Another discussion about private vs public schools?

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BuckyBadger
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Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by BuckyBadger » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:04 am

We're expecting our first little Badger in September. But unlike the username might suggest, we no longer live in Badger country (Wisconsin). We're now in the South and we're a bit concerned about what to do when school starts in 4-5 years. Depending on what we decide to do, we might need this much time to prepare, so we're trying to figure some things out early.

So here's the issue... Mr Badger and I both went to excellent public schools in excellent Northeast school districts. Mine in particular was ranked in the top 20 in Newsweek at the time. I took, for example, nothing but AP classes my senior year, and mostly AP classes in my junior. We're both PhDs. Education is very important to us and we plan on lots of enrichment when the little Nugget is home with us. However, we're also planning on keeping our high responsibility (and high paying) jobs. This means the amount of time we'll realistically have to, say, volunteer during school hours is limited.

We basically have three options.

1) Send the Nugget to public school in our current district. This is not known to be a good school district and most people try to get into charter schools in this area, which isn't something that can be guaranteed.

2) Move to the neighboring county. Real estate is more expensive, and taxes would be more than double - so probably an extra $4k a year, plus a higher house payment? The school district is better. The best in the state. But is it as good as the public school districts we went to as students? I'm having trouble figuring out how to compare them directly, but all indications are no. It's great for a school district in the South, but it's not great compared to a school district like the ones we went to.

3) Stay where we are in our current county with low taxes, and send the Nugget to private school starting at kindergarten. The school she would go to is Pre-K through 12th grade. Current prices are $15k for PK and K, then $23k to $26k through the years up to 12th grade. Summer enrichment would add to this cost, but that would be the same if she were at public school, as well. If your kids gets in at PreK or K then she is in for the duration. If coming in later, it is sometimes hard to get placement.

Day care is already in the plans at $17k a year starting after my 3 month maternity leave is over.

Now, we can afford this. We're 37 and 38 and currently are on track for retirement at 50, conservatively. We now have approximately 1 million at this point for retirement, 87% of which is in tax advantaged accounts and the rest in taxable. We max out all tax advantaged accounts and when employer matches and taxable investing earmarked for retirement are added, we're saving about $94k this year and have plans to increase our retirement savings by 3% every year. I believe we can continue to do this. I just got a substantial raise, and between this, stopping a moderate prepayment I've been doing on the mortgage, and making a few cuts (we have a LOT of fat in the budget, and a lot of it is going to be eliminated automatically when I have this kid!) I think we should be able to pay for private school and also start funding a 529 without affecting our savings.

I'm not trying to turn this into a debate about Northern vs Southern public schools - but I'm trying to figure out how to decide what the best thing is to do in this case. We can afford the private school. It's a very good school. They offer a lot of financial aid (not to us, obviously) and foster a very diverse student body. They have a lovely curriculum and scads of APs in the upper school. There's no chance of our kid getting lost in the shuffle. For all that people sing the praises of the public schools in the county next door, I just can't help but think to myself - they're still not as good as my schools growing up, so why go to the trouble of relocating out of a house and area that we love, to spend more on taxes and real estate, and still end up in a district that isn't that great on a relative scale.

What are your thoughts? Any suggestions? Am I missing something? How did you make these decisions? Even if I can "afford" private school, is it throwing money down the toilet?

Thanks!!

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Pajamas
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by Pajamas » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:18 am

First of all, you don't have to worry about this right now, although it's good to keep it in mind. You do have more important things to worry about right now.

If you can afford the private school and it's clearly better than the public schools, then sending your daughter to the private school would seem to be the right decision.

How does the private school compare to the charter schools and what is the process of getting into a good charter school? A good charter school might be worth a shot even if it's pure chance with bad odds with the private school as a backup plan.

Also think about the costs if you have a whole clan of badgers. Might be worth moving to the next county and paying the taxes in that event.
Last edited by Pajamas on Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

oldfatguy
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by oldfatguy » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:18 am

BuckyBadger wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:04 am
We're both PhDs. Education is very important to us and we plan on lots of enrichment when the little Nugget is home with us.
Most school rankings data is bunk, and correlates very closely with household income levels. You are well-educated professionals, and your child will likely do fine in any halfway decent school environment.

GCD
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by GCD » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:25 am

A lot depends on the real quality of the private school. Many private schools aren't all that great. A bad private school may well be worse than a great magnet school. It doesn't sound like a really great public school is one of your options though. Just make sure the private school is as great as you think. I attended a private school in grade school back in the 60's and 70's. It was a great experience. But I went to a good one.

We faced somewhat of a similar problem in a small city in South Dakota. We ended up homeschooling one kid for about half a year before moving out of state. For much of the homeschool curriculum we just enrolled the kid in Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development: https://www.ctd.northwestern.edu/aboutctd

Maybe you could find some other parents to all go in together and monitor the kids online learning. Homeschooling is a long discussion of course. We only did it briefly in response to a bad public school situation, bad local Montessori school, and the only other private school was a strictly religious Catholic school.

