How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Topic Author
charleypartanna
Posts: 24
Joined: Wed May 22, 2019 5:30 pm

How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by charleypartanna »

Hi all!

We’re at a bit of a crossroads, and looking for some collective wisdom from the those of you in the Bogleheads community that have either lived through this yourself (sent kids to high school + college) or perhaps work in the field of education or college admissions.

My wife and I are in our mid-forties. We have two kids (grade 3 and grade 5). Both are pretty smart (we think, anyway), good students, and socially are doing fine.

We live in San Jose, CA in a 1,300 square foot house worth about $1.3M. The public schools are “pretty good,” in my view. The elementary school they’re at is a “7” (out of 10) on Greatschools.org (though I know that’s not the whole picture). The middle school and high school are rated lower on Greatschools (middle school is a “5” and high school is a “6”). Let’s call this option 1 (sending them to our current public schools).

We have two other options.

Option 2 is to move to a different neighborhood or city in the area that has better schools. For example, if we move a mile or so south of where we are, the schools’ ratings on Greatschools (elementary, middle, and high) all jump up to “9.”

Option 3 is private school for middle and high school.

The incremental cost of options 2 and 3 would be about the same: $300k - $400k over the course of the next 10 years. For option 2, we’d have to buy a new house (increased cost, higher taxes, realtors fees, etc.). For option 3, we have to pay tuition (roughly $15k per kid per year for middle school and $25k per kid per year for high school).

What do you think? What was your and your kids’ experiences? What did you like? Not like? What would you do differently?

In talking to other parents about our neighborhood schools, about half have had good experiences; the other half have significant complaints of one kind or another. I worry about being in the latter half. My kids will only have one middle / high school experience, and I want it to be a good one.

We would also, ideally, like to support public schools. My wife and I also have some concerns with putting our kids in a privileged, likely not diverse community for their schooling.

Another thing I’d like to learn more about is how does a kid’s high school impact college admissions? My uninformed impression is that it’s advantageous to go to a high school that is not as competitive (in our case, “option 1”) versus higher performing schools (options 2 or 3) because in the latter, it is that much harder to get good grades relative to the other kids. But I admit: I really don’t know anything about this topic, which is why I’d like to learn more. Where can I learn more?

Thanks all!

Charley
livesoft
Posts: 73338
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by livesoft »

I think you should take the time to listen to the podcast series "Nice White Parents" about all this school decision stuff. Seriously. You will learn quite a bit about this topic by listening to that 4 to 6 hours series.

Your kids will be fine in the public schools rated 7, or 9, or whatever. Your kids will be fine in the private schools. too.

Our daughter started in private kindergarten because public kindergarten was only half day and we would have had to pay for day care for the other half of the day. Our kids went to public schools except that one year of kindergarten. They both graduated from colleges, one a private elite university mentioned numerous times on bogleheads.org and the other a Tier 1 state university. Both have outstanding jobs and future career prospects, so their public education did not hinder their lives at all or create any disadvantages for them. Perhaps the biggest influence on their lives was their parents which neither my kids nor your kids will be able to change.
Wiki This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.
Katietsu
Posts: 3974
Joined: Sun Sep 22, 2013 1:48 am

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by Katietsu »

I will throw out an option 4. Stay in your current school and supplement as needed. Maybe the public high school does not have counselor/teacher that will help prepare the college applications. So, pay for a private college counselor. Your child wants a class that the high school does not offer or is known to be less rigorous than desired. Take the class at a community college. You will be able to tailor these offerings to your child for a lot less cost than option 2 or 3. When I was involved in college admissions, I think I unconsciously looked more favorably on things the student had to proactively get involved with outside of school than something that just seemed to be an easy given within the school day.

That said, you will need to assess how your current public schools meet your children’s’ needs. I would also be concerned at which direction they are moving. Has the school been a solid 5/6 for years? Or do they seem to have an improving outlook? I would be concerned if I had reason to think they were on a steady decline likely to continue for the next decade.
Cruise
Posts: 973
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2016 7:17 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by Cruise »

OP: You say you want to support public schools and have concerns about your kids not being exposed to diversity.

1. Your taxes will support public schools whether or not your kids attend them. Check that off your list of concerns.

2. If you are so concerned about your kids being exposed to too much privilege, I hope you only drive used clunkers, eat only at fast food restaurants, and live in the inner city. If you don't want to check this one off, then that suggests that your values are less about diversity and more about what is best for your kids. Better schools present the best opportunity for your kids. Go for it, and don't look back with pangs of White Privilege.
DoubleComma
Posts: 43
Joined: Sun Aug 23, 2020 2:23 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by DoubleComma »

My wife is an excellent public school teacher, however my opinion is that schools and classroom teachers only provide the framework and guidance for education, the actual education comes from many places.

As a family unit you probably have the single largest influence on your kids learning.

Second is the company your kids keep and friends they develop.

Third is activities outside of school they keep.

All of this combines to shape our kids educational experience and future direction.

Therefore, again in my opinion, if you are comfortable with the peer group your kids are going to school with then go to the local public school. If not, search out a school where the peer group meets your ideal. No matter where you send them, be prepared to engage in their learning but don't become a helicopter parents. More learning comes from stubbed toes, so let them stub their toes.

The exception would be if you have a child who needs specialized services. Things like dyslexia aren't handled well in the typical CA public school. They will create an IEP, but that often mean giving more time not specialized services to treat. In this case, I would strongly recommend finding the best private school option for whatever particular services your child might need.

Another thumbs up for the Pod Cast "Nice White Parents"
User avatar
Watty
Posts: 20644
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:55 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by Watty »

When I was going through the college selection process with my son one quote really stuck with me. That was,

"Selecting a college for your kid is not about selecting the best college, it is about selecting the college that is the best fit for your kid."

There is a lot of truth to that for colleges and even for K-12 schools too.

I have known people with high school kids where one sibling went to a private school and the other sibling went to a public school just because their personalities were different and they fit in better in different types of schools.

One thing to watch out for is that people have posted about how some Silicon Valley high schools are so high pressure that a lot of kids can't handle it. Some Bay Area high schools have had problems with multiple kids committing suicide because of the pressure so this is a very real problem. One high school even has the grim nickname of "Suicide High". Sending your kids to a top ranked school(public or private) may not always be a good thing.

You also need to consider that schools can change a lot by the time your kids go to them. School boundaries also change. A new high school opened not far from me and a lot of kids were assigned to that high school instead of well regarded high school that they had expected to go to.

charleypartanna wrote: Fri Sep 25, 2020 5:12 pm What was your and your kids’ experiences? .....

We would also, ideally, like to support public schools. My wife and I also have some concerns with putting our kids in a privileged, likely not diverse community for their schooling.
I did a corporate relocation to Atlanta when my son was in middle school so selecting a good high school was very important. The logical area for us to look for a home in was in a huge school district that has about 15 large high schools that are now ranked from about 3 to 10 in the great schools rankings. These went from fairly affluent areas to some lower middle class areas but there were not any real terrible areas.

