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Old 01-07-2011, 08:31 AM
 
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I am in the process of selling my house and plan to move into a townhouse near my job in Alexandria. I have a child who is currently in the Fairfax County School District and I originally planned to keep her in the district because of the quality of the schools and because the curriculum would be the same.

But doing so limits my search area for a new home (I've been looking in Springfield/Kingstown area). There are more homes in Western Alexandria that fall within my price range in the Alexandria Public School District. It seems test scores for Alexandria are lower than Fairfax accoding to what I read, but I also understand that this might be effected by ESL students who are just learning English and are at a disadvantage taking tests.

Anyway, are the schools in Alexandria "good" or pretty much just as good as Fairfax public schools? I figure most of my child's education really falls on my shoulders, but I want to be sure she's got a good foundation when she's in school. I can't afford private school, so public school quality is at the top of my list when house hunting.

Thanks!
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Old 01-07-2011, 08:38 AM
 
Location: among the clustered spires
2,380 posts, read 4,513,808 times
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Pick a good ES if you're able and check the demographics for that ES.

While a good administrator would be able to balance the needs of poor/ESOL/otherwise at-risk children with the needs of those who are not at risk, a mediocre one will end up focusing on one to the detriment of the other (or even within the at-risk category, the school might be fabulous for native-born poor kids but not good for ESOL kids).

What's your budget and house size/condition limitations? You might find some good choices in Burke (or is that not an improvement in your commute?)
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Old 01-07-2011, 08:48 AM
 
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In general, there are going to be more people who put their kids through K-12 in the public schools in Kingstowne or Springfield than in the City of Alexandria, where a larger percentage of people either send their kids to private school or pull them out of public schools after elementary school.

I think we have a poster (Robbobobbo) who may have one or more kids in the Alexandria public schools, and he'll probably chime in. In addition, former NoVa resident Alanboy395, who moved to Kentucky but occasionally drops in on the NoVa forum, went to TC Williams HS and may be able to help. My impression is that there's a lot of variation among the elementary schools in different parts of the city, and that there's positive buzz with respect to some of them, while others (such as Jefferson-Houston) are troubled and constantly being revamped.

Good luck!

Last edited by JD984; 01-07-2011 at 09:22 AM..
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Old 01-07-2011, 09:04 AM
 
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Thanks!

I just realized I didn't mention that my daughter is in elementary school, so yes, I will be looking for an ES first. It seems it can be anyone's guess how good a high school will be when she's older since it's years away and things change.

To answer a few questions:

My budget is $350K, I would like to spend no more than that. I have a 20% down payment for that amount. I also don't care for high rise condos. I would consider a condo with a private entrance and a firewall though. I prefer a townhouse or even a small SFH (I've found a couple in my price range that look good).

I actually am considering Burke. I didn't mention it because I am kind of on the fence with it. I think it would be closer for my commute and I might be able to drive it (but I also have the VRE as an option and they seem to have enough VRE parking from what I can see from the train). I kind of hoped to be closer in though.
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Old 01-07-2011, 09:14 AM
 
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Alexandria public schools test lower not just because of ESL students, but because the schools have a large percentage of lower-economic-class students that many, if not most, Fairfax County schools just don't have. At school events, PTA meetings, etc, I do not see the parents of many of these kids, and I think that is indicative of lower family involvement in, and lower prioritization of, childhood education that gets reflected in the test scores (of course, that's a big assumption of mine to make and I'm generalizing). There is a sizable population of chronically underperforming students and I do not fault the schools. The schools are trying hard!

I am pleased with my neighorhood ES and it has a lot of parental involvement from my community. One concern I've had though is whether the need for the school to improve test scores results in too much curriculum repetition and boredom for those students who learn the material quickly. The teaching methodology seems to involve hitting on a lot of topics for a brief while, move on to something else, then come back to a topic. I can't believe how many times my kid has had homework dealing with math estimating - when that topic was covered long ago. I don't know if this is peculiar to ACPS or if the SOL requirements results in this approach across school systems. Or maybe that's a good teaching method - but my kid complains "we did this a long time ago." I also think the homework is too minimal in later grades and we supplement education at home.

I've spoken with a lot of parents who do have the financial wherewithal to opt for private school, who feel positively about the public schools and do not intend to go the private school route. I think over the past 5 or more years there has been a lot more "buy in" to the public schools by middle and upper-middle-class residents - a lot of new people are moving into Alexandria and they are opting for public. Our school's student population has swelled and classes have had to be added as a result.

I don't know what elementary school would serve for whichever area you're looking to live in - perhaps you could go to a PTA meeting at that particular school and speak with parents and the principal.

EDIT: As Jeb mentioned, there is variation among the elementary schools in terms of results and I assume learning environment, so that's another reason why I mentioned visiting a potential school and not assume if one is good, they all are.

