We keep thinking about moving, in a vague sort of way that mostly involves looking at tons of MLS listings and learning more and more about what terms are instant red flags (“cozy,” “handyman’s dream”, “perfect MIL/rental opportunity!”). It’s not that we’re totally unhappy with our current house or yearn for the wonderful experience of trying to sell it, but we keep wondering if this might be one of those golden times to buy — to take advantage of the market and get into something that will accrue more value over the years than our current home will. Would that be the right thing for us to do? I have no answer to that question, really, only the idea that if we saw something really great, it would be definitely worth our while to investigate, so we should at least be keeping an eye on what’s out there right now.

With regards to location I’m trying to balance all these different factors like our commutes, the quality, availability, and cost of daycare in whatever location we end up in, the fact that both of us are reluctant to find new gyms, and the need for a drive-through Starbucks within at least one (1) mile. Oh, and schools. Right: SCHOOLS.

Everyone I talk to seems highly opinionated about schools, and I feel like a total slacker parent because I have no real idea how to judge the value of a school aside from whether or not it is actively engulfed in flames and/or littered with needles. I mean, I know there are websites where you can see student/teacher ratios and WASL scores and things like that, but is that all people are going on? Is there some secret body of knowledge that I am missing? What makes a school good? What makes a school bad?

I guess the Responsible Forward-Thinking Thing to Do when it comes to moving involves picking your desired schools first, then branching outward to find houses that are within the right district or whatever, but I’m not even sure how to go about doing this. Like, choose schools with the highest test scores? Because that somehow ENSURES your kid is going to be smart, or something?

The school thing makes me a little defensive, I guess, because there’s always going to be a school that’s “better” than the one your kid is going to, you know? A while back I had someone criticize the schools our kids will be going to if we don’t move and I was like, huh. I totally didn’t realize I should be freaking out about this, but maybe that’s because one of my kids still gets scared by a cartoon elephant on Curious George while the other routinely chokes on pine needles he eats off the floor, so right now it’s kind of hard for me to imagine a 5% test score difference having a massive impact on their intellectual future.

What do you think? Do you have a School Strategy, or do you figure the one that’s closest to your house will do just fine, or what?

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
90 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Blythe
13 years ago

We went through this recently. My son is two, so I had the same sort of vague feeling about it. I ended up doing a bit of web research on the “ratings,” mainly just to get a sense of which schools were, truly, on the verge of failure and possible closing. Then I asked people I trusted whose kids were going to schools in the neighborhoods we considered. I’m really glad I did this, as it gave me a sense of the personality and atmosphere of each school – which schools had after-school programs, which had full-time kindergarten, which had a lot of diversity, which had interesting arts or language programs, which had fundraising expectations, which had involved parents, etc. Though it will be a while until our son goes to school, it helped me feel comfortable that we chose a neighborhood where the public school will probably be a decent option and we won’t have to panic about either moving or coming up with private school tuition in a few years.

warcrygirl
13 years ago

I listen to anyone who’ll give me an opinion but I pay attention to what they say. If they’re the ‘everything’s negative’ type I tend to take their opinion with a grain of salt. If what they have to say is constructive then I give their opinion more stock. Keep in mind your child’s education isn’t based solely on the school; there are variables like how fast your child picks things up and how much time/attention the parent gives to their kid’s education.

There’s a big rumor going around my area where the city schools (more desirable) might be forced by the state to consolidate with the county schools (avoid like the plague). If that happens we will move out of the city limits (and away from the monstrously high taxes) as fast as we can. If there’s no incentive to stay then why do so?

Tess
Tess
13 years ago

Our only children are six month old twins, but my husband and I are already saving up (and have been since before we were pregnant) to afford a significant down payment on a house in a particular school district. Of course homes in this district are incredibly expensive ($600,000 – $800,000). We will need to have a large down payment in order to afford the mortgage, but this is something that is very important to us. We are hoping to move before the boys start preschool.
The reason we want to have our children go to school in this district is because there is a high achievement school that begins in second grade and goes through high school. It is a public school, so living in the district is mandatory. From the schools website, there is a list of around two-thirds of the students as national merit scholars, the colleges they go onto are of a higher caliber and the school incorporates community awareness and personal growth from early elementary years. The reason it is most important to me is because both my husband and brother were national merit scholars and have gone on to top schools, and they both were involved in schools similar to the school I am looking into. I do not believe that a school will make you smart, but some schools have more programs and resources available to achieve your child’s full potential.
The most important things I look into when researching schools are overall development of the child, achievements of students at that school (not only test scores, but honors and extracurricular activities), and teacher reviews. I also like schools that offer languages and music for younger students.
I would recommend you speak to JB and decide what is important to the two of your, and stem your research from there. I went to school in Tacoma, and I know there are great schools in the Seattle/Bellevue area. But, I look first at a school, and then find a home from there if you truly are looking to move. I hope this helps!