We visited several of the schools and in talking with one of the high school counselors about the differences in the schools it came out that all the high schools in that district had very similar programs and resources and that some of the lower ranking schools actually got additional resources. The biggest difference was the demographics of the students that went to the schools and the schools were consistently ranked higher as the areas got more affluent.

In a lot of ways when you are picking a high school you are more picking your kids friends and classmates than a better or worse program.

I have also read that while it is very complex an important factor in predicting how the students in a school will do is the education level of their parents and in the more affluent areas the parents had more college and graduate degrees.

This is obviously more complex and some other factors to consider are;
1) The better teachers may tend to be at the better ranked high schools because there are fewer problems.
2) The parents at the more affluent high schools may be more involved with the high school.
3) The less affluent high schools may have more problems with troubled kids and drugs.
4) The affluent high schools can also have problems with drugs because many of the kids have lots of money. There can also be cliques of "rich kids" that can make it socially hard for the other kids. We happened to drive through the student parking lot of one of the more affluent high schools and we noticed a fair numbers of Mercedes and BMWs. There was even one late model Corvette! Even if you can afford it who in their right mind gives a 17 year old a Corvette? We ruled out that high school just because we did not want our son to have to deal with the "Rich Kids". We later on heard more stories that made us glad that we did not select that high school. In normal times I would highly recommend driving through the student parking lot when you are checking out high schools.

This was before the great schools ranking but we bought a house that has a high school that would have ranked 8. It had lots of activities and AP classes but it turned out that our son, while bright, was not focused on school so he did not take advantage of those opportunities. :oops: He graduated and was sort of the same in college but even though his grades were mediocre he got a computer science degree and is going great in his career now.
quantAndHold
Posts: 5007
Joined: Thu Sep 17, 2015 10:39 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by quantAndHold »

This is going to sound like a flip answer, but your kids will do fine with any of those options, because they have you as parents. Any of those schools will be fine for kids whose parents care, and if a problem turns up, you can fix it then.

Great Schools ratings are based entirely on test scores. The difference in test scores between the top schools and the middling schools is that the middling schools are more diverse, and have more poor kids at the bottom of the scale. If you want the kids to be in a more diverse environment, then the aggregate test scores won’t be as good.

When colleges are doing admissions, they weight the class ranking by the competitiveness of the high school. I wouldn’t worry about that part of things. Your kids will get sorted to the right college for their abilities and desires, regardless of where they go to middle or high school.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.
IfIOnlyKnew
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:05 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by IfIOnlyKnew »

OP - My two kids (late 20s) went to average public schools, good but not great state colleges, got STEM degrees and had good paying jobs in their field right after graduation. My advice - school is important but don’t over think it. What is way more important is that you continue to be involved and be an ongoing positive influence in your kids life. You’ll find as your kids get older, that your relationship will transition from parent to mentor to advisor and once their “launched” and successful, to a relationship as friend. And I can tell you that there is nothing better than having a strong bond and friendship with your adult children. Good luck!
User avatar
celia
Posts: 11386
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2008 6:32 am
Location: SoCal

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by celia »

I think you need to start by understanding your own school district and what your options are. What are their rules for being able to attend a school that is not closest to them? For example, in CA, it is easy to get in the school near where a parent works (so they can commute to work and school together) or the school near where the after-school babysitter lives. (Hint,hint)... [You have to go through the district office during a certain time of year to request such a transfer.]

The other way to get into a different high school is to find one with a magnet program that matches your child’s interest. Some of these are intentionally set up so families voluntarily transfer their kids but the parent is responsible for their transportation.

This is sort of like finding the college that is the best fit for your child. Your closest state college might have what they want to persue or maybe the only place in the country that specializes in that is in another state. (When my kids started college, one of them had a friend who wanted to manage golf courses. There are/were at that time, only 2 colleges in the country that had a major in that.)
Nate7out
Posts: 109
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:06 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by Nate7out »

Our family has just started this part of the journey - my oldest is in Kindergarten. My wife is a public school teacher, and originally we had planned to move into her district. This way the kids could go to her school and we could avoid daycare costs. Also, the schools in her district are rated 8-10, where the ones where we live are 4-6. COVID put a damper on those plans until maybe next spring.

Currently we live in a diverse, working class neighborhood (true Boglehead with home value = 1.33x annual income, lol). My kid's school is 14% white and 70% low income. So far, we have been very impressed with this school district. The teachers and administration are great. They have done an excellent job with the remote learning and are using great tools and were way better prepared to shift to remote learning. Frankly, my wife's school district doesn't look so good in comparison. Part of that might be because we have inside knowledge of the goings on - perhaps their typical customer is satisfied.

I don't know the underpinnings of the school ratings, but I do still have some hesitations about the district we are in. I am concerned my oldest, who has shown real aptitude for reading and math might be held back by his classmates. We had curriculum night recently, and he can already meet/exceed their end of year expectations for reading and math. For most other areas of development, he fits right in the curriculum as is. His teacher, to her credit, is already sending supplemental materials home for reading. I guess there is no easy answer, except thankfully I don't have to spend $1.5MM+ on a house to get into a highly rated school district.
User avatar
KingRiggs
Posts: 606
Joined: Wed Dec 12, 2018 12:19 pm
Location: Indiana

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by KingRiggs »

Having been through the college application process twice in the past 5 years, I can say with a high degree of certainty that your idea of it being an advantage coming from a less competitive high school is absolutely WRONG.

The competitive colleges know full well which schools have difficult curricula and place a high value on that. Most would rather see solid grades at a challenging high school vs great grades at an easy one.

The best advice if the kids are interested in high-level colleges is to take the most challenging classes available at the best high school you can attend (and make A's in them, of course :wink: )
Advice = noun | Advise = verb | | Roth, not ROTH
tashnewbie
Posts: 799
Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2020 12:44 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by tashnewbie »

Nate7out wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:34 am My kid's school is 14% white and 70% low income.
I’m child-free and probably always will be, but reading this thread has been interesting. I wasn’t going to comment, because I have no relevant, experiential knowledge.

The above quotation, though. Whew!! Let’s just say, yeah...
User avatar
TomatoTomahto
Posts: 11110
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:48 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

Throughout school, it's about the fit. My kids thrived in Montessori. Public elementary was also good, although there were warning signs.

Middle school was where the wheels fell off, for my kids. The public school was one of the highest rated in the country, and had been good for one of my older kids. It was, of course, painful to pay high property taxes ($40k) AND private school tuition (all in, I remember it as costing $45k per child per year), but it was more painful to confront the reality that I had not paid attention to red flags that should have warned me that I wasn't providing a good education for my kids (that I could easily afford). I am profoundly sorry that I didn't correct course sooner, but it has to be said that the schools (middle and high) served many other students well and it was difficult to tell that it wasn't working for my kids. In one child's case, it was the combination of slow maturation and the school system's stubborn adherence to its tracking decisions without a mechanism for reevaluation.