Agree on the school ratings. We are currently in Northern Virginia and have watched local grade schools vary a couple points on a 5 point scale over a period of 3 years. Aside from being unpredictable, there are many other issues with ratings.

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BolderBoy
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by BolderBoy » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:26 am

oldfatguy wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:18 am
BuckyBadger wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:04 am
We're both PhDs. Education is very important to us and we plan on lots of enrichment when the little Nugget is home with us.
Most school rankings data is bunk, and correlates very closely with household income levels. You are well-educated professionals, and your child will likely do fine in any halfway decent school environment.
Agreed. This public/private/home school stuff has been extensively researched and in general it is the parents that make the difference. Go to Google Scholar and google away.
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

onourway
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by onourway » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:26 am

We are in a very similar overall position to you except our kids are already in school and we are still in the north. Our youngest is in private school on my wife's insistence. Next year will likely be the last year.

I would move to the better school district. There is extremely little data available that correlates better outcomes for kids based on their schooling. There would have to be a major compelling difference between the private and public option to consider spending several hundred thousand dollars on a kids schooling (and often the private schools aren't great either - look at how much their teachers make - do you think you can get great educators at that salary?) Most of the benefit comes down to the home environment.
Last edited by onourway on Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

xrvision
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by xrvision » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:28 am

Wait a couple of years to decide. Factors that may weigh in-
-you have another kid
-amazing new charter school opens up right by your current house
-once you have a kid, you start making rounds on the birthday party circuit. You meet other parents with older kids who tell you good/bad about the school options that you weren't aware of that may affect your private/public decision
-you end up putting your kid in activities that are all next door to one of the schools, which affects the decision on whether to relocate

Things change after the baby is born. Give it some time- there's no rush.

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HomerJ
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by HomerJ » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:29 am

It's usually cheaper to buy a house in the better school district, and that sounds like the case for you too.

The advantages are twofold; You get to live in a nicer house for the next 18 years, and when you go to sell, you get a good chunk of your money back.

The money spent on a private school is just gone.

$24k spent on private school or $2000/month more to spend on a house in a nicer district. That's a lot of extra money and will buy a lot of house (and again, a good chunk of that is going into equity which you will get back someday)
Last edited by HomerJ on Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

IowaFarmWife
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by IowaFarmWife » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:31 am

Have you considered home schooling?

ThatGuy
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by ThatGuy » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:32 am

If you don't know how to compare a public school in the South to a public school in the North, how are you coming to the conclusion that the private school is a good one?

What metrics are you looking at, and what do you think you are missing?
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onourway
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by onourway » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:35 am

IowaFarmWife wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:31 am
Have you considered home schooling?
They both work professional jobs.

livesoft
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by livesoft » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:36 am

Relax.

In the early 1970's I went to a public high school that I found out later was nationally ranked. I would not have known it at the time. I had many AP course (yes, in the 1970s) and eventually went on to get a PhD. It was located in the South.

We live in a public school system that is outstanding and probably better than the schools I went to, but you wouldn't know it from ranking. My kids went to different high schools in the same school district which are essentially clones of each other, but one is thought of as worse for no particular reason that I can discern. The outcomes of college admittance and vocational school admittance and no admittance are essentially identical.

The local best private school has everybody try to go to college, but that's a selected group. There is no difference in outcomes for those kinds of kids that graduated from the local public high schools. I know this because I know parents and graduates of all the high schools.

I will say that if don't relax then Badger Jr will decide to show you how it works and fail courses on purpose in high school and eventually move off to Colorado or California to commune with nature and an inner self away from parents.
Last edited by livesoft on Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Pigeon
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by Pigeon » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:36 am

As someone who also had great northeastern public schools, both for ourselves and for our kids, I'd move to the better district.

Admittedly, I'm opposed to charter schools, so that would be a non-starter for me. I also think there are a lot of fairly bad private schools out there. In my area, there are a couple of private schools that really do provide a great educational experience, but these schools are extraordinarily expensive (like college level expensive) and are completely lacking in diversity.

clutchied
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by clutchied » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:36 am

growing up in the Midwest I always found it fascinating how great the schools were/are. It's like a talent reactor for the rest of the country.

Over the last 20 years I can't help but notice that the jobs are going to places with poorer schools. People move into enclaves of good schools and the rest suffer.

I'm curious how long the Midwest is going to be able to continue to provide such excellent education considering the general drain of population from these areas.

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HomerJ
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by HomerJ » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:37 am

oldfatguy wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:18 am
BuckyBadger wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:04 am
We're both PhDs. Education is very important to us and we plan on lots of enrichment when the little Nugget is home with us.
Most school rankings data is bunk, and correlates very closely with household income levels. You are well-educated professionals, and your child will likely do fine in any halfway decent school environment.
This is true by the way.

