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Old 07-31-2013, 06:00 PM
 
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My husband and I have just finally qualified for a mortgage and are looking to relocate from South Jersey to central PA - mainly due to the combo of MUCH better schools + affordable housing. I'd love info & recommendations on any tiny towns with affordable housing and good schools. My husband works for a major retail outlet and can transfer his job to either State College or Du Bois, and I'm a student heading into a tech career that is telecommuting-friendly, so finding work isn't as much of an issue as it would be otherwise. We would prefer a more "rural" setting where the neighbors aren't right up next to us, if that makes sense. Our house hunt is in the 100k and lower range.

So far we've seen houses we liked in places like Osceola Mills, Corsica, Mill Hall.
Any input? TIA!
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Old 08-01-2013, 08:23 AM
 
Location: A coal patch in Northern Appalachia
9,260 posts, read 9,243,686 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lissamaho View Post
My husband and I have just finally qualified for a mortgage and are looking to relocate from South Jersey to central PA - mainly due to the combo of MUCH better schools + affordable housing. I'd love info & recommendations on any tiny towns with affordable housing and good schools. My husband works for a major retail outlet and can transfer his job to either State College or Du Bois, and I'm a student heading into a tech career that is telecommuting-friendly, so finding work isn't as much of an issue as it would be otherwise. We would prefer a more "rural" setting where the neighbors aren't right up next to us, if that makes sense. Our house hunt is in the 100k and lower range.

So far we've seen houses we liked in places like Osceola Mills, Corsica, Mill Hall.
Any input? TIA!
There would be no question for me. I would definitely move to State College as opposed to DuBois. The economy is much better and there is no comparison between the schools. State College SD is by far the best in the two counties. It is probably in the top 5% in the state. Penns Valley would be the second choice even though it is a small district, and Bellefonte would be 3rd. The DuBois SD is a large district and is average. Some of the other districts in Clearfield County are among the worst performing rural districts in the state.
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Old 08-01-2013, 02:38 PM
 
Location: Emmaus, PA
2,777 posts, read 2,775,361 times
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Yes State College is by far the cream of the crop.

It's not only one of the safest places to live in the state but it's been ranked in the top 10 nationally as well. Top notch education and of course one of the best public universities in the entire country.
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Old 08-01-2013, 07:57 PM
 
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Definitely the State College area. Clearfield County and the other areas around DuBois have some nice small towns, for sure, but the State College area really cannot be beat. I did a quick real estate search out of curiosity to see what kind of homes are for sale in your price range. I found some in the Penns Valley, Bald Eagle, and Bellefonte school districts. All of them are pretty similar in terms of performance(definitely above average). Bellefonte probably graduates about 200-250 a year. Penns Valley graduates about 100 a year. Bald Eagle graduates 100-150 a year. All of these school districts are in Centre County.
When looking for real estate, look in Bellefonte (Bellefonte SD),
Milesburg, Snow Shoe, Julian, Howard, Unionville/Fleming, Port Matilda(all Bald Eagle),
Spring Mills, Centre Hall, Rebersburg, Aaromsburg, Millheim, Madisonburg(all Penns Valley)
You can expect to find a 2-4 bedroom, 1-1.5 bathroom home around 1,000 or so sf. The father from State College you are, the more you will get for your money. The houses will probably be older, and may need some TLC. Farther from State College you may be able to get a larger lot.
The towns you mentioned (Osceola Mills, Corsica, Mill Hall) are all much farther from State College. Osceola Mills is probably a good 45 minutes. Neighboring Philipsburg is only 30 minutes from State College, however I personally feel that the areas I mentioned above are more "small town friendly" than Philipsburg. I've honestly never heard of Corsica but I'm assuming its near Dubois(?). And Mill Hall is also probably about 45 minutes away. It is a nice area but there are other nice homes much closer. And Mill Hall is on your way into Lock Haven and is where most of the big box stores for Lock Haven are (Walmart, Kmart, etc.), so it definitely loses the small town feel.
I would also suggest looking into manufactured homes. There are some really nice communities (Continental Courts in Bellefonte: Continental Courts, and Eagle Creek in Julian: Eagle Creek Community - Modular and Manufactured Homes - Valley Homes of PA) where you buy the home on a permanent foundation with a yard. Something to consider since these homes are new and would require less maintenance.

Helpful links:
State College, PA Real Estate & Homes for Sale in Centre County, PA is a great site for real estate in Centre County. You can search by individual school district.
Bald Eagle Area Schools: Bald Eagle Area School District - BEA Home
Bellefonte Area Schools: Bellefonte Area School District / Bellefonte Area School District
Penns Valley Area Schools: Penns Valley Area School District
Useful info on these towns can be found here: Centre County, PA

Good Luck!!
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Old 08-02-2013, 08:23 AM
 
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The Brockway area might be good for commuting to the DuBois location, a stable and proud smaller community with services extending well out into Snyder Twp/Jefferson County and Horton Twp/Elk County
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Old 08-02-2013, 10:03 AM
 
Location: A coal patch in Northern Appalachia
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Regarding school districts in the DuBois/State College area, here is the ranking of school districts in the area from the Pittsburgh Business Times. See 2013 Western Pennsylvania School Guide

Also look at the overachiever list, which answers the question “which school districts do better than expectations based upon economics?” Several Clearfield County schools including Dubois do very well on this list. See Southern Fulton tops state overachiever list; Big Beaver Falls second - Pittsburgh Business Times

District Statewide rank 2013
State College Area School District 26
Penns Valley Area School District 67
Bellefonte Area School District 204
DuBois Area School District 248
Curwensville Area School District 250
Bald Eagle Area School District 274
Punxsutawney Area School District 318
Glendale School District 333
Brockway Area School District 347
Brookville Area School District 349
Harmony Area School District 370
Moshannon Valley School District 385
Clearfield Area School District 395
Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District 404
West Branch Area School District 428
Mifflin County School District 446
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Old 08-02-2013, 11:12 AM
 