The good news is that kids are resilient, for the most part.

I would be wary of moving to a school district because of its purported great schools. A lot of that is realtor conspiracy. And, even if the schools are great, they might not be great for your kids.

ETA: btw, the diversity issue is sometimes counter intuitive. My kids' private school was massively diverse (because of scholarships to worthy candidates from diverse backgrounds whose families could not afford to live in the public school district). The local public school was a monoculture.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.
User avatar
alpenglow
Posts: 1027
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 12:02 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by alpenglow »

KingRiggs wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:55 am Having been through the college application process twice in the past 5 years, I can say with a high degree of certainty that your idea of it being an advantage coming from a less competitive high school is absolutely WRONG.

The competitive colleges know full well which schools have difficult curricula and place a high value on that. Most would rather see solid grades at a challenging high school vs great grades at an easy one.

The best advice if the kids are interested in high-level colleges is to take the most challenging classes available at the best high school you can attend (and make A's in them, of course :wink: )
I've taught for almost 20 years. I agree that better rated high schools often have more challenging opportunities such as added AP and IB classes. However, the trend where I live and work is that these schools typically have massive grade inflation. I find that school rating is nothing more than a wealth rating and the wealthy folks are demanding high grades for their high taxes. I think the colleges know this and I've seen a drop in admissions to elite schools in my district (highest rated in my county in a HCOL area near NYC).

I completely agree with your last paragraph. Regardless of school rating, students should take the most challenging classes and earn high grades. Even in a less highly rated district, if you load up on AP/IB and are successful, I think you are in good shape (the worst districts in my area have plenty of AP opportunities).
texasdiver
Posts: 3481
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:50 am
Location: Vancouver WA

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by texasdiver »

Semi-retired HS teacher here. I taught science full time in 3 different school districts and now I do mostly long-term science subbing in an assortment of different high schools in the region. So I have seen first hand the comparison between top rated and lesser rated schools.

Generally speaking there isn't a great deal of difference between elementary schools if we aren't talking about the extreme ends of the spectrum. Most of the experience depends on your child's teacher and the level of resources which determine things like class size and resources for things like arts, music, science, etc.

In middle school many school districts start to differentiate, often based on math classes. My daughter's middle school, for example, has 3 separate math tracks which are supposed to be just for math but don't turn out that way because of the way that they block schedule. So your ELA and social studies blocks follow the math and you are with the same cohort of students through all your core classes. That generally means the brightest kids tend to be grouped together through middle school. This intensifies in HS with all the various AP and honors options.

Generally speaking, the differences in school rankings from places like Great Schools and Niche are largely determined by differences in the bottom 50% of the student population. If you are comparing a wealthy HS and a more modest one, the kids in the top 10% or top 25% are pretty similar. They are taking the same AP classes and so forth. Where there is divergence is with the bottom 50% of teach school. Schools in poorer areas have a lot more transient students, broken homes, immigrant students with language issues, homelessness, and every other social problem that comes with poverty. What this means is that at a rougher HS in a poorer area the basic and remedial classes are going to be rough and often full of disruptive students compared to similar classes at a wealthier school. But the high end AP classes are going to be largely the same. In fact, they can even be more challenging at poorer schools because they have a more selective group of students compared to affluent schools were every parent wants to enroll their child in a AP and college bound track whether or not the child is ready or interested in it. At many of these "rougher" schools in poorer areas there are fabulous cohorts of top students who are essentially attending a school within a school and they are all doing just fine. And yes, there are differences in terms of resources between wealthier and poorer districts. Nicer labs, better athletic and arts facilities and so forth. But those differences are somewhat over-rated. As a teacher the biggest issue is over-crowding. Class size is all-important. There is a lot of science you can't really teach with overflowing classes in small classrooms. But I can work around a lack of resources if I have manageable class sizes.

Bottom line? If you have kids in the top 10% then they are going to probably be just fine anywhere. On the other hand, if you have kids who are struggling with motivational or comprehension issues and are not going to be high-flyers in HS then putting them in an environment where the majority of their peers have parents with high expectations is going to be a plus. And their mainstream (non-AP/honors) classes are likely to be better at higher rated schools.

In your shoes, I'd stay put, get involved in the schools, and use all the money that you save for things like travel with your family. Go spend a month working with your kids at a rainforest research station in Costa Rica every summer. Give them experiences that the schools cant provide. That sort of thing.
REITired
Posts: 28
Joined: Sun Dec 15, 2019 2:56 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by REITired »

... just want to +1 for "Nice White Parents"
interwebopinion
Posts: 69
Joined: Thu Aug 13, 2020 6:21 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by interwebopinion »

Charley - there are two questions here that I see:

1) What's the best school environment so the kids flourish?
2) What's the best school for optimizing college admissions?

For 1 - data shows much of a student's performance is correlated to family involvement. If they are on the bright side, they will do well anywhere. The one thing to watch out for is that when you get to high school, they will track your kid based on math ability. Many parents even in top-performing schools will supplement their kids' math with extra-curricular activities so they can get into the higher tracks in the future. If you're not in the higher track, then you may not be able to get the most advanced courses in high school, and so would have a disadvantage when compared to your peer group when applying for college.

For 2 - For college admissions, one significant factor is the student's GPA relative to their peers. This means it's significantly tougher for a kid in a top school in say Cupertino vs. the same kid in say Hayward to make it to Cal. We know of kids in Cupertino who would be classified as bright based on test scores that had disappointing admission outcomes. We also hear of people who moved to a lower-performing high school just to boost their admission chances. So I guess you should aim to be near the top of your grade in whichever school you choose.
DoubleComma
Posts: 43
Joined: Sun Aug 23, 2020 2:23 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by DoubleComma »

interwebopinion wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:02 pm Charley - there are two questions here that I see:

1) What's the best school environment so the kids flourish?
2) What's the best school for optimizing college admissions?

For 1 - data shows much of a student's performance is correlated to family involvement. If they are on the bright side, they will do well anywhere. The one thing to watch out for is that when you get to high school, they will track your kid based on math ability. Many parents even in top-performing schools will supplement their kids' math with extra-curricular activities so they can get into the higher tracks in the future. If you're not in the higher track, then you may not be able to get the most advanced courses in high school, and so would have a disadvantage when compared to your peer group when applying for college.

For 2 - For college admissions, one significant factor is the student's GPA relative to their peers. This means it's significantly tougher for a kid in a top school in say Cupertino vs. the same kid in say Hayward to make it to Cal. We know of kids in Cupertino who would be classified as bright based on test scores that had disappointing admission outcomes. We also hear of people who moved to a lower-performing high school just to boost their admission chances. So I guess you should aim to be near the top of your grade in whichever school you choose.
Part 2 is repeated frequently, but from my research simply not true...at least according to 2 guidance councilors and one UC admissions officer I know very well. What actually happens is the schools must make the curriculum available to the colleges so the can understand the schools rigger. Then in admissions they weight the students applications against ranked curriculum and each other. So a 4.3 in Hayward may or may not be better than a 3.9 in Cupertino. It’s district, school and class specific.