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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by HongKonger » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:56 am

What about putting the nuggets name down for the private pre kindy/kindy (obviously as soon as it is born), and then making an assessment of whether to continue or to move based on your child's development.

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Pajamas
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by Pajamas » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:03 am

oldfatguy wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:18 am
Most school rankings data is bunk, and correlates very closely with household income levels. You are well-educated professionals, and your child will likely do fine in any halfway decent school environment.
Key there is "halfway decent."

A lot of people don't realize how bad some schools really are, and that includes public schools, private schools, and home schools.

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hand
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by hand » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:07 am

Funding model of a school does not in and of itself define the schools quality.

I'd recommend determining for yourself what characteristics of a "good school" are important to you and doing some research on how well local options align with those characteristics.

Off the top of my head there are a number of characteristics that can define "best" school for your children that are weighted differently by different people.

Class size
Number of AP Classes
Availability of special needs
Diversity
Heterogeneity
Parental engagement
School size
Availability of specific language / cultural / religious options

Worth noting is that there is often daylight between what makes a good school and what type of school delivers the best outcome for your children.
Most rankings are focused on best schools - your responsibility is to understand your children's needs and find the best fit for them.

Personally, I believe small class size, a school community focused on both success and caring, and an ecosystem of successful and education focused families as the keys to good outcomes for my kids.

winterfan
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by winterfan » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:07 am

It's a personal decision. My husband and I send our child to a private school. Although it is not quite as expensive as your option, we probably make less money. When we bought our home, we were zoned for a decent public school (not great, but acceptable). A couple years before she started school, the school borders changed. The school she was now zoned for wasn't very good (low scores, large classrooms, etc.). Rather than move, we send her to private school. I love the school she is in. She is thriving and happy to go to school. The classes are smaller and everyone I've met is kind and inclusive. We are still saving plenty of money every month too. I don't regret it one bit. She will stay at this school until 8th grade, then we have to make a decision about HS. I'm planning towards private school again, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

I also have read all the stats about middle to upper middle class kids thriving wherever they are, but I don't agree that it is the case for all kids. It wasn't the case for me growing up, so a top priority for me was the environment. YMMV.

psteinx
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by psteinx » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:11 am

The problem in evaluating school quality is that there is lots of data about outputs, but not as much data about inputs and value-added.

i.e. In my state (Missouri, though I assume others are mostly similar), there's a state website that lets you look at all kinds of school data. The obvious thing to look at is test scores/pass rates and the like, on various intermediate tests (at, say, 4th grade, 8th grade, etc), and at HS level (ACT scores, etc). You can see that kids at school X do better than kids at school Y.

But is school X actually better at teaching kids? At knowledge transfer, and at encouraging good character traits? That's much harder to say. If school X's typical students are from wealthy families where the parents have advanced degrees and school Y's students are from middle class families with parents who are tradespeople with HS diplomas only, its possible that school Y is actually BETTER, given what they start with. (Could be worse, too...)

(EDIT: Made minor tweak...)

Wellfleet
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by Wellfleet » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:19 am

Have the baby, see how it goes then figure it out. Our wants and needs changed completely once the baby came.

quantAndHold
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by quantAndHold » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:22 am

Relax. Kids with good parents do fine at whatever school they go to.

A school’s test scores tend to be affected very strongly by the scores of the worst kids in the school, who also tend to be the poorest. If you drop the scores of the worst students, most schools do fine.

In the aggregate, charter schools and private schools don’t do any better at educating kids than public schools. If you choose this route, choose the school carefully.

Websites like greatschools primarily use test scores to rate schools. The urban schools our kids went to always got very middling scores and ratings, mostly because a large population of recent refugees was weighing the test scores down. Our kids still had a rigorous academic program with a full slate of AP classes. One of ours went to a very selective college, as did most of their friends. They also had a lot of non-academic opportunities that they wouldn’t have had in private school.

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HomerJ
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by HomerJ » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:28 am

quantAndHold wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:22 am
Relax. Kids with good parents do fine at whatever school they go to.

A school’s test scores tend to be affected very strongly by the scores of the worst kids in the school, who also tend to be the poorest. If you drop the scores of the worst students, most schools do fine.

In the aggregate, charter schools and private schools don’t do any better at educating kids than public schools. If you choose this route, choose the school carefully.

Websites like greatschools primarily use test scores to rate schools. The urban schools our kids went to always got very middling scores and ratings, mostly because a large population of recent refugees was weighing the test scores down. Our kids still had a rigorous academic program with a full slate of AP classes. One of ours went to a very selective college, as did most of their friends. They also had a lot of non-academic opportunities that they wouldn’t have had in private school.
See, this is the thing. Looking at the averages doesn't tell you how YOUR kid will do. The top 20% in most schools will get a good education, with AP classes, small classes (because less people take AP classes), and will be surrounded by other smart kids.

