Do we move to a better school district? If so, when?
December 5, 2018 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Our school district is #90 out of 116 in the state. My husband and I could move to eight of the top ten districts while maintaining a reasonable commute and not incurring financial hardship. Should we? If so, when? And how important are these rankings?

We got our house for a steal in a nice neighborhood in a not-great town. We love our home and neighbors. We are minutes from the city, close to the highway, it’s basically the best location.

But now we have a 5 month old. I knew our district wasn’t good but I didn’t know it was #90 bad. We are close to most of the top ten districts and we could definitely afford to buy a modest home in those towns while staying close to our jobs. We would be a bit farther from family but still within a 30-45 min drive.

Some of our neighbors with high-school age kids send them to a private STEM high school in the city. But I want my kid to go to a regular high school with access to sports, clubs, etc. these kids do have access to those amenities through our towns high school.

I truly believe that a supportive home environment is much more important than a good school. But I’m worried that I would be putting my kid at a significant disadvantage by staying in my town.

I went to a decent school, had a supportive family, went to a good college. My husband went to a decent school, was basically homeless during high school, but was smart and a hard worker and went to a great college on scholarship. He thinks if a kid is smart he will succeed anywhere. I agree but I don’t want to stack the cards against him if we don’t need to.

If we do move, when is it important? Before middle school? Elementary school?

Thanks in advance. I am getting majorly mixed answers from our friends and family which is why I am asking.
posted by pintapicasso to Education (37 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This was us 10 years ago; we bought our house a few months before the market crashed. It eventually rebounded in excess and now we can't afford to move. We are lucky that our city has school choice so we were able to get our kids into schools we liked better than our neighborhood school, but it would have relieved a lot of stress if we already lived there. I guess I'm saying, if you can afford to move now, go for it. The value of moving sooner means you'll know the people in the neighborhood longer, including families that will be your kids' classmates. Preschool can start as young as 3 in my city, so public school age really sneaks up on you! It feels like you have forever when they are little, but time just starts flying.
posted by LKWorking at 7:51 AM on December 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Where do these rankings come from? Is this based on state assessment performance, Great Schools rankings, or what?

Because there are lots of ways a school district can be "good" or "bad" and many of them are pretty immaterial to the experience of an individual student in that district. Our district is apparently ranked by someone or other as 471/603. It's an urban district with a high population of minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. The school my son goes to is safe, generally competent, and he attends school with students of all backgrounds. We provide experiences at home that the school is unable to. He's doing just fine.

However, I do draw the line at "safe." If "bad schools" means unsafe and/or criminally mismanaged schools then that's another thing entirely. If it just means "poor and black kids bring the aggregate test scores down" that's just the reality of the achievement gap in America.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:04 AM on December 5, 2018 [44 favorites]

My understanding is that the "good schools", for the most part, are just schools where the parents have higher socioeconomic status. And you don't care how the average kid in your kid's school does; you care how your kid does. (I mean, there are schools that are actually better than others, but those rankings aren't adjusted for parent socioeconomic status.)

On preview: what soren_lorensen said.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:05 AM on December 5, 2018 [21 favorites]

School rankings are more reflective of the socioeconomic status of parents than anything else. To get a sense of what a school is, it's worth it to visit it, meet some administrators and teachers, observe some classrooms, go to a PTA meeting, etc.

From my current perspective as a teacher who has been in two schools, one generally considered better than the other, I can say that if anything it's easier to get away with being a mediocre teacher at a 'good' school.

I would agree with soren_lorensen. Kids need to be and feel safe in order to learn and grow healthy. Beyond that, it seems to me that school rankings on their face are not worth much.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:06 AM on December 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

These rankings are a combination of a lot of different factors which are often tied up with race and socioeconomic status.
A few things to consider:
- Have you visited the schools? Talked to your neighbors? What did they do?
- What seem to be the big determining factors in the bad ranking?
- Are the district lines firm? If you're in a city they may not be. My kid is 10 and the high school he is supposed to go to has changed 3 times in the last 7 years.
- Many people believe that it is hard to have a bad elementary school. Go visit the local elementary school and see how you feel.
- Are there options beyond the STEM magnet? Private? Catholic?
posted by k8t at 8:21 AM on December 5, 2018

Our school district is #90 out of 116 in the state.