justmouse (or Chaosmomm..whatever)

with me it was a matter of what school was closest. and you know, you can’t routinely judge how a school is going to work out for your kid. one school that me/my son loved, another mother i spoke to described it as “hellish” and went on at great length about how it “ruined” her son (keeping in mind our kids were only 4 or 5 years old at the time). for my son, public school was a nightmare, but my son is a little….odd. it wasn’t until he was 16 years old that we found a school where he fit in, and that had a learning style suited to him. so until your kids are actually IN school, and you have a better idea of how they are with other kids, and what their individual learning styles are, i say ‘don’t sweat it’.

Amy
Amy
13 years ago

I don’t have little ones yet, but when I was looking at colleges, my uncle quipped, “you can find both an education and a party at any school, but you have to look for and work at both.” I think that could apply to starting elementary school, kindergartens, too. At that age, the school is really only responsible for the basics, so I think as long as your choice isn’t engulfed in flames and littered with needles (love that, btw), they’ll be just fine. Kids bloom where they’re planted, so let the housing market be your guide, is my vote.

Jen@OurDailyBigTop
13 years ago

I live in a suburb outside DC and the county has had tremendous growth. We have been going through boundary discussions every 2 years since my son started kindergarten and he’s only in 2nd grade. At least in this area, there are no guarantees where you buy/live is where you’ll be going to school. Overall the school district is good but there are schools seen not as good as others.

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
13 years ago

My son went to a private Preschool (it went from Preschool-6th grade) that was really nice and we were planning on keeping him in it until 6th grade and then they changed the school so it only went to K. I was dreading sending my child to the public school, our town is really small and a lot of the kids around town don’t seem too “bright” if you know what I mean. We were not in any position to move and ended up sending him to the public school anyways, we figured it was better because even if we kept him in the other school until 6th grade he would have to eventually go the the public school, then he wouldn’t know a lot of the kids. The school isn’t bad and he loves it, my only issue is that the work seems a little easy for him, he is in 1st grade. We spoke to the teacher about moving him up a grade but she said he still needs to advance a little more, maturity wise, which I understand because I know how he is.

This probably won’t help you with the whole picking a school thing because we didn’t really get to chose our school. The fact is that I was dreading sending him and am now glad that I did.

Amy
Amy
13 years ago

I am envious because you actually live in a state that doesn’t constantly appear at the bottom of the nation’s ranking of school systems. You get to choose between good and even better. We’d get to choose between bad and even worse.

I’m sure that no matter what you choose, your children will turn out well because you guys seem to be awesome, intelligent people and that tends to have more of an affect on the overall outcome than anything.

Cheri
13 years ago

An excerpt from a Malcom Gladwell article titled “Most Likely to Succeed” that you might find interesting:

“Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half’s worth of material. That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year. Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a “bad” school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher. Teacher effects are also much stronger than class-size effects. You’d have to cut the average class almost in half to get the same boost that you’d get if you switched from an average teacher to a teacher in the eighty-fifth percentile.”

To read the whole article to get better context go here – http://www.gladwell.com/2008/2008_12_15_a_teacher.html

Gina
13 years ago

I don’t get too worked up about school criticism. There will always be someone with a bad experience or opinion and generally, there are good things as well as bad at any school. Unless there is serious violence or no supplies or crumbling, moldy walls, I’m pretty much a go with the flow type parent.

Dawn
13 years ago

I think there’s something to sending your kid to a decent school, but growing up I went to a less-than-awesome public school and I turned out just fine. Sure, I had to seek out opportunities to challenge myself (i.e., taking courses at the community college my senior year), but there were ways to do it since I was motivated.