You don't need a school 100% full of smart kids for YOUR kid to get a good education, working with other smart kids, in small classes with good teachers.

mac808
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by mac808 » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:32 am

The three main advantages to private schools are smaller class sizes, fewer disruptive students, and no standardized testing requirements from the state. You should be able to compare class size directly between the two options.

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HomerJ
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by HomerJ » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:41 am

mac808 wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:32 am
The three main advantages to private schools are smaller class sizes, fewer disruptive students, and no standardized testing requirements from the state. You should be able to compare class size directly between the two options.
But note that in Honors and AP classes in public middle and high schools, you'll also get smaller class sizes and fewer disruptive students.

You may have a point for elementary school.

What's wrong with standardized testing?

dknightd
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by dknightd » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:46 am

I did not read the whole thread - sorry.

Personal opinion, I'd move to the "good" school district. People who live in good school districts tend to care about their kids education. They are willing and able to pay extra for this. Consider yourself lucky to have options

anil686
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by anil686 » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:51 am

Also understand private schools work for you - they are directly accountable to the parents. This sounds like a good thing. In our case - I feel it was not. Our private school gave us incredibly rosy pictures of how great our kids were doing (of course at a high cost). when we moved to an area with a very good school district in another state, we found our kids were not at all near where the others in their class were. Sure, that may have been location but it was probably also trying to make parents feel good about their kids without pushing them. After all, there are options for all children - but public schools get funded whether or not parents are "happy" with them - private schools do not - JMO though...

Broken Man 1999
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by Broken Man 1999 » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:51 am

Our children's schools were urban as well, filled with students that were disruptive, and had ZERO interest in learning.

However, tucked away in one wing were the advanced classes, where students were interested in learning. Their experiences were great, it was like a school within a school. Very, very few problems, as the chronic disrupters weren't present in the more challenging classes. Sad to see the disrupters set out on the wrong path in life by throwing away a free education, and for many of them a chance for a college scholarship. Many were very capable, but lacked the appreciation of what education can do for a person.

We were very active in support of the school, via raising money, being chaperones, joining parent booster clubs for chorus, band, cheerleading, and orchestra. We even cooked and sold the nasty fare served at many Friday night football games. Ughh...

Each graduating class had an evening program to showcase the students' scholarship haul. Very humbling and rewarding to see how many students had thrived in a not-so-great ranked school.

Though we never had cause to remove our students from public school, I wouldn't have hesitated for a minute in moving them had their education suffered.

Good luck with your students.

Broken Man 1999
“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven than I shall not go. " -Mark Twain

mac808
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by mac808 » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:56 am

HomerJ wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:41 am
But note that in Honors and AP classes in public middle and high schools, you'll also get smaller class sizes and fewer disruptive students.

You may have a point for elementary school.

What's wrong with standardized testing?
Standardized testing encourages a narrow scope of memorization and "teaching to the test" rather than development of natural curiosity, critical thinking and deeper understanding of the material. It would be interesting to hear some Boglehead teachers weigh in on this, as I know we have quite a few on here.

ThatGuy
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by ThatGuy » Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:07 am

mac808 wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:56 am
Standardized testing encourages a narrow scope of memorization and "teaching to the test" rather than development of natural curiosity, critical thinking and deeper understanding of the material. It would be interesting to hear some Boglehead teachers weigh in on this, as I know we have quite a few on here.
I get this, but I always come up against the notion of how else do you make a fair comparison amongst disparate entities without having a standard to measure against?

Sure, I can probably suss out whether English teacher A is better or worse than English teacher B in my town, but how does the state measure middle-of-no-where school versus richy-rich-urban school vs poor-refugee school for funding, or for additional help?

It feels good to tear down things we don't like, but without viable replacements that doesn't help anyone.
Work is the curse of the drinking class - Oscar Wilde

veindoc
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by veindoc » Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:28 am

HomerJ wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:37 am
oldfatguy wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:18 am
BuckyBadger wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:04 am
We're both PhDs. Education is very important to us and we plan on lots of enrichment when the little Nugget is home with us.
Most school rankings data is bunk, and correlates very closely with household income levels. You are well-educated professionals, and your child will likely do fine in any halfway decent school environment.
This is true by the way.
Agree. We lived in an area with a fantastic public school but my parents went to catholic schools and so we went too. My local public school offered over 20
AP courses. My catholic school - 2. I took five. Signed up for them on my own and self taught myself the curriculum. And that was in the late 80’s. Pre-internet. I still wonder how I managed to do it. I remember panicking because between the local bookstore and library I could only find one chemistry AP review book which I finished in a month. I could not get my hands on many advanced chemistry review books. Still got a 4 though! Anyway I got accepted to an Ivy League school in a school where most kids went to catholic universities.

I met one of my neighbors recently who moved to my neighborhood to send her son to this top school district. He graduated and is going to a very mediocre college. Seems he would have gotten into the same school in whatever school district he attended.

Strong students will do well anywhere if motivated. If not motivated, no school will push them.