Now maybe 30 years ago when I applied to school and it was still paper applications, papers essays, and paper test results what you say might be true. But in today’s world of big data analytics, and what I’ve been told directly, I simply don’t believe it.
Hiker8
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:09 am

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by Hiker8 »

charleypartanna wrote: Fri Sep 25, 2020 5:12 pm In talking to other parents about our neighborhood schools, about half have had good experiences; the other half have significant complaints of one kind or another. I worry about being in the latter half. My kids will only have one middle / high school experience, and I want it to be a good one.
You are overthinking this entire thing. Don't twist your financial situation into a pretzel just because you think you are doing what you think is right. If your kids have close friends who arn't trouble makers and your family has a healthy community, why would you leave? Re-locating to a new school district because you think it could benefit your children could have the exact opposite affect - it could be painful financially, as you mentioned, and it could put your children in a tough environment, with no close friends or support system.

As far as private school. That's a toss-up. Your kids may flourish or fail miserably. Nobody on this forum knows your kids more than you do. So, thats up to you to figure out. However, we can all agree that it will be expensive.
Cascade425
Posts: 17
Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:12 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by Cascade425 »

Like others, it seems to me that you're overthinking this a bit since your kids are still young. We have kids 16-22 so they're in the later bit of high school, in college, and the eldest has graduated and is working full time (yay!).

We live in the suburbs of Seattle and our view was that we will stay with public schools unless there was an academic emergency. If one of the kids was falling behind or needed special attention then we would consider private. All our kids did really well in public school and now I can safely say that they'll all get through it just fine.

Our eldest went to U Waterloo in Canada and now is working full time in the Seattle area. Our second is in engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and enjoying it very much.
snowox
Posts: 408
Joined: Wed Nov 08, 2017 9:17 am

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by snowox »

texasdiver wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 2:59 pm Semi-retired HS teacher here. I taught science full time in 3 different school districts and now I do mostly long-term science subbing in an assortment of different high schools in the region. So I have seen first hand the comparison between top rated and lesser rated schools.

Generally speaking there isn't a great deal of difference between elementary schools if we aren't talking about the extreme ends of the spectrum. Most of the experience depends on your child's teacher and the level of resources which determine things like class size and resources for things like arts, music, science, etc.

In middle school many school districts start to differentiate, often based on math classes. My daughter's middle school, for example, has 3 separate math tracks which are supposed to be just for math but don't turn out that way because of the way that they block schedule. So your ELA and social studies blocks follow the math and you are with the same cohort of students through all your core classes. That generally means the brightest kids tend to be grouped together through middle school. This intensifies in HS with all the various AP and honors options.

Generally speaking, the differences in school rankings from places like Great Schools and Niche are largely determined by differences in the bottom 50% of the student population. If you are comparing a wealthy HS and a more modest one, the kids in the top 10% or top 25% are pretty similar. They are taking the same AP classes and so forth. Where there is divergence is with the bottom 50% of teach school. Schools in poorer areas have a lot more transient students, broken homes, immigrant students with language issues, homelessness, and every other social problem that comes with poverty. What this means is that at a rougher HS in a poorer area the basic and remedial classes are going to be rough and often full of disruptive students compared to similar classes at a wealthier school. But the high end AP classes are going to be largely the same. In fact, they can even be more challenging at poorer schools because they have a more selective group of students compared to affluent schools were every parent wants to enroll their child in a AP and college bound track whether or not the child is ready or interested in it. At many of these "rougher" schools in poorer areas there are fabulous cohorts of top students who are essentially attending a school within a school and they are all doing just fine. And yes, there are differences in terms of resources between wealthier and poorer districts. Nicer labs, better athletic and arts facilities and so forth. But those differences are somewhat over-rated. As a teacher the biggest issue is over-crowding. Class size is all-important. There is a lot of science you can't really teach with overflowing classes in small classrooms. But I can work around a lack of resources if I have manageable class sizes.

Bottom line? If you have kids in the top 10% then they are going to probably be just fine anywhere. On the other hand, if you have kids who are struggling with motivational or comprehension issues and are not going to be high-flyers in HS then putting them in an environment where the majority of their peers have parents with high expectations is going to be a plus. And their mainstream (non-AP/honors) classes are likely to be better at higher rated schools.

In your shoes, I'd stay put, get involved in the schools, and use all the money that you save for things like travel with your family. Go spend a month working with your kids at a rainforest research station in Costa Rica every summer. Give them experiences that the schools cant provide. That sort of thing.

+1 - As a parent of 4 , I would listen up here.
retired recently
Posts: 461
Joined: Sun Oct 04, 2009 6:09 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by retired recently »

I have a HS senior and we are going through the college admissions process now. Any advice anyone gives is based on their kid who is probably much different than yours. For our kid, we noticed early on that he was more engaged when the cohort was stronger, so we supplemented when he was ahead of what he was being taught in class and did our best to get him engaged in activities with stronger groups of kids where possible.

Supplementing has downsides in that the kid will be bored in class. IXL can be very good to give a strong foundation in several subjects and work ethic but AOPS is the best for math. Beast Academy did not exist when ours was learning but I would give it a try. Also find local math circles and attend those if possible. There is no race, just ensure your kid is learning. For our son, he finished AP Calc BC in 9th but there are plenty that finished much sooner. We were concerned about what was next but were always able to find something and so far it has worked out.

We took a very different path than our neighbors and were very fortunate to keep him challenged. His schedule this year (at a residential boarding HS) includes Organic Chemistry, Quantum Mechanics, Research in Physics, Mathematical Modeling, etc. and he is very happy. If sports happen, he will most likely be captain of his soccer team. Most of his peers from elementary school are doing well too but are taking Calc AB. What this will mean for college acceptances or future employment, no idea but that was never really the goal. It was to ensure he was being challenged and learning.

If we could do it all over again, we would more than likely have moved to the area in our state that has the stronger kids and programs as it would have meant a lot less driving. Admittedly, this would not have been a great approach for some but for our son it has worked well. A potential downside he might face is retaking material in college as he was not able to get college credit for many upper level courses.

