18,577 posts, read 13,491,842 times
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The post above mine is excellent. The rankings are of limited value, numbers only tell so much. In high schools often there are often schools with the school. My last child went to a high school with 1800 kids and basically had classes with the same 60 or so kids because she was tracking to get a particular type of diploma. She got a very high quality education. Our neighbor’s daughter, who aimed for the standard diploma, was in the same school and got a perfectly adequate education but there was a distinct difference in the rigor. The two only saw each other on the bus. People might say it’s unfair that my daughter got a higher quality education. I would tell you that the other child would have been miserable had she gone the same tract as my daughter, probably flunked a few classes, and instead of successfully going to community college, might have avoided post-secondary education altogether. The “best” school for one student might be the worst school for another kid.

Go to the schools and get a vibe for attitudes towards parents, students, and staff. Ask parents in neighborhoods how they view the school. If everyone who has kids attending thinks it’s a good school the numbers on some website don’t matter.
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Old 08-29-2018, 08:54 AM
 
Location: A coal patch in Northern Appalachia
7,482 posts, read 8,115,362 times
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I sub in around 10 school districts and I would have difficulty ranking these districts. I will look at these rankings and think, do these ranking really reflect what I'm seeing in these schools? I'm often surprised.

If you visit the schools you are considering and talk to teachers and parents, you will have some additional information, but it is only a snapshot. Does it really reflect what is actually taking place in the schools?

You can't downplay test scores. While they mostly reflect the socioeconomic level of the district, it is what it is. I've seen overachiever rankings based on three years of standardized tests and percent of students that are economically disadvantaged. This would indicate the school appears to be doing a better than expected job based on the number of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch. Would that really tell you much if you're looking at top school districts?

Another interesting comparison looks at SAT/ACT scores. This would tend to tell you how well schools are doing in preparing students who plan to go to college. If your child is not college material, is in learning support, or life skills, it doesn't help your comparison. The same is true with number of AP tests and scores. In PA, the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile gives bonus points for AP tests. This is how some schools have a score of over 100, while the low performing schools have scores in the 40s.
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Old 08-29-2018, 09:04 AM
 
1,183 posts, read 526,690 times
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To the extent these rankings are useful, I understand the Niche algorithm contains more parameters. Great schools has always involved school parents' subjective rankings - which can cut both ways. The Niche algorithm involves a lot of other factors and includes weightings regarding socioeconomic status, free-lunch qualification levels, ESL factors, qualifiers for extracurricular availabilities like sports fields etc, graduation percentages, 2 or 4 yr college acceptance (? I think - not completely sure about the last one). If I were forced to throw my hat onto one side it'd definitely be Niche.
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Old 08-29-2018, 09:25 AM
 
Location: A coal patch in Northern Appalachia
7,482 posts, read 8,115,362 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldhag1 View Post
The post above mine is excellent. The rankings are of limited value, numbers only tell so much. In high schools often there are often schools with the school. My last child went to a high school with 1800 kids and basically had classes with the same 60 or so kids because she was tracking to get a particular type of diploma. She got a very high quality education. Our neighbor’s daughter, who aimed for the standard diploma, was in the same school and got a perfectly adequate education but there was a distinct difference in the rigor. The two only saw each other on the bus. People might say it’s unfair that my daughter got a higher quality education. I would tell you that the other child would have been miserable had she gone the same tract as my daughter, probably flunked a few classes, and instead of successfully going to community college, might have avoided post-secondary education altogether. The “best” school for one student might be the worst school for another kid.

Go to the schools and get a vibe for attitudes towards parents, students, and staff. Ask parents in neighborhoods how they view the school. If everyone who has kids attending thinks it’s a good school the numbers on some website don’t matter.
Oldhag makes a good point about "schools within the school." I went to a high school like that. I graduated with 600 students, 46 of them took physics. While the average scores of these schools are poor to mediocre, there is often a "school within the school," where students are receiving a great education. There is a district in the Pittsburgh area that has a very poor reputation but I understand the better students are still receiving a good education. Be aware the larger the school, the more likely this might be true.
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Old 08-29-2018, 09:54 AM
 
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
29,592 posts, read 71,626,462 times
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There is another issue that you need to consider with test scores. There can be outside influences. Our local schools had a sudden significant drop in test scores one year. It seemed odd. It made the rankings fall considerably. I delved into this, were our schools falling apart?

No. Prom or some such was the night before the test that year. The kids were all distracted, tired, hung over etc. or at least enough of them were that the average of the test scores dropped considerably. Something wrong with he school? Well only in that someone was dumb enough to allow prom or homecoming or whatever it was (I no longer remember) the night before the test.
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Old 08-29-2018, 12:08 PM
 
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The ultimate success of your children's education has more to do with the quality of the child and the values of the parents than the statistically rated 'quality' of the school.
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Old 08-29-2018, 12:59 PM
 
6,381 posts, read 8,852,767 times
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I agree with others who said neither - the data they use does not tell you what is a good school and what isn't. Plus, a lot of times their data is out of date or partially incorrect. And people who leave reviews/ratings on these things are not objective - they tend to be either people coerced or bribed by their school to leave a positive report or a negative one for someone else's, or they are someone who got mad about something and spent an afternoon on the Internet trying to punish the school in anyway they can possibly think of. I just looked up the data for one of our area schools that I know about and the statistics for the school appear to be about 4 years old - a lot has changed since then - the state doesn't even give the same tests anymore, school population has changed a lot, etc.

Also testing data can be misleading as another posting said. Some of our area schools' ratings took a nose dive a few years back - turned out there was a huge uprising of parents in several parts of the state about the state requiring too many tests and tests that were not meaningful so they held their kids home from testing - and then the state gave zero scores for all the missing students, making the schools where this happened in greatest number have their ratings fall tremendously.

I work in education and the ratings I see for my local area are garbage. They reflect nothing about schools that have a great learning environment and great staff vs. one that is in a rich area but has a toxic environment and kids developing ulcers and high teacher turnover, etc.

You really need to get into a school, meet the staff, 'feel' the campus, ask families who have students there, etc.
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