I wouldn’t worry so much about whether or not the school in the next neighborhood is “as good” as your Alma mater. If it is a solid school, badger jr will do awesome.

randomguy
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by randomguy » Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:34 am

Pigeon wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:36 am
As someone who also had great northeastern public schools, both for ourselves and for our kids, I'd move to the better district.

Admittedly, I'm opposed to charter schools, so that would be a non-starter for me. I also think there are a lot of fairly bad private schools out there. In my area, there are a couple of private schools that really do provide a great educational experience, but these schools are extraordinarily expensive (like college level expensive) and are completely lacking in diversity.
A lot of private schools are driven by ideology not better education. Private schools cover a huge range. Some are like you public school that cost more money. Some do alternative teaching methods (think montessori). Some offer more options (music, drama,...). Some offer less (i.e. not enough kids for a hockey team or AP chemistry). In the end few people are going to admit they cheaped out on their kids (i.e. parents who sent their kids to public school) or wasted 100k (parents who sent their kid to private school).

Now if you live in a place with really bad school (i.e. knifings on the way to lunch), you are in a drastically different situation than the one where you attend a school with a bunch of ESL students lowering the average.

mac808
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by mac808 » Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:48 am

ThatGuy wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:07 am
I get this, but I always come up against the notion of how else do you make a fair comparison amongst disparate entities without having a standard to measure against?

Sure, I can probably suss out whether English teacher A is better or worse than English teacher B in my town, but how does the state measure middle-of-no-where school versus richy-rich-urban school vs poor-refugee school for funding, or for additional help?
It definitely introduced some accountability into the system, but mostly helped kids in below average school districts at the expense of kids in above average school districts. It tried to bring the two groups closer together.
ThatGuy wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:07 am
It feels good to tear down things we don't like, but without viable replacements that doesn't help anyone.
I agree with you but the challenge here isn't to redesign public education, it's to guide one individual child through the best possible educational route. I was pointing out the flaws in public education for that reason and purposefully stayed away from my personal opinions about how to fix the entire system (although I'm sure it would be an interesting debate prior to mods shutting it down :sharebeer).
Last edited by mac808 on Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

snowman
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by snowman » Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:50 am

HomerJ wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:28 am

See, this is the thing. Looking at the averages doesn't tell you how YOUR kid will do. The top 20% in most schools will get a good education, with AP classes, small classes (because less people take AP classes), and will be surrounded by other smart kids.

You don't need a school 100% full of smart kids for YOUR kid to get a good education, working with other smart kids, in small classes with good teachers.
Very good points! This has been our experience as well. In a huge, rich suburban HS, both of our kids had a wonderful experience. Very large selection of AP classes (bigger than any private school in the metro area), great teachers, small class sizes, equally smart kids. Could not have asked for better education, plus all the sports and activities that go with it.

I also agree with opinions on ranking - I would completely disregard that! Go and visit all the schools available to you, sit in classes, talk to principal, check out curriculum, evaluate facilities. When my wife did that when kids were little (they were both tested as "gifted"), the "good" public school district seemed like the best option for OUR kids. It turned out to be true.

Talk to other parents too! You will notice that when they like (or dislike) their choice, it's because of how THEIR kid is doing, and each kid will have different experience. I never understood the parents we interacted with who sent their kids to private schools - academically it made no sense (25+ AP classes vs. 5 or 8), long drives, etc. Common refrain was "but my kids are not as independent and driven as yours", or "they would get lost in that huge HS", or "they don't offer lacrosse", or "religion is very important to us". As you can see, these are all valid reasons for THEIR kids, but they may not apply to YOURS.

However, given your education and where you are in life, I guarantee you your kids will be fine no matter where they go to school. It all starts at home with the parents.

mmmodem
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by mmmodem » Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:58 am

Broken Man 1999 wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:51 am
Our children's schools were urban as well, filled with students that were disruptive, and had ZERO interest in learning.

However, tucked away in one wing were the advanced classes, where students were interested in learning. Their experiences were great, it was like a school within a school. Very, very few problems, as the chronic disrupters weren't present in the more challenging classes. Sad to see the disrupters set out on the wrong path in life by throwing away a free education, and for many of them a chance for a college scholarship. Many were very capable, but lacked the appreciation of what education can do for a person.

We were very active in support of the school, via raising money, being chaperones, joining parent booster clubs for chorus, band, cheerleading, and orchestra. We even cooked and sold the nasty fare served at many Friday night football games. Ughh...

Each graduating class had an evening program to showcase the students' scholarship haul. Very humbling and rewarding to see how many students had thrived in a not-so-great ranked school.

Though we never had cause to remove our students from public school, I wouldn't have hesitated for a minute in moving them had their education suffered.

Good luck with your students.

Broken Man 1999
+1
We applied for a transfer from the "bad" school ranked 3 that was zoned for our home to the "good" school ranked 8. I was ecstatic when my 1st grader was accepted. No need to change homes to the more expensive neighborhood or pay for private school.