Realistically, I think any school district you’ll be looking at houses in around here is going to be decently funded and in good shape. Some may be better than others, but I don’t think it’s specifically worth stressing over.

Anonymous
Anonymous
13 years ago

As an public educator in district administration, I have chosen to send my kids to a private school thirty minutes away for…a variety of reasons. I could have sent my kids to any one of a dozen elementary schools in my district, many of which have those “high test scores” you mentioned, so that really didn’t play into our decision. The district that I work for is a high-growth one and the schools, especially the high schools, are large. Add to that the fact that our neighborhood school, for various reasons, had a high teacher turnover rate, and my decision was pretty simple. I wanted my kids to start and finish school at the same institution (or in the same community), if possible. (My husband and I both moved a lot as kids so this was important to us.) I wanted them to be in a class that was no large than 250 kids (research bears that this size is optimal for social reasons and is large enough to earn a significant number of advanced placement units). And I wanted the teaching staff to be a stable one. I feel strongly that there is no clearer indicator of the “health” of a school than it’s teaching staff. If there is a revolving door to the teacher parking lot, or a new administrator every year, look out. These are things that I would investigate as you guys look at moving. Good luck! :)

Melissa
Melissa
13 years ago

My oldest started school while we lived in town. His friends were always changing and it was hard to get to know the kids and parents. I didn’t care for the administration and they had a lot of bullying going on. It was a good school and my mom taught there, but it wasn’t right for us. We bought a house out of town in a rural area( hello tractors and farm equipment!) just so our kids could go to the school out in this area. It’s small, only 60-80 kids per grade and we love it. We know most of the kids and parents. They also have their own recreation district so if my kids want to play soccer without the cut throat competition that goes with the city legueas they can. As far as test scores all the schools in the area are within a few points of each other. To us the size and personality of the school was more important. Of course when our kids are teenagers they will probably hate the teeny tiny school where everyone knows everyone’s business!

Julie
13 years ago

You took the words right out of my mouth (more eloquently though), especially the part about how there will always be a better school than yours. Very frustrating. And worry-inducing. I try to hold on to the thought that a child’s education is a mix of the school, the teacher, the family, and the child himself – it turns out differently for everyone.

I have the added bonus of a late August first child, like you, and that puts me in the position of deciding if he’s going to be the oldest or the youngest in his class (the cutoff here is a September 1 birthday, so I can choose for him to start kindergarten this year or next since he’s turning 5). It’s clear to us now that he’ll be better off waiting until he’s 6, but this situation has been in the back of my mind since before he was born.

I haven’t been in school in years, and it’s still causing me stress.

Margaret
Margaret
13 years ago

I’m lucky that I have an informant — my mother is a school secretary in the county, and rather nosy besides, so she has all the inside dirt on which schools in the area would be good for my daughter and which have money/political/teacher drama going on. She came in handy when choosing daycare and preschool providers, too.

As a former teacher myself, the most important factor for me, as a parent, is the teacher and how well the school supports him or her. Partly, too, it’s an overall feel that you’ll only get by visiting a campus. You can listen to other opinions all you like, but seeing for yourself and talking to the office staff and/or some of the teachers will tell you so much more.

Kate
13 years ago

A good friend of mine, who has taught in the Shoreline, Maple Valley and now Issaquah school districts, said that a child’s success or failure in school depends largely on the parents’ involvement. There’s only so much that can be measured with test scores and statistics.

I tend to agree. But what do I know…I only have one kid in 1st grade so my experience with the education system is pretty limited.

Sarah
13 years ago

My husband and I don’t yet have kids, but I’ve thought a lot about this topic. I’ve always believed that people succeed and do well because of their upbringing and inner drive. I’d rather send my (future) kids to a ‘real world’ public school that may have its downfalls than an elite private school where the kids are homogenous and the pressure on them is tremendous. When they’re adults, won’t they be better off for having an understanding of how to socialize and interact with all sorts of different people?

Amanda
13 years ago

My husband and I were DETERMINED to pick a good school when we bought our house, which turned out to be really smart because we’ve lost so much money on the house that we’d actually have to sell our CHILDREN to get out from under it. We’re stuck here, but it’s turns out we don’t care. School quality changes every year, too, so the best you can do is use the data you’ve already got.

