school district selection
March 28, 2011 11:52 AM   Subscribe

How do I decide which suburban school district to choose? (Specifically Cincinnati, but I welcome general advice.)

My wife and 2 kids (soon to be 3- & 1-yr-old) are moving from the city to the suburbs, mainly for schools, but also to be closer to family. We're in Cincinnati and have opted to look up I-71 and are tentatively thinking Mason, Kings, or Loveland school districts.

How does one determine how good the schools are compared to one another. Quick Googling shows numerous ranking sites, and all 3 seem fairly equivalent. The only overt difference I can surmise is that Mason & Loveland are really big and Kings is less big.

Should I consider them a wash (assuming I didn't care about size) or is there something specific people know that separates these districts?

Like I said I welcome general comments that don't know are there metrics that one could use to easily look for when picking schools. I think I've heard in the past # of AP classes offered or % of grads that go to college. I think these 3 schools are comparable in that respect. Any others?

Also, my default is think about high schools, but I assume there can be variances in elementary schools. Any thoughts on how to judge here?
posted by glenngulia to Education (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your kid's education is much more dependent upon your involvement as parents than it is any numerical indicator of schools ginned up by the state. As long as the schools are safe they are not going to be the determining factor in your kid's education. You are. They can make it easier or harder, but it's still mostly parents. (Caveat - access to special ed type programs would be an exception, but I'm assuming that is not your concern here.)

That said, if a kid is way behind when he hits high school, he is probably screwed. If he was ahead, a less than stellar high school will not ruin his life. So I would worry more about the K-8 schools than the high schools at this point.
posted by COD at 12:13 PM on March 28, 2011

Re-posting from a similar thread recently...

You can get important school-lelve demographics from the US Department of Education statistics site. This, for example, is the result for the school my kids attend.

For general schools -- i.e., that aren't charters, or test-selected, or tracked -- high free/reduced lunch rates will tend to come along with a school whose priorities are, of necessity, overcoming educational and disciplinary deficits. If your kids are unlikely to present those issues, there could be a better environment for you.
posted by MattD at 12:21 PM on March 28, 2011

While people will tell you it has a ton to do with your involvement, you should also look at the funding at the school level. I've had a child at both an inner city and a more affluent public school. The school with the very involved PTA and lots of fundraising is a better place to be. The connected, affluent parents are able to bring in all sorts of funding for playground equipment, computers, specialized lessons (they had gymnastics and hip hop instruction), library books and more. The specialized lessons, for example, freed the teacher up to focus on something else or even just have a break while the kids spent time in the gym 3x a week during a rainy time of year when the kids would have otherwise been spending a lot of time indoors. That means the kids are in a better position to learn and that the teachers are better prepared to help them. Also, in more affluent areas, the kids are often getting family help for tutoring, speech pathology, learning disabilities, counselling and so on, so the school's resources aren't as taxed.

At my inner city school, when I tried to see the principal about assaults, I got bumped because he was busy with a girl who'd been stabbed in the head with a pencil. When I changed schools and casually dropped by the office, the principal followed up, apologized for not being there (!) and said she'd been out to get a black light for the Halloween party.

What I hear you should look for is an affluent school with a good portion of stay-at-home parents who are there to run activities. And you want a PTA with good parent involvement (not all professionals who do not show up). And lots of fundraising.
posted by acoutu at 12:46 PM on March 28, 2011

My family is from Lebanon so I have some experience with the schools you have mentioned, but my observances are purely anecdotal. YMMV. Mason schools are huge but they seem to have top-quality buildings and resources. I've heard people say that Mason schools benefit from the taxes paid by nearby King's Island but I have no idea how true that it. I've been in a few of the elementary buildings and was very impressed. Their new-ish highschool has a huge indoor pool complete with waterslide visible from the parking lot; I heard it doubles as a community rec center after school hours, but any school district installing waterslides can't be hurting that bad.

I haven't been into a King's (or Loveland) district school in quite a while but my experiences were that King's was not quite as new and shiny and high tech as the others. I have no idea if they receive tax money from Kings Island or not. It is the smallest of the 3 you mentioned, but that would be a benefit in my opinion. Mason is a huge school district and I know people who transferred from Mason because they thought it was difficult to form close relationships. They said that every year the students in each grade would get completely rearranged and you might not see any of the same people. That may have changed in the last few years. I've heard of large schools keeping sub-groups of students together when switching grades.

You probably know this if you are from Cincinnati, but football is a big deal at the suburban schools. Expect to be at the local high school game pretty much every Friday night in the fall or risk social isolation. Parent politics tend to revolve around the football cliques.

I really like a lot of things about Lebanon's school district but obviously I am biased. MeMail me if you have any Lebanon questions.
posted by halseyaa at 1:27 PM on March 28, 2011

I asked my husband who has a coworker with kids in the Mason school district, so this is anecdotal, but: he would recommend Kings. Smaller school district should mean smaller class sizes. Also, he says that property taxes in Mason are twice what they are in Kings (which may explain the waterslide).

We moved to Cincinnati 13 years ago and bought our home based on the school district, so feel free to memail me with any further questions.
posted by shannonm at 7:35 PM on March 28, 2011

« Older Should I go travel and work remotely or try and...   |   Where can I get a replacement A1242 transistor? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.