Soon after school started, I heard complaints from other parents about my daughter's 1st grade teacher. Some said they were going to talk to the principal. There were no complaints from the parents with children going to the other 1st grade teacher. During our parent/teacher conference, I learned why there so many complaints. Her lack of empathy and responses to my questions were so lackadaisical that I knew. She is retiring this year and already checked out.

It's important to know that not all teachers at a "good" school are good and not all teachers are bad at a "bad" school.

PhilosophyAndrew
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by PhilosophyAndrew » Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:05 pm

We’re a dual Ph.D. family too — wife went to strong public schools and I a mix of public and private.

We first enrolled our child in a Montessori preschool to avoid waiting another year because our child’s birthday was after the public school cutoff. She stayed st that school through eighth grade because she flourished in that environment. That school only went through grade 8; our child next to a private high school based on Dewey-inspired progressive educational principles that aligned fairly well with Montessori principles. Both were good choices for our child.

And that I think is the crucial point: it is important to male a pragmatic decision based not on your own assumptions or preferences, but on an accurate understanding of the fit between potential schools and your child’s specific needs. So, I recommend waiting to make a decision informed by your best assessmet of your child’s actual needs.

Once your child has nearly reached school age, you may have a better sense of those needs (or, if not, you could consider paying for expert testing from a qualified educational psychologist).

It seemss hasty to make a decision now when you are ignorant both of your child’s specific needs as well as any pertinent changes at schools, of school districting that may occur between now and the time your child starts school.

Andy.
Last edited by PhilosophyAndrew on Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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bligh
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by bligh » Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:16 pm

oldfatguy wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:18 am
BuckyBadger wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:04 am
We're both PhDs. Education is very important to us and we plan on lots of enrichment when the little Nugget is home with us.
Most school rankings data is bunk, and correlates very closely with household income levels. You are well-educated professionals, and your child will likely do fine in any halfway decent school environment.
This is the truth. There was a recent article (like only about a month back) in the economist about yet another study in the UK showing exactly this. The key is "half way decent school environment". In the end, it just so happens that the kind of parents who would put their kids into a private school, are also the kind of parents who would invest time , money and effort in their kids and raise healthy, well-adjusted kids. Sort of like how, the kind of parents who buy self-help books on parenting, and attend parenting courses, are the kind of parents who would be attentive, caring parents anyway. I think the consensus on this is essentially settled at this point.

The way I see it there are 4 components to a school environment and whether it is half way decent.

1) Your kid. Each kid is different you will have to wait and see what your kid turns out to be. Some kids love reading and learning naturally. Others have to be pushed and motivated and need more effort and encouragement. I have one of each. Kids have social, emotional and other variance as well. This means that a half way decent school environment for one kid, is not so for another. Some kids thrive in a structured learning environment, others find it boring and struggle.

2) The Parents. Early on the parents have a huge impact on the kids over all trajectory. They learn from watching you. Early on, Kids' parents (or caregivers) form the prototype of what they believe adulthood should be like. This is going to be a constant regardless of which school system you use.

3) The classmates. We may want to believe kids are a blank slate, and I believe they are. But society starts to scribble on them from the moment they are born. Poor (academically) performing classmates are usually the reason for schools being ranked lower. This can be due to otherwise hard working students from disadvantaged backgrounds pulling the average scores down, or it could be that some of them have troubled backgrounds. Those two are not the same thing. Your child is not an island to herself (though some personality types are much better at resisting social and peer pressure). This also includes parental involvement in the school.

4) The Teachers. Every teacher, like every student, is different. They have different levels of motivation, different levels and types of skills and so on. Every school is different.. and manages, motivates and enables those teachers differently. They say people don't quit companies, they quit managers. The head teacher/principal of the school makes a big difference. I would bucket things like teacher to student ratio, facilities and activities into this as well.

I would advise a wait and see approach. If I were you, I would find out what my assigned elementary school was like. Take a tour and try to get a feel for it. I would do the same for the private school I am interested in. I would also look into the nearby charter schools and the process or getting admitted. I have seen school rankings change significantly over as little as 3 year periods so keep that in mind. Your kids cohort is not going to be the same as the cohort currently in the elementary school.

Anyway... I would let my child attend the public school at first and watch him or her. Is s/he thriving or s/he struggling? Are you satisfied with the teaching staff and their efforts? If I saw any sign of trouble, I would first try to sort out the issue, failing that.. I would switch to private school if I could afford it.

In my case - My kids go to public school. It is a very well ranked public school in a very good school district. Though we could afford private school, we are very happy with the quality of education our kids are getting at the public school. So, for now, we are keeping our kids put and instead donating generously during the annual fund raising. We have very close friends who also have two kids in their public system.. also a well ranked school in a good school district. Their son, who is very bright, is having issues (we suspect he is getting bored and needs more challenging curriculum) and so they are planning on moving only him to a private school next year to see if it helps.