Here’s what we did (and we’re a highly anal-retentive financial planner/lawyer team, so take it for it’s worth):
– We mapped out my husband’s commute and drew a 15 minute radius around it. (After 90 minute commutes in CA, we were DONE with that).
– We pulled up the WASL scores for every school within that radius.
– I built a spreadsheet (which actually ended up being about 13 spreadsheets) and started copying and pasting the test score data into Excel. First I would rank them by math test scores, then by reading, then by science, etc. (Using the A-Z function of Excel) And then I took the top 5 schools from each category (math/reading/science), figured out where they overlapped and pulled the more detailed information about those schools.
– Then I did the same thing for the junior high and high schools to make sure that the elementary schools we liked fed into good upper division schools. (This is how we narrowed our list down to 3).
– We visited the schools and decided that all three of the top ones would be fine (it was summer so we weren’t able to see the classrooms in action, but whatever).
– From there we ONLY looked at houses within the boundary lines for those specific schools.
– We ONLY looked at houses that would work for us for at least 10 years. (4 bedroom, 2 car garage, big yard, room for a massive gun safe, etc)
– We ONLY made offers on houses AFTER double-checking the addresses with the school district boundary expert.
– (We also pulled public records of the minutes from all the HOA meetings for the last two years to check and see if any of our potential neighbors were assholes – Some of them WERE!)

Again, super anal retentive, but it worked and we’ll always feel good about the house we ended up picking.

iidly
13 years ago

Our situation is a tad different as my child was identified as gifted and that throws a monkey wrench in the whole school thing.

I went to public school, and did fine as did my siblings as did my parents.

I think whatever school you send your child to it needs to be the right fit for your family and you have to be involved.

Those kids who’s parents just send them and are not involved in their lives miss out. You can go to the best school money can buy but if you aren’t an active participant it doesn’t matter.

Make sense?

Oh and Linda, opinions about anything are like assholes — we all got one, and from time to time they all stink.

You are a great parent, you will do right by your children.

bessie.viola
13 years ago

I’ve been thinking about this recently, too. My daughter is the same age as Dylan, but it’s been brought up to me several times.

At this point (you know, with a 13-month-old, who also routinely chokes on random objects) we think we’ll be sending her to private school, church-associated. I went to a similar school through my elementary years, and I want my daughter to have the same family-like experience, if that still can exist.

The small class sizes, the personal attention – both were things that I didn’t love at the time but grew to appreciate once I was out of there. I want my daughter to have the same.

So, that’s where we’re leaning, and we’re saving accordingly for tuition. But… my husband went to the area public schools and feels that will be just fine too. It’s probably a decision we need to think more about.

jen
jen
13 years ago

we’re going through this too because we are moving – but we’re moving to a totally unknown community and I have no idea where to even begin looking into this stuff. For example how in the world am I supposed to know if a school has a high teacher turnover when I don’t know anyone in the community? Is there a reference for this? Would the school even be honest if you asked them? Who would you talk to? I’m honestly interested in the answer. Part of me wants to force myself to get into this and part of me thinks “how bad can it possibly be?” How would you even find out about things like violence problems and excessive drug use or pregnancy rates. Those stupid little number ratings on the MLS sites seem so meaningless.

For what it’s worth the place we live now allegedly has “great schools” but only rate a 3 on those little scales. Go fig.

kim
kim
13 years ago

I didn’t read all the comments (but that you need to talk to JB first comment was a bit over the top…thanks for the marriage advice, huh?) – but the person who said the teacher makes the difference hit it on the head to me. Regardless of where the school is along the spectrum, a great teacher or a crappy teacher colors your experience. I don’t think there are any guarantees there and I wish there were.

I do know when my daughter was in school in Florida – in what was considered a ‘bad’ school district, she learned more in kindergarten than the kids here in Indiana are required to know. Each state has different standards – from what others have posted Washington must have good ones.

You can talk to people and get a feel for teachers, etc. – but they change – and how your kids respond may be different than their experiences.

In some ways it’s a crap shoot – sorry, guess that’s not a helpful comment.

Kate
13 years ago

No two experiences are ever the same- just because someone doesn’t like a school doesn’t mean that it’s a bad school. Perhaps they didn’t have a great relationship with the people they encountered and let’s face it, we won’t all always get along. Don’t let that taint your view of a school.