This, by itself, is a meaningless statistic. What you really need to do is look at why your district ranks so low.

- How is the ranking determined? Is this based on standardized testing scores? Who is ranking? Is it the State Board of E? Some 3rd party site like "Great Schools"?
- Is it because your district has an extremely high percentage of kids who get free or reduced lunch? (this is a rough proxy for the percentage of kids who don't have a good head start when they get to school)
- What is the district per-pupil spending, and how does that compare to the other schools in the state?
- What is the local elementary school like? Do they have an active PTO? Have you visited? What is the economic and racial composition of the school? Does it seem like a warm and welcoming place?
- What is the elementary school student/teacher ratio?
- Find the school board minutes. What are the items under discussion? Hot topics? Is the board/superintendent concerned about the ranking? What action are they taking to change it?
- What is the district graduation rate?

As noted above, school ranking has A LOT to do with the socio-economic background of the families in the district. If you love your home, and your neighborhood, that means a lot. Don't just judge blindly on "ranking" - actually investigate the school your child would be attending.

For example, my son's elementary is "ranked" (Maine DoE rankings, based on test scores) pretty low, but it is also the only school in the state to be a certified International Baccalaureate Elementary school, and it is pretty rigorous with a warm community and extensive supports and extra-circulars housed in a brand-new building. I'm proud that my son went to that school, and he got a fantastic education there. He's well-prepared for his ongoing education, and his classmates spoke a total of 33 languages at home, and ranged from new Mainers to the granddaughter of our current US Senator.

In our city, there are 9 elementary schools. In Statewide rankings they rank as: 11th, 79th, 98th, 116th 196th, 199th, 208th, 212th, and 256th out of a total of 288 schools. They get the same funding, share the same administration, have access to the same extra curricular, and largely share the same curriculum. The big difference? At the 11th ranked school, 21% of the students get free/reduced lunch. At the 256th ranked school, 78.3% of the students qualify. Student economic background makes a HUGE difference, and it is grossly unfair to public schools to evaluate them on ranking alone.

Learn more about your schools and your district. Judge them by how they teach, and what their academic and social priorities are, not on test scores.
posted by anastasiav at 8:25 AM on December 5, 2018 [38 favorites]

Lower SES of the parents is correlated with more English language learners, more special needs children, lower parent council funding in my area.

A mainstream classroom can work with 1-2 ELLs, 1-2 special needs with support staff, and parent donations of $150-$200/student/year for programs, technology, and playground equipment. If you have more students that require extra attention and less money, mainstream students will notice a difference in their daily classroom experience. This is why I paid the big bucks to live in one of the higher SES (and yes, whiter) neighbourhoods in my city. I don’t want my child attending school with 5 special needs kids and no support staff, in that environment learning takes a back seat to classroom management.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:28 AM on December 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Most school rankings are proxies for whiteness. Here's an example outlining how GreatSchools looks in Seattle, which I can vouch for. GreatSchools is funded in part by organizations that are hostile to the idea of public schools, and want white families to flee to private schools. This project is succeeding.

You should take this kind of ranking to be as about as important as you take the idea that you want your children to go to school with white children.
posted by Kwine at 8:32 AM on December 5, 2018 [17 favorites]

For folks who are not familiar with Maine, my sense is that in most of the state, "bad schools" isn't as much a proxy for race as it would be in many other places. To be super blunt, it's white families that are poor, food insecure, housing insecure, have multigenerational drug problems, single parents, longterm-unemployed, incarcerated, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:37 AM on December 5, 2018 [10 favorites]

Kwine hits it on the nose - I would ignore any school rankings at all. You can go check out the school to make sure there's no exposed wiring or broken glass... but in all likelihood, your local school is a lovely place for kids to go learn the basics of life and some ABCs.

All the better for you if its not full of upwardly-striving white parents stressing their kids out over elementary school tests and grades. Better citizens come out of mixed income, mixed race, mixed ability schools.
posted by RajahKing at 8:41 AM on December 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

No matter how incensed you are about the grossly unfair public school system, don't let your outrage affect your decision on where your child attends school. Change the system where you can but don't hobble your child on principle. It may suck that a school has a higher teacher/student ratio, better resources, and a better safety record just because the neighborhood is richer. Send your kid there anyway.