If your kids seem to be interested/strong in math I would suggest looking at the results for the AMC 8 math competition and determine which middle school has several of these kids and then put your kids in the elementary school that feeds into that middle school.
Old Sage(brush)
Posts: 131
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2018 8:27 am

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by Old Sage(brush) »

123 wrote: Fri Sep 25, 2020 5:32 pm The biggest component that seems to impact academic rating of schools is the ethnicity makeup of the student body. Some cultures value education more than others. If you establish a home environment that values education and encourages success your kids will do well regardless of where they go to school.
I’m not sure what’s meant by this comment, but think at a minimum it’s a gross generalization. I would check the correlation between money in the school system and “ethnicity makeup” and consider further the comment.
retired recently
Posts: 461
Joined: Sun Oct 04, 2009 6:09 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by retired recently »

Re money in the school system equating to high-performance, I think this has an impact but not at the tippy-top levels in academics. We live in a pretty wealthy area and the schools are rated highly compared to the rest of our state but at the very high levels we do not compete. The top STEM academic competitions in the US are dominated by Asian American Males but certainly you have some incredible performers of every race, sex in these competitions.
manatee2005
Posts: 933
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2019 9:17 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by manatee2005 »

As someone whose kid went to 10/10 rated MS and HS, I can say the ratings mean nothing.
It’s all about your kid. If you put emphasis on education your kid will do fine, regardless of whether the rating is 7 or 9 or 10.
retired recently
Posts: 461
Joined: Sun Oct 04, 2009 6:09 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by retired recently »

I agree those ratings mean nothing but for our situation the cohort mattered a lot. I also agree that your highest likelihood of success will be impacted by putting an emphasis on education.
User avatar
ClevrChico
Posts: 1761
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2012 8:24 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by ClevrChico »

This is a pretty good read:

https://rootofgood.com/bad-schools-are-okay/

We are in a similar situation. Greatschools gives our elementary low ratings, but it is one of the best elementary schools around. We've had friends move out to wealthly districts and comment that our lower income school was quite better.

Our unwealthy district also has an incredible magnet high school available.

Obviously, your situation may be different, and we all want to do what's best for our kids. I just wouldn't give greatschools much thought, and be sure to look at the big picture. I received quite a bit of pressure from family to move to the wealthy school district, but I'm glad I resisted.
User avatar
alpenglow
Posts: 1027
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 12:02 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by alpenglow »

texasdiver wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 2:59 pm Bottom line? If you have kids in the top 10% then they are going to probably be just fine anywhere. On the other hand, if you have kids who are struggling with motivational or comprehension issues and are not going to be high-flyers in HS then putting them in an environment where the majority of their peers have parents with high expectations is going to be a plus. And their mainstream (non-AP/honors) classes are likely to be better at higher rated schools.
I completely agree with this.
User avatar
LadyGeek
Site Admin
Posts: 66261
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:34 pm
Location: Philadelphia
Contact:

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by LadyGeek »

I removed an off-topic post and several replies regarding ethnicity. The discussion was derailed.

Please stay focused on the education and consumer issues aspects (where to live).


This thread is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum.
Wiki To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.
getthatmarshmallow
Posts: 645
Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:43 am

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by getthatmarshmallow »

Just as a data point -- my local high school is a 2 (!) on Great Schools. The surrounding nicer suburbs -- highest rating is a seven, most are fours and fives.

But that 2? Has an international baccalaureate program. It has AP classes. It's safe. It sent my colleague's kid to Stanford, and many others to competitive colleges. It just has a lot of first-generation Hispanic students, a poorer population and lower test scores overall. What this tells me is that if we're still here in a decade, my kids (with their educated affluent parents who value education and their brilliant brains) will be fine.

So, take GreatSchools with a grain of salt, and make sure you look at the bigger picture.
AnEngineer
Posts: 100
Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:05 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by AnEngineer »

alpenglow wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 12:11 pm
texasdiver wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 2:59 pm Bottom line? If you have kids in the top 10% then they are going to probably be just fine anywhere. On the other hand, if you have kids who are struggling with motivational or comprehension issues and are not going to be high-flyers in HS then putting them in an environment where the majority of their peers have parents with high expectations is going to be a plus. And their mainstream (non-AP/honors) classes are likely to be better at higher rated schools.
I completely agree with this.
Look out for matches between your kid and the particular school if your kids are outliers in some way. Most schools will be fine for those in the pack, but if your kid has special needs they may not respond well. This likely has much less to do with rank and reputation than you think.

For kids who are advanced in some way, you need to find out what the school's philosophy is. Some focus on getting everyone to grade level and ignore advanced kids. I doubt you want them to be bored all day and learn that diligence doesn't matter. This is hardest to spot in elementary school where you can't see if they have AP classes and the like.
AnEngineer
Posts: 100
Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:05 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by AnEngineer »

retired recently wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 6:23 am For our son, he finished AP Calc BC in 9th but there are plenty that finished much sooner.
People live in very different worlds. My family had to fight so I could take a Calc AB course from somewhere else my senior year because my school didn't have any Calc course.
User avatar
alpenglow
Posts: 1027
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 12:02 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by alpenglow »

AnEngineer wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 12:34 pm
alpenglow wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 12:11 pm
texasdiver wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 2:59 pm Bottom line? If you have kids in the top 10% then they are going to probably be just fine anywhere. On the other hand, if you have kids who are struggling with motivational or comprehension issues and are not going to be high-flyers in HS then putting them in an environment where the majority of their peers have parents with high expectations is going to be a plus. And their mainstream (non-AP/honors) classes are likely to be better at higher rated schools.
I completely agree with this.
Look out for matches between your kid and the particular school if your kids are outliers in some way. Most schools will be fine for those in the pack, but if your kid has special needs they may not respond well. This likely has much less to do with rank and reputation than you think.

For kids who are advanced in some way, you need to find out what the school's philosophy is. Some focus on getting everyone to grade level and ignore advanced kids. I doubt you want them to be bored all day and learn that diligence doesn't matter. This is hardest to spot in elementary school where you can't see if they have AP classes and the like.
I agree about outliers. It pays to do your homework (ha) and not just rely on a number rating. The district I teach in is well known for excellent special education services. Families have been known to move from other highly rated districts specifically for our special ed programs.

Many district websites now have online class catalogs for their high schools. I think this is a good way to see if certain AP/IB classes are offered (of course (ha) that can change).
MDfan
Posts: 374
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2016 7:32 am

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by MDfan »

IfIOnlyKnew wrote: Fri Sep 25, 2020 11:22 pm OP - My two kids (late 20s) went to average public schools, good but not great state colleges, got STEM degrees and had good paying jobs in their field right after graduation. My advice - school is important but don’t over think it. What is way more important is that you continue to be involved and be an ongoing positive influence in your kids life. You’ll find as your kids get older, that your relationship will transition from parent to mentor to advisor and once their “launched” and successful, to a relationship as friend. And I can tell you that there is nothing better than having a strong bond and friendship with your adult children. Good luck!
Exactly. My three kids also went to decent public schools in MD and middle of the road big public universities, and all have good jobs and are thriving (none are in any kind of STEM fields, either). We were involved to the extent they needed us, but they did most of the heavy lifting (college admissions process, etc.) by themselves. And all came out debt free because we didn't have to pay private school/university costs.
Katietsu
Posts: 3974
Joined: Sun Sep 22, 2013 1:48 am

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by Katietsu »

DoubleComma wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:55 pm
interwebopinion wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:02 pm Charley - there are two questions here that I see:

1) What's the best school environment so the kids flourish?
2) What's the best school for optimizing college admissions?