Last edited by robbobobbo; 01-07-2011 at 09:41 AM..
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Old 01-07-2011, 09:35 AM
 
8,983 posts, read 21,156,915 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robbobobbo View Post
One concern I've had though is whether the need for the school to improve test scores results in too much curriculum repetition and boredom for those students who learn the material quickly. The teaching methodology seems to involve hitting on a lot of topics for a brief while, move on to something else, then come back to a topic. I can't believe how many times my kid has had homework dealing with math estimating - when that topic was covered long ago. I don't know if this is peculiar to ACPS or if the SOL requirements results in this approach across school systems. Or maybe that's a good teaching method - but my kid complains "we did this a long time ago." I also think the homework is too minimal in later grades and we supplement education at home.
My better half, who teaches in FCPS would agree to with you to some extent on "teaching to the (SOL) test". However, her hands are somewhat tied on how and when she teaches the material.

Quote:
I've spoken with a lot with parents who do have the financial wherewithal to opt for private school, who feel positively about the public schools and do not intend to go the private school route. I think over the past 5 or more years there has been a lot more "buy in" to the public schools by middle and upper-middle-class residents - a lot of new people are moving into Alexandria and they are opting for public. Our school's student population has swelled and classes have had to be added as a result.
While I don't have kids, I have spent a lot of time at the Duncan Library in Del Ray which is right behind the Mount Vernon Elementary School. Judging by the parents I see watching their kids in the playground and/or picking them up after school, I would say there is indeed a lot of parental involvement and "buy in" there along with a good socioeconomic mix. However, finding a TH for $350K in Del Ray may be difficult. And if nearby Arlandria has homes in that range nearby, it may be because it is among the least popular areas in the city.

The "problem" or "opportunity" - depending on how one looks at it - is that eventually all Alexandria students are funneled into TC Williams where one experiences the full diversity of the city. It would appear that more parents are starting to see this as a benefit while a fair amount still consider other options.
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Old 01-07-2011, 09:59 AM
 
5,125 posts, read 10,085,417 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tone509 View Post
The "problem" or "opportunity" - depending on how one looks at it - is that eventually all Alexandria students are funneled into TC Williams where one experiences the full diversity of the city. It would appear that more parents are starting to see this as a benefit while a fair amount still consider other options.
My impression is that, if people are going to exit the Alexandria public schools, it more likely will happen when their kids are set to attend one of the city's two middle schools, Hammond or GW. If they navigate those schools successfully, it's more likely they'll stay with APS and move on to TC Williams.

Having been formally deemed a "consistently lowest-performing" school by the State of Virginia just a year or so ago, TC is effectively in a pre-receivership mode right now. A lot of people are moving to Alexandria for its charm and proximity to DC, and it has certainly become increasingly expensive, but I doubt that too many move to Alexandria specifically for the public schools. Even so, from what I've read, people in Alexandria haven't panicked and are approaching the mandatory restructuring plans for TC with a positive, can-do attitude.
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Old 01-07-2011, 11:59 AM
 
Location: among the clustered spires
2,380 posts, read 4,513,808 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stpickrell View Post
Pick a good ES if you're able and check the demographics for that ES.

While a good administrator would be able to balance the needs of poor/ESOL/otherwise at-risk children with the needs of those who are not at risk, a mediocre one will end up focusing on one to the detriment of the other (or even within the at-risk category, the school might be fabulous for native-born poor kids but not good for ESOL kids).

What's your budget and house size/condition limitations? You might find some good choices in Burke (or is that not an improvement in your commute?)
Aah! I re-read my post. My thinking is that TC Williams will be just fine - there is a significant core of students committed to success. But some ES's are better than others.
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Old 03-06-2011, 08:42 AM
 
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Part of the reason that you don't see many black parents at PTA meetings is because the organization is dominated by a bunch of elitist stuck up house wives whose attitude is pretty much reflected in your post. Most of the black families (we all know low income in this area means nonwhite usually black) have been in the area since it was a combination of small shops and farms. Most of the white families of less economic means moved further south to be replaced by immigrants and the people who hire them ie people with higher incomes and education levels from places other then Alexandria. Aside from not wanting to be around a bunch of...elitist, many younger less educated parents work in the service industries that require shift work. As someone of participates in sports as a volunteer coach I often have to schedule events around shift work because I want people to be in a position to participate. Perhaps the PTA could do the same.

Last edited by FindingZen; 03-06-2011 at 09:14 AM.. Reason: inappropriate characterization
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Old 03-06-2011, 09:21 AM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
14,129 posts, read 31,238,974 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dessalines View Post
Part of the reason that you don't see many black parents at PTA meetings is because the organization is dominated by a bunch of elitist stuck up house wives whose attitude is pretty much reflected in your post. Most of the black families (we all know low income in this area means nonwhite usually black) have been in the area since it was a combination of small shops and farms. Most of the white families of less economic means moved further south to be replaced by immigrants and the people who hire them ie people with higher incomes and education levels from places other then Alexandria. Aside from not wanting to be around a bunch of...elitist, many younger less educated parents work in the service industries that require shift work. As someone of participates in sports as a volunteer coach I often have to schedule events around shift work because I want people to be in a position to participate. Perhaps the PTA could do the same.
This might be difficult for some to accept but there's a lot of truth to it. I did notice a lot of participation of non-white parents in our Mount Vernon FFX County schools so perhaps our environoment down here is a little different. Not so many snooty yuppies who think they know better than everyone else.
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