PS. Congratulations! :)

Radjob4me
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by Radjob4me » Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:31 pm

Wow. There are so many things in here that piqued my interest. As background I am a mid 40s physician and my wife also a college grad living in the Northeast. I went to what is typically considered a top 5 public high school in my home state. We live in a small college town (very prestigious liberal arts college, often ranked #1). We have three teens - senior, junior and freshman. They have done a combination of public and private schooling. We did all the recommended things - reading to them, travelling together, etc.. So where to start

As someone else said - the best advice is to just relax!! This is a journey and you are getting very far ahead of yourself. Not be a downer or pessimist, but your child is not even born yet. There are lots of bridges to cross prior to schooling. Again, don't take this the wrong way, but your child could have special needs (my physician brother and his executive wife have an autisic son that turned their world and plans upside down - but he is the nicest sweetest 7 year old ever). Even when you get to schooling, they could be like our oldest who is smart but has had dwindling interest in school over time despite being in a high end public school district. He has access to AP and local college courses and has chosen partying and hanging out with friends as his senior project :o - so he's not going right to college... Or you could have one like our middle son, who is extremely smart and way ahead of his class in math and science and likely to go on to academic success - he is totally happy in the public high school. Or perhaps like our freshman daughter, who was miserable at the same public system school, instead chose a small, artsy local private school and is now doing better than ever.

And so much of the up and downs of our kids has been related to things out of our parental control. You can read all the books you want and have a kid that hates reading. You can be in the best district in the universe and if they get bullied or don't fit in, then they won't be happy. Or they fall in with the party crowd despite your best efforts to stop it. You might plop them in the district with a zillion AP courses and then that stresses them out so much that they aren't able to keep up with the Jones and it creates it own mess...

Our local friends kids run the gamut from a girl who went the full private school K-12 and private 4-year college route who is now as a nanny (both parents professors at the elite college,by the way who are tearing their hair out after maybe 500k of schooling...), to the scrappy kid who was never happy in school and dropped out who is now making a great living working in the fashion business in NYC.

I'm just trying to say through our experience is that there is very little you can plan for. But at this point, let the child be born and enjoy it.

il0kin
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by il0kin » Thu Apr 19, 2018 2:19 pm

As has been said, data points to involved parents making all the difference. I went to a top 5 public high school in my state and there were kids whose families had all the money in the world and any resource available to them and they never made it to college. For every one of those, there were 7 kids who went to college and got decent jobs, and 2 who went to Ivy’s and are making tons of money. Involved (but not too involved) parents are what make the difference.

Buy a nice home in the best school district in the state and make sure you’re home by 5 every evening to be with Nugget and everything will be just fine.

Consider putting the difference in tuition you’d be spending in a 529 so your kid can go to a top tier college. People notice that in an interview, not what HS they attended

golfCaddy
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by golfCaddy » Thu Apr 19, 2018 2:22 pm

Don't confuse correlation with causation. As has been mentioned earlier, most school rankings correlate strongly with parental education and income levels(socioeconomic status).

GCD
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by GCD » Thu Apr 19, 2018 2:35 pm

Also, don't forget you haven't had the kid yet. Given that you both have PhDs it'll probably be a pretty smart kid. But you don't know if the kid is gonna turn out to be special needs, wicked gifted, or straight up average. That'll have implications for what you decide as well.

I have two kids. One is generically a little above average intellectually and otherwise neuro-typical. The other is simultaneously gifted and special needs. The gifted/special needs one prompted us to sell our custom built home (true custom) and move to another state.

psteinx
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by psteinx » Thu Apr 19, 2018 2:40 pm

To (attempt to) be a bit more pro-active for OP:

Yes, looking at outputs without full consideration of inputs (in terms of the parents and the students) is not very informative.

Best case would be some fabulous analysis that DID normalize for all the differences in parents, students, etc. OP is highly unlikely to find that for his relevant choices. OP is in fact, highly unlikely to find anything close to that, I think.

Second best might be some general formula(s) or national analysis that might allow OP to input some data points for himself to try to approximate school quality and differences. But again, I am pessimistic about something with real accuracy here.

So, OP will likely want to fall back on seat-of-the pants thinking, analysis, etc., WITHOUT getting too caught up in output measures.

1) I would think that in general, wealthier, more educated demographics make it easier for schools to teach advanced material, quickly, with minimal student disruptions.

2) Total spending per pupil is useful, though beware that a district that incorporates high cost special ed students may disrupt this analysis - i.e. if special ed students receive 3x or more the expenditures of typical students, and OP's kids are NOT special ed, then the average (across the full student population) is misleading for OP's kids.

3) Students per classroom/teacher. There are various ways to count this, so OP may want to rely on some eyeball counts, with his/her own eyes at the relevant schools.

4) If OP expects his/her kids to be academically advanced, does the district offer tracking from a fairly young age? Might be frustrating if all 3rd graders are in the same reading class, even if some read at a 7th grade level and some at a 1st grade level.