I think there’s some sage advice in the comments here- you don’t really know how a school will be until your child is a part of it (aside from the needles and flames!)- you want to know what the teacher turnover is, etc. But even a school with below avg. testing scores can be a good one- in almost all cases education is what you make of it. How willing are you to be a part of your child’s learning process?

Too many parents think their schools are poor, when sometimes it’s the case of their own lack of involvement that is making the difference. There are great teachers out there- but with 25 kids in the room, they are stretched thin. It’s hard (though not impossible) to be a spectacular teacher in those circumstances. If each parent chipped in where their own child is concerned- you’d see amazing results.

I’d check out the schools in the areas where you find homes you like- but I wouldn’t let a moderate school rule out a great home.

Karl
Karl
13 years ago

I have no opinion on most of this, at least not at the moment; but you can alleviate the drive-thru Starbucks requirement very very easily. Allow me to direct your attention to http://www.sweetmarias.com; I’ll never darken the door of a Starbucks again, of my own accord.

Actually, I guess I do have one other opinion: “good school district” is a very tough thing to evaluate. We live in a “good school district”, and it IS good, if your kids are smart or athletic. If they are average, then maybe not so good. And if you have a problem kid (we had one), expect a torrent of not-my-kidness and lip support. Unfortunately the crappy school districts in the area really are crappy, so who knows what the answer is.

Pete
Pete
13 years ago

Where we live has some of the best schools in the state but it’s still a parents involvement that makes the difference.

Keaton
Keaton
13 years ago

My family has been involved with education since I was about 6, and I suppose the biggest things I picked up on was that you and your kids should be happy with the decision. Not that you can sit down and discuss it with them, but my parents dragged me around to all sorts of schools where I could visit for a day, or at least look at a classroom (they mostly looked at private schools). They would then ask me things like, “What did you do today?” and “Did you have fun?” (One school tested my ability to skip and wouldn’t have taught me to read until the 3rd grade – PASS) Occasionally, I would be happy about it and most of the time I was pretty angry by the end, but we found a school where my parents liked the faculty and I had a good time, and I ended up going there until eighth grade, my brother followed, my father was chairman of the school’s board, and my mom worked as admissions director. Sometimes things just come together =P

Ultimately, my parents found that for education, private school was the best. That raises all sorts of issues of affordability and whatnot, but it really, really made a difference for my brother and me.

What I have picked up from my parents in terms of what numbers to look for though, have been the student-teacher ratio, the education and number of faculty, the level of diversity, the area (income, crime, etc.), and how it sits with you as a person. If you like the school, it’s probably a good fit. My brother and I went to a good, but not great, school that ended up growing into one of the best because the people who were involved loved it so much. Meanwhile, the closer, “better”, richer school near our house never really improved or generated the kind of buzz that our school ended up generating. I suppose it’s one of those gut-level decisions, in some ways. =P

jonniker
13 years ago

I grew up going to shitty schools, according to some. And yet, because I was a smart, involved kid with smart, involved parents, it was somewhat irrelevant. I tend to take this view for my own kid(s) as well. I mean, clearly you don’t want the school with the meth problem or the alarmingly high teenage pregnancy rate, but only an idiot wouldn’t consider those things and they’d be OBVIOUS.

Where schools really matter for me (and probably you, eventually) is that they aren’t TOTALLY sucktackular and that they are decent enough that they will boost, rather than impede, resale value of the house.

Amy
Amy
13 years ago

I agree that parent involvement makes all the difference. My son started at our local public school this year (kindergarten) and I’ve been very happy with it. It is sooooo nice to walk to schoool, walk to playdates, walk to birthday parties. All his buddies live in the neighborhood and play basketball and t-ball at the local park. It’s been really great. Don’t rely too much on the scores–our school does not score that high–mostly because it has a relatively high special ed population (which I think is fantastic)and because of No child Left behind, those kids have to take the same tests and end up bringing the score down. As do the ESL kids, which there are also a lot of. Best thing to do is tour a few schools–most schools do their tours this time of year although you may have missed a few. Then ask around. Where do your neighbors send their kids? Where are Riley’s preschool buddies going to school? Or do they have older siblings that are already in school?

I didn’t stress about it too much because I figured it was kindergarten. I wanted to give my local school a chance and I figured if it was terrible, I’d learn that soon enough and we could always go somewhere else for 1st grade. It’s only kindergarten, after all.