For 1 - data shows much of a student's performance is correlated to family involvement. If they are on the bright side, they will do well anywhere. The one thing to watch out for is that when you get to high school, they will track your kid based on math ability. Many parents even in top-performing schools will supplement their kids' math with extra-curricular activities so they can get into the higher tracks in the future. If you're not in the higher track, then you may not be able to get the most advanced courses in high school, and so would have a disadvantage when compared to your peer group when applying for college.

For 2 - For college admissions, one significant factor is the student's GPA relative to their peers. This means it's significantly tougher for a kid in a top school in say Cupertino vs. the same kid in say Hayward to make it to Cal. We know of kids in Cupertino who would be classified as bright based on test scores that had disappointing admission outcomes. We also hear of people who moved to a lower-performing high school just to boost their admission chances. So I guess you should aim to be near the top of your grade in whichever school you choose.
Part 2 is repeated frequently, but from my research simply not true...at least according to 2 guidance councilors and one UC admissions officer I know very well. What actually happens is the schools must make the curriculum available to the colleges so the can understand the schools rigger. Then in admissions they weight the students applications against ranked curriculum and each other. So a 4.3 in Hayward may or may not be better than a 3.9 in Cupertino. It’s district, school and class specific.

Now maybe 30 years ago when I applied to school and it was still paper applications, papers essays, and paper test results what you say might be true. But in today’s world of big data analytics, and what I’ve been told directly, I simply don’t believe it.
I do not know about CA but I do know this was true in another large state with highly rated public universities.
texasdiver
Posts: 3481
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:50 am
Location: Vancouver WA

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by texasdiver »

Katietsu wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 1:42 pm
DoubleComma wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:55 pm
interwebopinion wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:02 pm Charley - there are two questions here that I see:

1) What's the best school environment so the kids flourish?
2) What's the best school for optimizing college admissions?

For 1 - data shows much of a student's performance is correlated to family involvement. If they are on the bright side, they will do well anywhere. The one thing to watch out for is that when you get to high school, they will track your kid based on math ability. Many parents even in top-performing schools will supplement their kids' math with extra-curricular activities so they can get into the higher tracks in the future. If you're not in the higher track, then you may not be able to get the most advanced courses in high school, and so would have a disadvantage when compared to your peer group when applying for college.

For 2 - For college admissions, one significant factor is the student's GPA relative to their peers. This means it's significantly tougher for a kid in a top school in say Cupertino vs. the same kid in say Hayward to make it to Cal. We know of kids in Cupertino who would be classified as bright based on test scores that had disappointing admission outcomes. We also hear of people who moved to a lower-performing high school just to boost their admission chances. So I guess you should aim to be near the top of your grade in whichever school you choose.
Part 2 is repeated frequently, but from my research simply not true...at least according to 2 guidance councilors and one UC admissions officer I know very well. What actually happens is the schools must make the curriculum available to the colleges so the can understand the schools rigger. Then in admissions they weight the students applications against ranked curriculum and each other. So a 4.3 in Hayward may or may not be better than a 3.9 in Cupertino. It’s district, school and class specific.

Now maybe 30 years ago when I applied to school and it was still paper applications, papers essays, and paper test results what you say might be true. But in today’s world of big data analytics, and what I’ve been told directly, I simply don’t believe it.
I do not know about CA but I do know this was true in another large state with highly rated public universities.
I have a hard time believing that UC admissions counselors are pouring over syllabi from hundreds of CA high schools to try to discern nuances in terms of rigor. That would essentially tell you nothing anyway because, at least in terms of AP classes, most teachers use pretty standard college-board approved syllabi. I really doubt that absent a very time-consuming DEEP dive into each school's curriculum it would be pretty impossible to discern the difference in rigor between say an AP Bio course at Hayward and one at Cupertino.

There are, indeed differences in the degree of grade inflation from school to school. And from state to state in terms of weightings. That is why class rank is usually an equally important (or more important) factor than GPA.

Admissions counselors that I have talked to (and I'm the process right now with Daughter #1) say that they basically look at GPA/Class Rank and then evaluate whether the student took advantage of the advanced/college level classes that were offered. So, for example, a 4.0 student from a HS that offered 40 different AP/IB classes and only took two of them would be judged more harshly than a 4.0 student from a small rural school who took both of the only two AP classes that were offered. In other words, dumbing down your schedule to keep your GPA high is frowned upon.
retired recently
Posts: 461
Joined: Sun Oct 04, 2009 6:09 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by retired recently »

I think the problem with admissions is that fewer and fewer HS's do class rank each year. Apparently grade inflation gets a bit worse each year and now many schools are moving away from SAT/ ACT...quite difficult to determine how AOs make their decision...
texasdiver
Posts: 3481
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:50 am
Location: Vancouver WA

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by texasdiver »

interwebopinion wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:02 pm
For 2 - For college admissions, one significant factor is the student's GPA relative to their peers. This means it's significantly tougher for a kid in a top school in say Cupertino vs. the same kid in say Hayward to make it to Cal. We know of kids in Cupertino who would be classified as bright based on test scores that had disappointing admission outcomes. We also hear of people who moved to a lower-performing high school just to boost their admission chances. So I guess you should aim to be near the top of your grade in whichever school you choose.
I have known families who have tried this in Texas and have found, to their dismay, that it did not work.

For example, you have a student who has a somewhat mediocre freshman year relative to peers and ends up with say a 3.3 freshman GPA (4 Bs and 2 As). That freshman year drops them way down in the class rankings at their highly competitive HS where lots of kids are getting straight As. So they pick up and move the child across town to a less "competitive" HS for the remainder of their HS career. What they soon discover is that, even at less competitive schools, you still have a core of top 10-20% students who mostly get straight As. And it is mathematically impossible to claw upwards in the class rankings unless the students above you falter. Which mostly doesn't happen. So, if you are in the bottom 50% of class rank after your freshman year than working hard will allow you to claw upwards in the class rankings in subsequent years because a lot of those students ahead of you are going to be mediocre. But if you are at say 85% class rank and want to get to 95% class rank to get into UT then you need that 10% of your student body who is ahead of you to ALL do worse than you, and not just worse than you, but so much worse that you can pull ahead of them. That basically never happens when we are talking about students at the top end of the class at any high school rich or poor.
DoubleComma
Posts: 43
Joined: Sun Aug 23, 2020 2:23 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by DoubleComma »

texasdiver wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:07 pm
Katietsu wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 1:42 pm
DoubleComma wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:55 pm
interwebopinion wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:02 pm Charley - there are two questions here that I see:

1) What's the best school environment so the kids flourish?
2) What's the best school for optimizing college admissions?

For 1 - data shows much of a student's performance is correlated to family involvement. If they are on the bright side, they will do well anywhere. The one thing to watch out for is that when you get to high school, they will track your kid based on math ability. Many parents even in top-performing schools will supplement their kids' math with extra-curricular activities so they can get into the higher tracks in the future. If you're not in the higher track, then you may not be able to get the most advanced courses in high school, and so would have a disadvantage when compared to your peer group when applying for college.