As far as when, I would say the earlier the better. More time to make friends that will last through graduation, and less time to fall behind the more aggressive curriculum of the districts you may be moving into.
posted by FakeFreyja at 8:43 AM on December 5, 2018 [11 favorites]

. To be super blunt, it's white families that are poor, food insecure, housing insecure, have multigenerational drug problems, single parents, longterm-unemployed, incarcerated, etc.

Another factor is school size. Small schools in rural areas have a small tax base, which makes it tough to properly fund the schools. But the rankings I posted above are for Portland, where roughly 36% of the students are from multi-lingual households, which is the only publicly available proxy info we have for diversity. And of course, that #11 school in my example above has 5% of their students from multi-lingual households, whereas the #256th school has 36%.

School rankings are about demographics. Period.
posted by anastasiav at 8:46 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone! I want to echo what lobster mitten said - this is Maine. There’s white everywhere. Our district is overall low SES (of which my family is part of!) with multigenerational drug problems (of which my family is part of!) and rural poverty (you get the idea).
posted by pintapicasso at 8:55 AM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sorry, on reread of the question I realize I should have spelled out our situation more clearly! This is rural poverty, if anything the higher ranked districts have MORE diversity. My family is solidly blue collar, my husband and I are first generation college students, and our kid will receive free lunch (both my husband and I did.)
posted by pintapicasso at 8:58 AM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

As a fellow Maine parent, I stand by my comments above. So much about school funding in Maine is dependent on the property tax base. Per pupil funding evaluation is going to be key for you - a small district with lower test scores but a low funding base would still be my choice over moving into a big district like Falmouth or Cape.

Feel free to PM me if you want to nerd out over school funding and evaluation questions.
posted by anastasiav at 9:02 AM on December 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Go visit schools before deciding. It’s the easiest thing to do!

Meet with teachers and administrators, check out the classrooms, assess the cleanliness, etc..
posted by jbenben at 9:10 AM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I agree with all the other comments about rankings- basically meaningless. You could always send your kid for a year or two and move if the system doesn't meet their needs. My kids are flourishing at a school that never gets above the middle of the local rankings.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:12 AM on December 5, 2018

You have received good advice already in this thread. One thing I will add. Research into student achievement has generally found that teacher effects are bigger than school effects. What this means is that school quality is less important than teacher quality. So my general advice is for parents to get to know their school really well. In almost every school there are better and worse teachers for your kids. Get involved and know which teachers are the right ones for your kid and then make sure you get those teachers. Here is a chart that lists all sorts of things that have an effect on student achievement. Generalized school effects are way down the list below most of the teacher specific effects.
posted by bove at 9:20 AM on December 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

I will note, the biggest effect on that list is collective teacher efficacy. Although that is something that might be classified as a "school" influence, it won't be reflected in school ratings or rankings.
posted by bove at 9:22 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

One other thing - your child is currently an infant. A LOT can change about your local schools in the next four - five years, particularly as we end the LePage era and look forward to at least two solid years of a progressive and cohesive state government. I suspect the current school funding formulas are going to change A HUGE AMOUNT in the next two years, which will, in turn, improve outcomes for more rural districts. The universal pre-k inniative will be HUGE. Which is to say, it is a bit early yet to decide for sure.
posted by anastasiav at 9:28 AM on December 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

One of the things that it is worth saying is that actually, it really does matter what the performance levels of the other kids are like, especially if you expect yours to be higher performing, because kids measure themselves by the peers they can see.

A higher performing kid in a lower performing school that doesn't separate classes by ability is not going to learn the habits of working, because they simply won't have to. Teachers are doing their best, but their job is to help the majority of students, not specifically /your/ student. If 75% of the class is below standards on reading, there's going to be a lot of time spent on reading work, even if your child doesn't need it and is bored.

The other thing is - environment matters. My husband grew up in rural poverty, which he eventually got out of - but the habits and socialization he learned there have stuck with him and made it harder for him to make connections now that he's an adult. Rural poverty in particular leaves people with a lot of 'honor culture' markers that make it hard to socialize in cities as folks think they're being disrespected by common practice.

But either way, you don't really have to look at this until elementary school.
posted by corb at 9:33 AM on December 5, 2018 [11 favorites]

I truly believe that a supportive home environment is much more important than a good school.