5) Leadership quality of the administration, principals, etc. I think these trickle down, to some extent, to the teachers.

6) Typical educational background of the teachers. The average teacher will not be a Harvard alum. But perhaps having more teachers with educations from state flagships and mid-tier privates might be preferable to Southeast State Teachers' College. (Though, yes, there may be some great teachers from the latter and some mediocre ones from the flagships. I'm thinking averages here, though...)

7) General physical condition of the facilities. Peeling paint, in and of itself is not the worst thing in the world (possible lead issues aside), but may reflect deeper issues.
Last edited by psteinx on Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

oxothuk
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by oxothuk » Thu Apr 19, 2018 2:44 pm

While the stereotype of private schools is that they are very selective, the reality is often quite different. The pool of parents with the means to pay is often quite small and the private school has more pressure to keep classes full to stay in business.

BuckyBadger
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by BuckyBadger » Thu Apr 19, 2018 2:49 pm

Amazing comments, everyone. I really appreciate the time you all have taken!

My major takeaway is that I don't have to stress about this yet - which I suppose I needed to hear. As a first-time mom who is a planner with a capital P, I'm trying to figure everything out RIGHT AWAY but I need to realize that I can't necessarily do this. I suppose I should pick a nursery color before I stress about sending the kid to grad school, huh?

And it's good to hear that no matter what you don't think I can go too far wrong. Very reassuring.

Thanks again!!

FlyAF
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by FlyAF » Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:28 pm

Is that 25k a year?

BuckyBadger
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by BuckyBadger » Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:28 pm

FlyAF wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:28 pm
Is that 25k a year?
Yes.

veindoc
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by veindoc » Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:47 pm

GCD wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 2:35 pm
Also, don't forget you haven't had the kid yet. Given that you both have PhDs it'll probably be a pretty smart kid. But you don't know if the kid is gonna turn out to be special needs, wicked gifted, or straight up average. That'll have implications for what you decide as well.

I have two kids. One is generically a little above average intellectually and otherwise neuro-typical. The other is simultaneously gifted and special needs. The gifted/special needs one prompted us to sell our custom built home (true custom) and move to another state.
Why? For schools or for familial support or neither?

wrongfunds
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by wrongfunds » Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:58 pm

BolderBoy wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:26 am
oldfatguy wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:18 am
BuckyBadger wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:04 am
We're both PhDs. Education is very important to us and we plan on lots of enrichment when the little Nugget is home with us.
Most school rankings data is bunk, and correlates very closely with household income levels. You are well-educated professionals, and your child will likely do fine in any halfway decent school environment.
Agreed. This public/private/home school stuff has been extensively researched and in general it is the parents that make the difference. Go to Google Scholar and google away.
I agree with this even though we did move to better school district/state ourselves. In retrospective, that was the best decision because the town we moved from has not yet come up.

The most important thing to realize is that you are interested in finding out how the school quality will be in 15 years when your little nugget will be graduating. Type of parents who are moving in to your town today eventually determines how the school system does down the road. If you are from NorthEast, it is fascinating to see how a town with great educational ranking becomes not affordable and causes the neighboring barely goon enough town getting the influx of the professional couples (aka highly educated parents, majority being immigrants) and then in ten or so years that neighboring town starts almost matching the original town for educational achievements. Alas, at this time it too becomes unaffordable to next generation of parents coming in. This spills over to the next neighboring town. If you are from Boston area, just look at Lexington, Concord, Acton, Westford progression and see how composition of Littleton is changing.

All things considered, valedictorian from a middle of the road school has better chance of getting in to MIT/Harvard than somebody who is of equal caliber but not in the top two from the best ranked school.

bloom2708
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by bloom2708 » Thu Apr 19, 2018 4:20 pm

If you have two kids and pay $20k each for 13 years of PK thru grade 12, you will spend over $500k.

Then factor in growth those funds could have had over 18 years. That just gets you to college. Tack on another $Xk for college.

You may make great incomes. Those may continue. Your choice will cost approaching $1,000,000. How many families can absorb that?

You have time. Your 55-60 year old self wants that million nicely tucked in your 401ks and Roths and Taxable accounts.
Last edited by bloom2708 on Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
"We are here not to please but to provoke thoughtfulness" Unknown Boglehead

GCD
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Re: Another discussion about private vs public schools?

Post by GCD » Thu Apr 19, 2018 4:36 pm

veindoc wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:47 pm
GCD wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 2:35 pm
Also, don't forget you haven't had the kid yet. Given that you both have PhDs it'll probably be a pretty smart kid. But you don't know if the kid is gonna turn out to be special needs, wicked gifted, or straight up average. That'll have implications for what you decide as well.

I have two kids. One is generically a little above average intellectually and otherwise neuro-typical. The other is simultaneously gifted and special needs. The gifted/special needs one prompted us to sell our custom built home (true custom) and move to another state.
Why? For schools or for familial support or neither?
Academically for schools. Socially for schools. Medically for competent child psychologists.

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