For 2 - For college admissions, one significant factor is the student's GPA relative to their peers. This means it's significantly tougher for a kid in a top school in say Cupertino vs. the same kid in say Hayward to make it to Cal. We know of kids in Cupertino who would be classified as bright based on test scores that had disappointing admission outcomes. We also hear of people who moved to a lower-performing high school just to boost their admission chances. So I guess you should aim to be near the top of your grade in whichever school you choose.
Part 2 is repeated frequently, but from my research simply not true...at least according to 2 guidance councilors and one UC admissions officer I know very well. What actually happens is the schools must make the curriculum available to the colleges so the can understand the schools rigger. Then in admissions they weight the students applications against ranked curriculum and each other. So a 4.3 in Hayward may or may not be better than a 3.9 in Cupertino. It’s district, school and class specific.

Now maybe 30 years ago when I applied to school and it was still paper applications, papers essays, and paper test results what you say might be true. But in today’s world of big data analytics, and what I’ve been told directly, I simply don’t believe it.
I do not know about CA but I do know this was true in another large state with highly rated public universities.
I have a hard time believing that UC admissions counselors are pouring over syllabi from hundreds of CA high schools to try to discern nuances in terms of rigor. That would essentially tell you nothing anyway because, at least in terms of AP classes, most teachers use pretty standard college-board approved syllabi. I really doubt that absent a very time-consuming DEEP dive into each school's curriculum it would be pretty impossible to discern the difference in rigor between say an AP Bio course at Hayward and one at Cupertino.

There are, indeed differences in the degree of grade inflation from school to school. And from state to state in terms of weightings. That is why class rank is usually an equally important (or more important) factor than GPA.

Admissions counselors that I have talked to (and I'm the process right now with Daughter #1) say that they basically look at GPA/Class Rank and then evaluate whether the student took advantage of the advanced/college level classes that were offered. So, for example, a 4.0 student from a HS that offered 40 different AP/IB classes and only took two of them would be judged more harshly than a 4.0 student from a small rural school who took both of the only two AP classes that were offered. In other words, dumbing down your schedule to keep your GPA high is frowned upon.
“Every institution that serves high school students in California needs to submit courses to the A-G Course Management Portal (CMP) for review by UC.”

Should you want to review the source.

https://hs-articulation.ucop.edu/guide/ ... g-courses/

In CA where there have been legal challenges over admissions I believe the UC system has ranked high schools. Grade inflation is a huge issue and it’s more significant in the most affluent schools where the pressure is ramped up so high, not only in students but also teachers and administrators, because everything has become a competition...mostly between parents.

Grade inflation undermines class rank. So these UC have had to develop a “defensible” admissions criteria. The only formal guidance to students/families Is work hard, take the appropriate classes, be involved in your school/community and do you best on standardized test.

If this wasn’t the case, places like CAL & UCLA would only have students from Los Gatos, Palo Alto, Laguna Nigel, La Jolla; which is absolutely false. These premier colleges have a very diverse student populations with first generation kids of farm workers and tech CEOs kids from the peninsula.
stoptothink
Posts: 8284
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:53 am

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by stoptothink »

retired recently wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:22 pm I think the problem with admissions is that fewer and fewer HS's do class rank each year. Apparently grade inflation gets a bit worse each year and now many schools are moving away from SAT/ ACT...quite difficult to determine how AOs make their decision...
I went to my cousin's high school graduation 2yrs ago. We were invited by my aunt because my cousin was valedictorian, which I assumed meant she would be speaking...until I got there and found out she was one of 16 valedictorians (in a class of ~500). This is a top-10 ranked high school in a wealthy area. As a former salutatorian, I feel cheated.
User avatar
alpenglow
Posts: 1027
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 12:02 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by alpenglow »

DoubleComma wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:59 pm
In CA where there have been legal challenges over admissions I believe the UC system has ranked high schools. Grade inflation is a huge issue and it’s more significant in the most affluent schools where the pressure is ramped up so high, not only in students but also teachers and administrators, because everything has become a competition...mostly between parents.
This is exactly what I've been getting at. The grade inflation in highly rated NY metro districts is out of control. To me, it is an arms race. Some districts near me, including the one I work in, are now implementing a "do no harm" policy with regard to Regents exams. They only count if they improve the grade. Nearly every kid is on high honor roll in my building. It is laughable.
texasdiver
Posts: 3481
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:50 am
Location: Vancouver WA

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by texasdiver »

alpenglow wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 6:48 am
DoubleComma wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:59 pm
In CA where there have been legal challenges over admissions I believe the UC system has ranked high schools. Grade inflation is a huge issue and it’s more significant in the most affluent schools where the pressure is ramped up so high, not only in students but also teachers and administrators, because everything has become a competition...mostly between parents.
This is exactly what I've been getting at. The grade inflation in highly rated NY metro districts is out of control. To me, it is an arms race. Some districts near me, including the one I work in, are now implementing a "do no harm" policy with regard to Regents exams. They only count if they improve the grade. Nearly every kid is on high honor roll in my building. It is laughable.
HS teacher here. Yes, there has been some grade inflation. But students at the top end are also frankly a lot better than they were a generation or two ago. I look at the HS where I teach today and compare it to my memories of attending a somewhat similar HS back in the early 1980s and honestly it is night and day. Less drugs, less teen pregnancy, less violence and fights, less bullying, and a whole lot more students who are basically just working hard and doing well. I don't have any actual studies or numbers to point to. But it would not surprise me in the slightest that a whole lot more students today are just simply doing A work compared to say 40 years ago. Kids really are a lot more serious about school and college than they used to be.

I'm not at a school where nearly every kid is on the honor roll. But I am at a school where there are 4-5 sections of each AP class when a generation or two ago there were maybe just one section of each. They really are working harder.
User avatar
alpenglow
Posts: 1027
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 12:02 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by alpenglow »

texasdiver wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 12:50 pm
alpenglow wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 6:48 am
DoubleComma wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:59 pm
In CA where there have been legal challenges over admissions I believe the UC system has ranked high schools. Grade inflation is a huge issue and it’s more significant in the most affluent schools where the pressure is ramped up so high, not only in students but also teachers and administrators, because everything has become a competition...mostly between parents.
This is exactly what I've been getting at. The grade inflation in highly rated NY metro districts is out of control. To me, it is an arms race. Some districts near me, including the one I work in, are now implementing a "do no harm" policy with regard to Regents exams. They only count if they improve the grade. Nearly every kid is on high honor roll in my building. It is laughable.
HS teacher here. Yes, there has been some grade inflation. But students at the top end are also frankly a lot better than they were a generation or two ago. I look at the HS where I teach today and compare it to my memories of attending a somewhat similar HS back in the early 1980s and honestly it is night and day. Less drugs, less teen pregnancy, less violence and fights, less bullying, and a whole lot more students who are basically just working hard and doing well. I don't have any actual studies or numbers to point to. But it would not surprise me in the slightest that a whole lot more students today are just simply doing A work compared to say 40 years ago. Kids really are a lot more serious about school and college than they used to be.