Before our kid finished preschool, we moved from our rural New England hill-town with the one-room school and no tax base, to the rural town a couple miles away which has the liberal arts college in it. Based on what we hear from the (supportive and wonderful!) parents still in the town we left behind, and from equally supportive and wonderful parents in the other neighboring districts, and on what we see of their kids, that move was the best thing we could possibly have done. There's a huge difference, both academically and behaviorally. It's frankly angry-making how much of a difference it is, how much the kids at the poorer schools are being shortchanged.

The more precocious ones have it the worst -- your husband's "a smart kid will succeed anywhere" is pure bunk: the kids ahead of the curriculum at the good school get extra attention and more advanced personalized projects to work on. The kids who are ahead of the curriculum at the not-so-good schools finish their work early, have nothing to do, and get bored and learn to dislike school.

I don't know anything about the rankings, and a supportive home environment is important to be sure -- but a good school is really damn important too. Find out what you can about the situation in your current district, instead of just trusting the ranking numbers, but do find out what you can and be prepared to move or otherwise find a better school placement if it doesn't seem acceptable.
posted by ook at 9:35 AM on December 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

It’s definitely not the case that smart kids at bad schools all learn to hate school, unless by that you mean they can be solidly self-motivated and learn to challenge themselves.

If you do send them to the “better” school you should also be concerned about whether in that highly productive environment they learn other values, like intrinsic motivation, understanding their own desires and passions, empathy for suffering, etc. It is a real problem that children who are raised always with some academic challenge in front of them struggle to identify what they really want to do and enjoy in life, which was the #1 source of strurm und drang (and drug use, etc.) around me from my peers in college.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:43 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

It’s definitely not the case that smart kids at bad schools all learn to hate school

All absolutes are false, yes; there will be exceptions. And I agree that pushing kids too hard academically can be as problematic as not pushing them hard enough. But for what it's worth, the smart kids I'm talking about in the not-so-great schools -- these are real kids, not hypothetical constructs -- seem to be falling into the "under-stimulated and learning to dislike school" category a lot more often than the "magically self-motivated and self-directed".

(I'm happy to keep discussing this if you'd like but we should probably take it to memail, it's getting a bit tangential to the question at this point.)
posted by ook at 9:58 AM on December 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don't know about your district, but each school in mine has both a PTA and a PSCC. The latter is a Parent School Community Council that is open to all members of the community, regardless of whether or not they're a parent of a child at the school. If there's a similar organization in your district, attend a few meetings and get the lay of the land, meet people, and ask questions.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:00 AM on December 5, 2018

When our first kid was 2 years old we happened to go to the local elementary school. We saw high fences and trash, and security controlled entrances. This initial impression that this would be a rough start for our kid was born out by the annual school-by-school results report, which showed that this school had low scores. We began a search for a better school zone.

We live in a large US city, with a very diverse population. We discovered that school performance within the district was mostly tied to home values in the area. It was not tied to the ethnic composition of the students, as much. Our search eventually lead us to buy a small, old house in a neighborhood of large, newer homes. Over the last 20 years we have not regretted our choice. Our several children have had happy and productive education experiences, while meeting and becoming friends with kids of many races and backgrounds.

We have also found that the value of our small old home has increased over time, a lot of which we attribute to the favorable local schools. At this point we would not be able to buy a home in our neighborhood.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 11:03 AM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Persistent economic issues that lead to endemic drug use/abuse would drive me out of a neighborhood. Much of what kids end up doing is driven by what their same-age friends/peers do. I went to a “good” school with a huge drug/alcohol problem and it’s only luck that I ended up with a small crowd who didn’t drink. That is hard to figure out now but if you’re fairly certain that a given area has systematic issues with widespread substance abuse, I’d move.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:21 AM on December 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

This is just one data point, but the data point is me, so...

I went to a really terrible school district. The year I graduated from high school, our standardized test scores were last in the entire state, worse than huge inner-city districts. We had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state. Gang fights were common, even in middle school, and it was common to get mugged walking home from school. High school was regularly on lockdown while the police conducted searches for weapons and drugs (which they often found). At least two of my classmates are currently on death row. Nearly all the school buildings in the district were condemned as structurally unsound while I was in school. (It took a decade for the district to raise the funds to build new ones.) A couple of years ago, the town was named the "unhappiest place in America".