I’m sure you and JB will be involved enough to know pretty quick if there’s a problem.

Renee
Renee
13 years ago

Education starts in the home… if you’re an involved parent, the “quality” of the school as judged by test scores shouldn’t matter much. Look for things that are important to you in life… racial/cultural diversity? Student/teacher ratio? Distance from home? Take a tour, meet some of the teachers, ask other parents about the school dynamic, etc.

Other things to consider: do they have team sports and/or sports facilities? A music program? etc.

Jess
13 years ago

We just bought a house, and we plan/hope to stay in it pretty much forever, so even though we don’t have kids yet and don’t plan to anytime soon, we did have to think about schools, and it was hard because it was just SO abstract.

I struggle with schools because I don’t really like the way they’re rated right now. AP classes? Standardized test scores? These things are skewed barometers and teaching to the test scares me, and ultimately there are some kids who can thrive in a traditional public school environment while others will need some form of alternative education.

What we ended up doing was looking into the schools in the district our house is in, and seeing that they were well-rated by whatever skewed standards are used, and deciding that that’s enough for us, at least for now.

Because the thing is, there are so many variables. Maybe the school sucks now, but by what standards? Will the standards change? Will the school change? Will the zoning change? How will President Obama’s education agenda affect education, both in terms of the standards used to assess schools and in terms of the curriculum and all that other stuff? How will arts and sports programs be affected by all this? It will be at least six to seven years before we worry about this, so it was tough.

So ultimately we figured, OK, the schools are fine for now, and if they change, or if we have a child (or multiple children) who don’t thrive in that environment, we have options. There are different private schools in the area, and charter schools and magnet schools and all the rest. I am sure we’ll figure out something. And I’m sure you will too.

Christina
13 years ago

I guess I am slacker mommy but like you I vaguely worry. I live in a smaller town where I have been told the schools are mostly all very solid. I want to be more worried but I guess the way I see it if the school is not a good fit we can always move our child to another school. That is what my parents did and I survived.

I agree with all the people who said parental involvement was more important than anything. Kids thrive when the parents care.

Also the quality of the teachers is important – schools, high end and expensive, can have crappy teachers just like a “lowly” public school. The teachers at the expensive private school were no better then the public schools I attended.

I went to a private school that was quite expensive as well as one of the top HS in the city I lived at the time and I was not smarter for any of it. My parents were totally out to lunch.

To top it all off, where we live they like to redistrict the hell out of the place every few years. With the 2010 census coming up, I have this notion that by the time my kid is in 1st grade the school he ends up in will change!

Do what you feel is best and try not worry too much!!

Lawyerish
13 years ago

I think if you’re in a state and a metropolitan area that overall has a strong emphasis on education — which certainly seems to be the case where you are — it’s hard to go wrong.

Not that this is especially helpful, but I went to public schools in a state that consistently ranks in the bottom five in the nation, in a rural district that was not especially wealthy or education-focused.

On paper, I’m sure my schools looked abysmal, and in reality a lot of it WAS abysmal (they used corporal punishment in elementary school, for example, and my high school French teacher believed that France was shaped like a boot). But I had a handful of amazing teachers over the years; my parents were very involved in my education; and I found ways to challenge myself outside the classroom.

It also wasn’t brutally competitive or filled with a bunch of entitled a-holes and jerky parents, which was a plus. And in the end, I did just as well in life as people who went to chichi boarding schools or what have you.

All that said, I have a lot of mixed feelings about my educational history and could go on for DAYS about it, and how that influences my thought about my (hypothetical) future kids. Bottom line: I probably wouldn’t be bunched up about school districts if I lived somewhere more consisted, but living in Manhattan, either you live in the “right” district, or you do private school. We’ll probably do the latter. Which I ALSO have mixed feelings about, but I have rambled quite enough.