Location: The Flagship City and Vacation in the Paris of Appalachia
2,748 posts, read 3,618,998 times
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Not to be a downer, but the Pittsburgh Business Times (PBT) rankings are very flawed and simply use 3 years of PSSA scores as their data. It is basically a measure of how well a district teaches to the test. The "overachiever" rankings are a little better, but only add the number of students on free or reduced lunch as a measure of poverty for the district. No school rankings are perfect, but only using PSSA scores is a major flaw. I recommend using the PBT rankings cautiously and also examining other rankings that look into graduation rates and college placement like the Newsweek rankings: America

Overall, school rankings will never be perfect and as long as a school is ranked reasonably high (not near the bottom) and offers the opportunities your children need you should be fine.
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Old 08-02-2013, 12:30 PM
 
Location: A coal patch in Northern Appalachia
9,260 posts, read 9,243,686 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trackstar13 View Post
Not to be a downer, but the Pittsburgh Business Times (PBT) rankings are very flawed and simply use 3 years of PSSA scores as their data. It is basically a measure of how well a district teaches to the test. The "overachiever" rankings are a little better, but only add the number of students on free or reduced lunch as a measure of poverty for the district. No school rankings are perfect, but only using PSSA scores is a major flaw. I recommend using the PBT rankings cautiously and also examining other rankings that look into graduation rates and college placement like the Newsweek rankings: America

Overall, school rankings will never be perfect and as long as a school is ranked reasonably high (not near the bottom) and offers the opportunities your children need you should be fine.
I agree with you in regard to rankings but there is not much else to use. There is no way to really compare schools for all level of students across all grade levels. Some of the top school districts like Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon have a large percentage of students who would do well regardless of the school. Wilkinsburg could hire the best teachers money could buy and it probably wouldn't improve their test scores.

The Newsweek rankings that you provided a link only include 77 HS schools in Pennsylvania. The only school that appears from the list I provided is State College HS, which was the highest ranked of the schools in that area by the Pittsburgh Business Times.

An interesting observation is one of the schools that appears on the Newsweek list is the Pine-Richland HS, which is ranked 654th out of the best 2,000 public high schools in the nation and 26th in PA. If you look at the PBT state overachiever list, Pine-Richland SD is ranked 419th in the state. Another one is Blackhawk High School, which is ranked 1587 on the Newsweek list but is ranked 425 on the overachiever list. Homer-Center Jr.-Sr. High School is ranked 1789 on the Newsweek list but is ranked 325 on the PA overachiever list.
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Old 08-02-2013, 12:51 PM
 
Location: The Flagship City and Vacation in the Paris of Appalachia
2,748 posts, read 3,618,998 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by villageidiot1 View Post
I
The Newsweek rankings that you provided a link only include 77 HS schools in Pennsylvania. The only school that appears from the list I provided is State College HS, which was the highest ranked of the schools in that area by the Pittsburgh Business Times.
In terms of the low number of schools included in the Newsweek ratings, I believe it is because those are the schools who were able to make the cut and compare well nationally. Additionally, since the data is self reported, some schools may realize that they may not do very well on the rankings so they just don't submit the information. There are also the US News and World Report rankings to look into: Best High Schools in the US | Top US High Schools | US News & World Report

My point in my previous post was that it is better to look at a variety of rankings that use varying methodologies and make the decision that works best for you. Personally, I think PSSA scores are a factor, but it is a factor that should have much less than 100% weight when you are considering a school. In regards to your other thoughts I agree that students in relatively affluent districts will typically perform better regardless of the quality of the teachers. However, I think our current education funding system is flawed and hurts the schools who need the most help.
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Old 08-03-2013, 01:17 PM
 
Location: A coal patch in Northern Appalachia
9,260 posts, read 9,243,686 times
Reputation: 11465
Quote:
Originally Posted by trackstar13 View Post
In terms of the low number of schools included in the Newsweek ratings, I believe it is because those are the schools who were able to make the cut and compare well nationally. Additionally, since the data is self reported, some schools may realize that they may not do very well on the rankings so they just don't submit the information. There are also the US News and World Report rankings to look into: Best High Schools in the US | Top US High Schools | US News & World Report

My point in my previous post was that it is better to look at a variety of rankings that use varying methodologies and make the decision that works best for you. Personally, I think PSSA scores are a factor, but it is a factor that should have much less than 100% weight when you are considering a school. In regards to your other thoughts I agree that students in relatively affluent districts will typically perform better regardless of the quality of the teachers. However, I think our current education funding system is flawed and hurts the schools who need the most help.
The US News & World Report rankings rank their top 69 high schools in PA out of a total of 687 public, charter and magnet schools. They appear to provide the same ranking criteria for all the other high schools in the state. The comments on this page are rather critical of their methodology. How U.S. News Calculated the 2013 Best High Schools Rankings - US News and World Report

This ranking has State College HS listed at #32. It also has Brookville ranked at #64. I have to question the methodology when I see Elderton Jshs, which has been closed, ranked at #49; Valley Senior High School, ranked at #63. Nobody in Western PA would say they would like to move into the New Kensington-Arnold School District so their child could attend Valley Senior High. This does correspond with the PBT overachiever ranking where the New Kensington-Arnold School District is ranked 64th. But how does that correspond to its #439 ranking based on PSSA test scores?

My point is there is no other way to rank schools other than test scores. You can take other available statistical data and create a complicated methodology but it just hides the true results. I don't like NCLB testing but it is what it is.
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