And yet, I had a pretty good academic career. I got a scholarship to a top-20 public college (top 50-ish overall), where I made the dean's list, and got accepted into law school.

Notably, though, I'm kind of an underachiever among my high school peers. I had quite a few friends who went to Ivy League schools, and quite a few more who went to near-Ivies like Northwestern or NYU. One was elected student body president of a Big Ten school. I'm one of the few without an advanced degree. One guy a couple years older than me has an EGOT. The group of people I'm talking about is probably less than 10% of the total student body, but my point is that you can find high achievers anywhere.

My experience has taught me that it's silly to write off a school just because it's poorly-rated. (And likewise, I've met plenty of kids who went to "good" high schools - private or suburban public - who turned out to be abusive alcoholics or underemployed, aimless burnouts.) All it really takes is one or two great teachers for a kid to love school, and loving school is really the key.

One more thing to note: being the worst school in a state can mean different things depending on which state you're in. The worst school in Maine, a state with fairly high per-pupil spending and generally good schools, might actually be better than an average to below-average school in a state like Mississippi, where public education is in terrible shape. I wouldn't worry too much about it if I were you.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:37 PM on December 5, 2018

Here's a checklist, starting with the Big Three....

Teacher pay and teacher accreditation.
Student/teacher class ratio.
High school graduation rates.

Early childhood education, preschool and kindergarten classes.
Types of "specials" -- art, music, foreign language, computers -- and how early these are introduced to the weekly curriculum.
Physical education classes and a range of individual and group sports, which continue into middle school or junior high school and into high school.
Extra curricular activities and clubs, before- and after-school programs.

School media center, and how often students go there for classes and self-guided study and reading for pleasure.
Accommodations in the school building for special education, English as a Second Language, and advanced studies curriculum.
School counseling services, including early intervention for learning and physical issues (one of my children was diagnosed with hearing loss at age four through our preschool, which was critical for her language development).

An active Parent/Teacher Association.
The enthusiastic support of the community, including former students and their families.

Do pay attention to school ratings by your state department of education. Check with your local school guidance counselor.
If you have time, do some volunteering in the classrooms. Ask friends with children what they've heard and seen about districts in your area.
posted by TrishaU at 1:56 PM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

As far as I can tell, the post didn't indicate that you live in rural Maine at the time of my earlier comment, and I don't stand behind that comment for your situation. I apologize for the bad advice! If you live in rural Maine, segregation obviously isn't the overriding factor in school rankings.
posted by Kwine at 1:58 PM on December 5, 2018

I do also think it’s worth understanding as someone said above how involved the surrounding community and PTA is. At our poorly ranked zoned school, the stats are showing the parents are getting more involved over the past few years and ramping up the fundraising for the PTA that is contributing to making the school a more attractive place for students and their families (by doing things like being able to fund an AC unit for the classroom so kids aren’t sweltering in 90 degree heat, getting not-broken technology equipment, and hiring teaching assistants to help manage the classrooms and creating more activities where families can all contribute their time if they don’t have money to contribute) and more attractive for teachers (funding math coaches and teacher development so they can be better at their jobs and the school can better retain the good ones) and more attractive for the community (they’re doing a lot more outreach to local businesses to fundraise and get them to feel they have a stake in the success of a school in their neighborhood). I think these things can make a difference in the school experience your kid will have - a poorly ranked school that is well supported by the parents and community (money is one way but also just time and energy and commitment) will feel very different than one that is not.
posted by sestaaak at 2:01 PM on December 5, 2018

Wowsers, lots of... frankly lots of nonsense and assumptions here. Before generalising our own experiences and making some big leaps, let's have a look at what the evidence says. The good news, there is a lot of it.

The Link Between Family Background and Academic Success:

- "Coleman’s analysis concluded that the primary predictor of student academic success was not disparities in access to school resources such as textbooks, laboratories, library facilities, or even curriculum quality; rather, it was a child’s home environment."

- "Parental education is regularly identified as the single strongest predictor of a child’s academic success. "

- "Family income is also known to have an impact on children’s academic outcomes."

Parenting more important than schools to academic achievement, study finds

- "The researchers found that students with high levels of family social capital and low levels of school social capital performed better academically than students with high levels of school social capital but low family social capital.

Long-term Effects of Parents’ Education on Children’s Educational and Occupational Success

- "Parents’ educational level when the child was 8 years old significantly predicted educational and occupational success for the child 40 years later."