Jamie
13 years ago

My school strategy is pretty stupid. My kids will be going to the schools I went to. They’re pretty good schools testing wise, safe, etc… Plus, I went there, so they can’t be THAT bad. Right?

js
js
13 years ago

When I was buying my house (with my ex), I researched schools. I found a great website that ranked them (wish I could find it to link for you). I told the realtor which two school districts were acceptable, what we wanted in a home and told her to have at it. However, she got a little pissy when I told her, “Within School District X, we do NOT want to live where she will end up at High School B.” I realize that at the age of 4, me thinking about HS was a little silly, but who knows if we’d move by then. Of course, living in these “top” school districts cost us a hell of a lot more money, but I am thrilled with her school. And if I ever have to move again, I will do the same thing. There are a ton of crappy school districts around here and I refuse to subject her to that. Case in point, my daughter could already read before Kindergarten, but once she got into Kindergarten, she totally excelled. A friend of mine in a neighboring school district cannot read. At all. He’s 7. I realize quite a bit of that falls on the parent. But the school doesn’t seem to have an issue with it. He’s in 1st grade. Unacceptable in my book.

ikate
13 years ago

I think when you live in an awful school district you know about it. In our previous house the local school was so bad the state was giving residents $5000 vouchers to use at private schools if you wanted. So, yes it was hella bad. But we knew that info when we bought the house (5 years pre-kids) and figured we’d cough up the money for private school eventually.
Then my job took us to a new city where the private schools were easily double what the were in the old town and suddenly looking at the school district became important (this was after-kid). But then again most the the “good on paper” schools were lacking in areas oh, like DIVERSITY (race, religion and socio-economic). So we shopped around more during this house purchase and found a place in which we are comfortable with sending her to the school down the road – is it the ‘best of the best”? – no but I worked at a private school and know 1st hand it’s more about a solid school + involved parents then about the school alone. But, good schools equals stronger home values so it’s part of the investment in the house…even if you don’t have school-aged kids.

Jess
Jess
13 years ago

I am a firm believer in you get out of it what you put into it. If you like your neighborhood and your area – you will most likely have a fine school district. There are drug problems everywhere – and what I have noticed from listening to friends who teach in “privileged” towns is that rich kids have drug problems too and sometimes more money is used to getting their way and things swept away that should be dealt with. And also keep in mind your kids are young, a LOT can change in a few years and things tend to cycle. Find an area/neighborhood that you are comfortable with and you’ll be fine.

JMH
JMH
13 years ago

Just remember, the teachers in the “fancy” private schools have the same college degrees as the teachers in the public schools. I think the most successful kids have supportivie parents at home and it really doesn’t matter where they go to school. All schools have pros and cons…just make sure your kids are happy. (BTW, I am a teacher and have been teaching for 15 years.)

Kendra
Kendra
13 years ago

We live in what seems to be known as a shitty school district. Actually, I’m told that the elementary schools are fine, but not to let a kid get near the high school. Given that my kids are still hypothetical (hoping to adopt soon), I’m not too worried. I figure it will be at least 10 years till high school is an issue. Who knows? Maybe this will be a great district by then. Maybe we will have moved to a new state. If all else fails, I’ll look into charter schools or something.

Kendra
Kendra
13 years ago

(I meant 14 years until high school is an issue. I really can add. Sort of. And I’m not planning to send a 10-year-old to high school…)

Lasha
13 years ago

As a teacher who taught at one of the “worst” schools in the city, I would have to say that the distinction between good and bad schools is very random. Our school had some of the worst test scores, but also some of the most creative teachers I have ever worked with. The academic quality of the work we were doing was on par with any of the higher scoring schools, the kids just struggled due to a lot of other factors: socio-economic status, ESL and immigration issues, etc.

I don’t think the school itself has that much to do with how well a student will succeed. There are good and bad teachers everywhere; problems everywhere; the potential to succeed everywhere. And you are committed to supporting your kids, so that is probably the most important piece of the puzzle.

Jennie C.
13 years ago

Our school had fabulous teachers and a wonderful principal. But the peer group was awful. I guess we live too close to the wrong side of the tracks. Everyone in our neighbourhood was taking their kids elsewhere so the peer group got even worse. We now have them in a private school. So, for us, it’s not just the teachers and the quality of the education, but – who will their friends be? Who will their friends parents be?