I'm not at a school where nearly every kid is on the honor roll. But I am at a school where there are 4-5 sections of each AP class when a generation or two ago there were maybe just one section of each. They really are working harder.
This is really awesome to hear.
User avatar
TomatoTomahto
Posts: 11110
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:48 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

alpenglow wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 1:12 pm
texasdiver wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 12:50 pmI'm not at a school where nearly every kid is on the honor roll. But I am at a school where there are 4-5 sections of each AP class when a generation or two ago there were maybe just one section of each. They really are working harder.
This is really awesome to hear.
+1
This aligns with my experience. I attended college early and later was enrolled in a PhD program, so I’m not entirely without academic chops, although my schools were second or third tier. What I knew when attending college is standard for HS students today.

I won’t speculate on why there is a contingent on BH that denigrates the achievements of today’s students.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.
interwebopinion
Posts: 69
Joined: Thu Aug 13, 2020 6:21 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by interwebopinion »

retired recently wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:22 pm I think the problem with admissions is that fewer and fewer HS's do class rank each year. Apparently grade inflation gets a bit worse each year and now many schools are moving away from SAT/ ACT...quite difficult to determine how AOs make their decision...
From what I hear, AO's simply rank GPAs from within the same school to compare. Honors courses get a GPA boost, so if you've taken more honors courses, then that moves you up the rankings. The high school gets to claim they don't rank and avoid having to deal with annoyed parents.
interwebopinion
Posts: 69
Joined: Thu Aug 13, 2020 6:21 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by interwebopinion »

DoubleComma wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:55 pm
interwebopinion wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:02 pm
For 2 - For college admissions, one significant factor is the student's GPA relative to their peers. This means it's significantly tougher for a kid in a top school in say Cupertino vs. the same kid in say Hayward to make it to Cal. We know of kids in Cupertino who would be classified as bright based on test scores that had disappointing admission outcomes. We also hear of people who moved to a lower-performing high school just to boost their admission chances. So I guess you should aim to be near the top of your grade in whichever school you choose.
Part 2 is repeated frequently, but from my research simply not true...at least according to 2 guidance councilors and one UC admissions officer I know very well. What actually happens is the schools must make the curriculum available to the colleges so the can understand the schools rigger. Then in admissions they weight the students applications against ranked curriculum and each other. So a 4.3 in Hayward may or may not be better than a 3.9 in Cupertino. It’s district, school and class specific.
Which part are you saying is not true? That relative GPA matters? Elite colleges are to their credit making an effort to diversify their classes, and so that means this strategy is quite workable. I have seen elite college admissions dropping over time from our highly-rated school, and I keep hearing of cases for whom this strategy paid off.
Last edited by interwebopinion on Mon Sep 28, 2020 1:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
interwebopinion
Posts: 69
Joined: Thu Aug 13, 2020 6:21 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by interwebopinion »

Data consistently supports the view that it's not the school but the student. There's much to recommend your view.

The only caveat is that in fields that are more subjective than STEM fields, a top college can serve as a platform to making connections and possibly getting that first big break into a competitive field.
IfIOnlyKnew wrote: Fri Sep 25, 2020 11:22 pm OP - My two kids (late 20s) went to average public schools, good but not great state colleges, got STEM degrees and had good paying jobs in their field right after graduation. My advice - school is important but don’t over think it. What is way more important is that you continue to be involved and be an ongoing positive influence in your kids life. You’ll find as your kids get older, that your relationship will transition from parent to mentor to advisor and once their “launched” and successful, to a relationship as friend. And I can tell you that there is nothing better than having a strong bond and friendship with your adult children. Good luck!
sg2060
Posts: 31
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2019 3:43 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by sg2060 »

I went to a school system that is a 6 on the scale you provided. I have no idea what it was 12 years ago when I was in high school. I will just add that it was very class dependent for me. If I was in a general class, disruptive students derailed the instruction frequently. Luckily, it was rare that I had general classes. My parents and I presume the parents of the other advanced-track kids wouldn’t put up with that behavior, so there was rarely any of it. For your case, no matter which option, I would want to know where my children would be placed.

I was surrounded by smart, hardworking kids, who added to my education, regardless of their skin color, economic background, gender, etc. I guess the lower performing ones added to it as well in setting an example of how not to act or treat education/educators. I could have done without it, though, as sex in high school, discussions of drug use, violence, etc. only increased the chance that I would be led astray. I feel there are far better ways to teach your kids about those dangers.
Last edited by sg2060 on Tue Sep 29, 2020 12:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
Topic Author
charleypartanna
Posts: 24
Joined: Wed May 22, 2019 5:30 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by charleypartanna »

Wow.

Thank you all! This has been extremely informative and helpful. :happy

So grateful to the Bogleheads community.

Best regards,

Charley
MMiroir
Posts: 66
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2020 12:14 pm

Re: How to approach kid’s middle school / high school / college decisions?

Post by MMiroir »

There is some good advice on this thread. We were facing a similar situation as the OP about 15 years ago. We had narrowed our choice of houses to two similar homes in adjacent towns. Both towns were similar being mostly populated by college educated professionals, and had similar income levels and demographics. Both towns had excellent elementary and middle schools, but they diverged somewhat when it got to high schools.
School A fed into a highly homogeneous high school in that all of the towns in the district had similar demographics, parent education and income levels, while School B fed into a district that also included some towns with high percentages of new immigrants and more modest income levels. As a result, School A has a Great Schools rating of 10, while School B has a rating of 7.

While they were both good high schools, they designed their programs differently. For example, the summer session for School B was heavy in English as a Second Language classes as well as shop and technical classes. In contrast, School A’s summer program concentrated on college prep classes.
One course in particular that our kids enrolled in was a class in scientific research methods. After freshman year, summer students would take a research methods class that taught basic statistics and coupled that with some hands on physics, engineering and biology science projects. After successfully completing the first summer in school, the school had setup an internship program with several regional public and private universities, research labs and medical colleges.

Both of our kids worked 12 weeks over summer in university research labs and got paid to do it. After the junior summer, both of them had strong letters of recommendation from college professors at major research universities. They were very successful in the college admissions season, winning full scholarships to public flagships and T-20 privates as well as both getting multiple admissions to T-10 privates. That would not have been possible without the summer research program offered by the higher rated school.

The price difference between the two houses was between 20 to 30 percent, with real estate taxes commensurately higher in the better school district. For us, it was worth it. However, it was worth it because our kids took advantage of what the school offered. Even though most of the families in the district were college educated, I sensed that the vast majority of parents didn’t push their kids to succeed academically as sports or social activities were higher priorities. The bulk of these kids would have done just as well in School B.
Post Reply