As you can see, what is not mentioned in a lot of these studies are schools and classrooms; research demonstrates this matters a lot less than people commonly think or feel. Like, when we think about our own educations, we generally have a lot of strong feelings about particular teachers, schools, etc. But actually when you zoom out, research has shown time and time again it doesn't make a huge difference.

More broadly, what you're talking about here are known as "peer effects"; do the other students have an impact on a given child? Peer effects are widely researched, but somewhat contested.

The general consensus at the moment is that there is a peer effect; it is not major but is noticeable; it affects disadvantaged and lower performing kids more than privileged and higher performing kids (indeed there's some interesting research that suggest taking higher performing kids out of a lower performing class and putting them with other high performing kids can actually decrease their performance as they suddenly become lower-performing, in relation to their cohort - however this contradicts other research that suggests higher performing kids have a "halo effect" on other kids, and help lift them up, interesting stuff.).

So that's a snapshot of some of the research, now I'm gonna hop on my soapbox! It's very easy for us lefties to shake our heads about 'white flight' and other things, but when the rubber meets the road and it's our lives, it's a lot harder to stick to principles.

Research at the moment suggests school doesn't matter that much, compared to what happens at home. There is also *some* evidence as well that higher performing kids have a positive impact on their classroom peers (i.e you take them out, the average goes down by more than their individual contribution). I believe in equality, and also that as a privileged family when it comes to income and education level, my family and I literally have a duty to help others who do not. I think it's important that my daughters mix with as wide a spectrum of children as possible; I believe this will help foster empathy, appreciation of diversity etc. I believe if we can do this without real cost to our family, then I will, because that is what I say that I believe in, and I do not want to be part of the problem, denuding schools of higher performing kids.

The above is not evidence-based, but it's what I believe. I would say think about what you believe, and don't chuck your principles out because of ideas that may not be evidence based. Obviously if a school is unsafe etc it's a different convo.
posted by smoke at 2:21 PM on December 5, 2018 [13 favorites]

I would strongly encourage you to talk to families whose kids attend the local elementary school, not just the families that opted out. In my neighborhood, one of my neighbors will tell you everything that's wrong with the neighborhood school... that he never stepped inside of.

You might also talk to folks you know, who are from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, who live in the towns where you might move. If you move to a much wealthier school, your kid might end up having some pretty different ideas of what's normal in terms of personal electronics, expensive vacations, etc. So that's something else to consider.

Also, I'll say that this is really important:
We love our home and neighbors. We are minutes from the city, close to the highway, it’s basically the best location.

Finally, I know having a new baby makes this seem important and immediate, but you've got more than a few years to figure this out. Most people are pretty happy with where their kids go to kindergarten.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:18 PM on December 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

smoke, thanks for rounding up that research! I knew my answer was a bit of a cop out.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:20 PM on December 5, 2018

One thing that isn't clear to me is whether "good schools" are equally good for all parties. Because of this, I might advise waiting until you know at least a little bit about whether your kiddo is likely to have any special needs for accommodation before committing to an educational plan, e.g. by moving to a new school district.
posted by eirias at 6:37 PM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I learned a lot about the elementary schools that were an option for my kid, in our district or via school choice, by attending curriculum nights, where the staff explains the curricula they're using. At one school, none of the staff could say why a certain curriculum had been chosen or do more to explain it than repeat buzzwords. At another, they clearly had a good understanding of the underlying philosophy of the curriculum. For just one example.

At another school's curriculum night, I took such an instant dislike to the head teacher for kindergarten that I was able to cross that school right off my list.

The school's website will tell you when curriculum nights are happening. Around here, they were in late winter and early spring, when people are making decisions about the coming year.
posted by Orlop at 6:42 PM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

A note on schools: my current town’s high school had the national Principal of the Year, and he left the next year. The replacement quit before the first midterms, and a temp finished the year. There is a new guy, but there’s a long stretch of turmoil that’s still settling.

We bought a house here “for the great schools” in like 2000, and the schools turned out to be... not as awesome as their reputation. We got involved in town school politics for a while, and things improved, but rankings and reputation aren’t any guarantee of success.

Trust your gut, talk to teachers, and SUPPORT YOUR KID(S)!!! Good luck! :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:50 PM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

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