Carol
13 years ago

We knew approximately where we wanted to be (Seattle’s Eastside suburbs) and then looked at a bunch of different communities. When we found a house just a 30 seconds’ walk (and that’s an absent-minded, daydreaming kid’s walk) from the elementary school and a few blocks from a King County Library (more important then than it is now), we decided that we’d settle for the house, which was (as my husband puts it) a “sow’s ear,” because the location fit in so well with the kids education AND social lives (you wouldn’t believe how many Scout meetings, reading fairs, etc. take place at the school!). It was great to just shoo them out the door moments before the bell rang in the morning… and it was REALLY great to know that they could be home in a few minutes on a snow day or in an emergency.

We’re still in the house (though it’s a BIT closer to a “silk purse” now), but now the kids are all in college. I must say, though, that there’s STILL comfort in watching those cute elementary school kids walking past our house on their way to school every morning.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to chat about this further.

Carol

-R-
-R-
13 years ago

My kid is only 6 months old and we’ll probably move before he’s in school, so I’m not worried about this yet. But we moved around a bunch when I was young, and my mom used to actually go to the elementary schools and meet with the principals for the top 3 houses that my parents were considering buying.

Heather
Heather
13 years ago

We recently decided to send our son to private/catholic school and guess what the tuition is half of what daycare was!! I never thought to consider it since I just assumed the tuition would be more. Then you don’t have to worry about where you move to :) In our school district the english speaking kids are becoming the minority and I am refuse to send them there.

Misti
13 years ago

Good luck! I’m a teacher at a high school that’s seen it’s better years and hasn’t had stellar TAKS (the Texas equivalent to the WASL) scores in the past two years, but our faculty is awesome.

What’s hurting schools is a bunch of government red tape and parents who aren’t parenting! I guarantee if you and JB stay active in your boys’ lives, they’ll be just fine in any academic environment!

Joanna
Joanna
13 years ago

I am a public school teacher, and I firmly believe that children will get out of school what they (and and their parents) put into it. Basically, as long as they are encouraged by you to be engaged in school, they will do just fine wherever they end up. It is not something worth stressing out over.

mixette
mixette
13 years ago

Coming at this from a different perspective – I don’t have kids. But, I bought a house in a neighborhood with a very desirable elementary school kind of by accident. I’ve noticed now that that is the very first thing listed on almost every house for sale.

So even if one is going private, homeschooling, etc. personally, the school district definitely affects the value and ability to sell later so is always worth consideration.

ChelseaLI
ChelseaLI
13 years ago

As a kid, I went to the nearest (non Catholic) school. We had a Catholic school just across the street, but did not attend for religious reasons. Ended up going to a public school six blocks away, I turned out fine. I guess I did anyways, I really have no one to compare me to. As far as I know, there is no private schools in my city and all public schools are more or less equal on the east side (West side is a completely different story. Rough neighbourhoods, rough schools). The girls will be going to whatever school is closest.

Kristi
13 years ago

I don’t tend to think that test scores tell a very accurate picture. What was more important for us when we moved 2 years ago was the strength of the PTA (providing necessary extra funding for arts programs, etc. in WA which seems to continue to want to cut funding for public education) what kind of Kindergarten they had (all day, 1/2 day, 4-day week, etc) and the amount of parent involvement. I think that last one is a big key in the success of the students, and the school district overall. Good luck!

velocibadgergirl
13 years ago

We didn’t make spreadsheets, but when we started looking for a house last year, we picked out the districts we were interested in ahead of time, and then only looked in those districts.

I looked at one of the sites that has all the test scores and ratios, and determined that all of the public high schools here are about equal. Also, four of the five schools have one good and one questionable middle school, so we decided we could look at half of each high school district (one school has two great feeder schools, but was in a part of town we decided we’d rather not live in after all — too conservative). It helps that I grew up here, so I have a bit of a gut feel / anecdotal knowledge of which schools are good and which ones aren’t.

Ultimately, even though it doesn’t have a good reputation with people from other districts, we decided to buy in the district of the high school I went to, because it was good enough for me and for my genius sister. Most people who went there loved it, it’s just the people who know nothing about it who put it down. But we made sure to buy in a neighborhood that goes to the good-to-great middle school that feeds the HS, not the very bad one :P

I also figure if the high school goes downhill by the time our not-yet-born kid is of age, we can try to get him / her into the artsy public charter school here that always makes the top 100 schools in the country list. Or maybe my parents will pay for private school, but I doubt it ;) (And even if they did, I’m not sure I’d let them. I went to K-8 Catholic school and HAAAAAAAATED it.)