View Full Version : Grading public schools--what’s your criteria?

09-27-2006, 03:39 PM
A lot of discussions here and IRL have me questioning the pros and cons of my own local public school system. However, a few conversations have left me wondering what exactly people use as criteria to deem their local schools as bad or good. It seems like I hear a lot of people (in my area) claiming that certain schools aren’t that great, but then I’ll talk to teachers who work at the schools and they’ll think things are pretty good.

So I’m curious, if you have given your local public school system a grade (either good, bad or indifferent!), what are you basing your opinion on? Test scores, numbers deemed acceptable by the government, visits to actual classrooms, word of mouth? Please share!

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09-27-2006, 03:46 PM
Things that I've heard/read to look for are meap scores, ratio of student to teachers, and percentage of students recieving free lunch. Now the last one I read and was like how/why should that matter? But the explanation was that it is because the lower that % is then the more money that district has, meaning more electives and bigger budget for classes like special ed., etc.. I also have a problem with teachers teaching just to get good meaps, ya know.

I don't listen to much word of mouth just because every has such different opinions of what's good and bad. I also wouldn't put my kid someplace I had never checked out with my own eyes, met the teachers... :)

A good website is greatschools.org

09-27-2006, 03:58 PM
I know a lot of people look at test scores, but that is not high on my list of things that are indications of what I see as a good/bad school. It is one thing I look at, but more importantly what I look for are:

philosophy behind curriculum (for example strong push towards phonics, whole language or a balance of the two)
beliefs on child development (for example drill and skill vs. hands-on manipulatives or a combination of the two)
homework expectations (how much time per grade level, how many days a week)
how much music, PE and art programs are supported
parent involvement requirements and expectations and what parent involvement means to them.
ETA a big one, class size and adult to child ratio

Most importantly, I go in and ask if I can observe for a little bit. The school's reaction to this request is usually a good indication for me. This is what I did to help choose DD's preschool.

09-27-2006, 04:27 PM
I was just thinking about this during lunch. I was looking at test scores, but now I agree more with Lisa's post. I think those things are more important than test scores. We are in one of the best school districts in our state, at a great school, but the more I see the more I realize it would not be great for everyone. Most parents have tutors for their children after school and over the summer, so academically it is pretty advanced and test scores are high, but I think it is too much. I would look for a school with an emphasis on community, art, music, PE, drama, and strong academics.

09-27-2006, 04:32 PM
for me it was the fact that class sizes are huge, test scores are low, grads that go on to college is low, and from what others in the distric have said doesnt help any either. also what turned me off was that you have no promise of the same school year after year and i think that is too hard on kids. then there is no promise that both my boys could be in the same school. i also am not a fan of how for the older kids there are cops on grounds at all times because of the violence. there were alot of issues for me that made up my mind.

09-27-2006, 04:44 PM
We just had a wonderful guest speaker at my ds' preschool about choosing a kindergarten. She reinforced everything I was already thinking.

If you can find it, read the Newsweek from a few weeks ago about how kindergarten is getting so much more academic- and play and creativity are being pushed out. Disturbing trend, imo.

I am looking for a K program that is developmental, not academic. they can learn well just from interactions and manipulating the world around them than quiet reading or rote learning (heck, they more than likely learn better).

She said that it is well acknowledged in the education community that standradized tests only offer a snapshot of performance. And they are not useful under 8yo.

I hate the idea of schools "teaching to the test" and focusing so much on this stuff. test scores mean little to me. I want it to be a good learning environment that is stimulating, developmentally appropriate, caters to the whole child, is well rounded, is research based (like offers more time for boys to be active), and all that good stuff. I was a bad test taker but straight A student. I would hate for my child to have my test taking abilities and have it impact his educational future because of a stupid test.

I guess I have a lot of trouble with the way No Child Left Behind is implemented. I don't know a ton about it so I can't go into much but what I know from educators it is just flawed. So there are times that I lean to private schools just to get away from NCLB.

The speaker said that if you go in for observations kids should be engaged and no one should be shouting at them.

I do not want an over scheduled child. I want school to offer a good variety of things so I won't have to spend all our free time supplimenting what I think he should be getting at school.

I want the K room to have manipulatives, time to play (a lot of learning happens through play!), and well, look like a K room and not a 3rd grade room. I haven't started my observations yet but I have everything scheduled in the coming weeks.

I guess what it boils down to most is whether I think the shhool will be a good fit for my son and foster a love of learning. I worry that a busy kid would be thought of as a distraction because they are expecting him to sit still and be quiet all the time. That just isn't him- and that just isn't what I want from his school. I'd take a school with lower scores if the kids were thriving in all other areas than one test.


09-27-2006, 06:15 PM
I forgot about all that good stuff. Class size, # that go on to college...v. important.

I do have to say that I noticed how much socio economic influences and parental involvement factor in. Parental involvement and the expectations parents set for their kids I think goes pretty far and can make up even if the school is lacking.


09-27-2006, 08:08 PM
Oooh, good points! I love that you go and observe. Yeah, if they give you a hard time about it, that's not a good vibe.

Sometimes I forget that the best stuff about school dosen't come across in numbers and scores.