What is a "top notch" grade school/elementary school? (DEBATE)

April - posted on 08/09/2011 ( 17 moms have responded )

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This post stems from the homeschooling debate. Several moms have stated that their children will be going to public school because it's "top notch". What makes an elementary school a top notch school? What do you look for in a grade school? Do you follow your own criteria or did you look up the rating of your school on the internet?

I have often wondered what those ratings REALLY mean. Does a 10 mean that the school is known for it's high scores on standardized tests? If so, that could be a bad thing (aka teaching to the test, teaching only what will be on state tests). Basically, what does "top notch" mean to YOU?

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Tammy - posted on 06/05/2012

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In Ontario we generally don't rate our public schools since it is very unconstructive in so many ways. That being said, there is the Fraser report that ranks schools and you can track long-term testing scores for a school in the EQAO website.

Top notch means to me a consistently high performing school in a lower socio economic area. When many people refer to good schools they are really referring to schools who have students from higher socio-economic homes. Quite frankly, this just means that these children have been brought up with many more opportunities which highly affect test scores and school performance. These schools also tend to have more money through fundraising which also provides more at -school opportunities. So if the school generally has a middle and upperclass population, expect good test scores and realize it has more to do with the home environment than the school itself.

Mary Renee - posted on 08/15/2011

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to me, top notch is in the teachers. If you can find out how long the teachers have been teaching, and the rate of how many come and decided to stick around (or worse, LEAVE after their first year) you'll get a good idea on the quality of the school. You can have a school with out a lot of money for extras, but a great teacher and that makes all the difference. This is coming from someone who grew up in public schools (1991-2004) and saw the best and worst all in the same building!

Jennifer - posted on 08/12/2011

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Our School system is top notch because we have a low drop out rate. (obviously for high school) The Teachers take the extra time to deal with certain students that need the extra time instead of just pushing them through the system. If they are not ready for the next grade, they do not pass. Plain and simple.

Although the parents are not required to be involved with the school, many of them are. They are not teachers but often classroom helpers and chaperones for field trips. Their active involvement increases the productivity of the school and pushes the school to work harder with each student.

When looking at a district for their grade school, one must also look at the Junior and Senior High Schools to see how well the average student is doing there. If the base isn't set up strong, the whole thing falls apart at the top.... which is why looking at the High School level of a district is important. If the grade schools are weak, it will show in the scores of the High School students as well as their general behavior.

Sylvia - posted on 08/10/2011

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@April, you can read all about IB here: http://www.ibo.org/



I went to an IB school, although since I dropped out of calculus in Grade 11 I didn't get an IB Diploma, just certificates for my other 5 subjects -- Biology and French B at Subsidiary level ( = 1 year of study; roughly like O levels or, if you're into Harry Potter, OWLs) and English A, Chemistry, and European History at Higher level ( = 2 years of study; roughly like A levels or NEWTs).



I *loved* my IB classes (well, except Maths :P), and had a great time in high school, but it was a LOT of work because in Alberta (where I'm from) you also had to sit your departmental exams, so in areas where the curricula didn't overlap you not only had extra exams but also a ton of extra coursework. Fortunately my high school also had excellent music and drama programs that I participated in so I wouldn't go crazy, and despite being a HUGE school (1500 kids in Grades 10-12) it was very welcoming and I found it easy to make friends.



A word of warning: although Sherri's right that some IB courses are equivalent to the university (not just college!) level, you can't always count on universities to recognize that. My friends who went to university in Alberta got credit for their IB courses in most subjects; I came out here to Ontario to go to university, and I got bugger all. IB has now become more popular here (20 years later), but it still doesn't have the "brand recognition" that it already had in Alberta 20-odd years ago.

Jenn - posted on 08/10/2011

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My daughter attends a tuition free Charter school. It has been rated exemplary the last 5 years of its 11 year existence. The school was started by PARENTS so emphasis is heavy on parent involvement and contribution. All children are accepted, no testing required to get in and it is a lottery system with siblings automatically accepted.

The school uses the acclaimed homeschool SAXON math and reading programs, beginning in Kindergarten. The programs emphasize instruction, practice and assessment rather than concentrating related concepts in a short period of time (cramming). The children actually LEARN rather than memorize, hoping to remember 1/3 of it.

The school also teaches PE daily, Spanish twice a week, Art, Technology and Science daily. Latin will be added to the school curriculum in coming years. Teachers have smaller classes, so they can really work one-on-one with the children. There are no teacher's aides, parents volunteer.

The downside? Charter schools do not receive the nearly $1800 per student that public schools do. So we have MANY fundraisers. As long as parents remember their children's tuition is free and they are receiving a stellar education, it helps keep snarls at bay. AND the school requires community service, which I believe is so important for all youth.

The school just expanded to 8th grade and eventually 12th. It is considered a college prep school. Alot is required of the parents, students AND teachers but we all have the same goal which is investing all our best in the children's future.

Sherri - posted on 08/10/2011

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@April it sounds very similar to what you describe. Our students must take their normal standard or honors classes and then take these college level courses on top of that. A lot of the courses will count towards college credits.

Jurnee - posted on 08/09/2011

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My son attends a magnet school, my daughter attended as well. They do perform well on standardized testing, but the most important thing to me is that the school is a center for arts and microsociety. All the students take dance, drama, music, learn instrument of their choosing. And the micro society part, pays them in Microdollars for each day of attendance, but they pay rent and taxes at the end of the week, they all starting in first grade have to learn to balance their "check book" and there is alot of civic responsiblity. The various micro jobs include landscaping, student government, performance groups, foreign language study, banking, etc. They are also the only school in my county with PE everyday. Alot of the extras are things I could never have afforded on my own. I think its great they are exposed to so many opportunities.

April - posted on 08/09/2011

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For those of you that said you liked the schools your children are or will be attending, what are some of the pros of going there and are there any cons? If you were moving to a new town, new state, what would you look for in that new school?

April - posted on 08/09/2011

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@ Sherri What is an IB diploma? We have something here in NY called a Regents diploma. the students take specific classes in order to get a Regents and are given a higher honor--sort of like their diploma is more special. Is this the same thing as IB?

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Lacye, I looked up your school system and Newsweek called it America's number one rural school system. Pretty impressive. I hope you find a job close by. :)

Lacye - posted on 08/09/2011

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The school district I live in is the highest in my state, if not the highest then not too far behind. It has an excellent academic program as well as a wonderful arts program. I love this school. I'm hoping that once I get my accounting degree that we get to remain here simply because of the school (finding jobs in this town is pretty hard).

Here is the school's website:

http://www.gsd.k12.ms.us/schools2.html

In the lower elementary, they have a Kidzuim and in the upper elementary, they have a science lab. I absolutely love this school.

Mrs. - posted on 08/09/2011

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Do any of you Canadians know a good site for rated Canadian public schools, or Ontario public schools?



I know it is a bit off topic, but we are moving and I'm having a bit of trouble finding Canadian sites that rate public schools. There are a lot of US sites, but no Canadian ones.



For me, the arts programme would be a huge one. The PE programme would also be a big one if my child was athletic (my little girl is only 2 now it is hard to tell yet). I'd like diversity. As well, a strong academic programme.

Stifler's - posted on 08/09/2011

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One that isn't obsessed with sports and doesn't care about anything else excecpt sport.

Sylvia - posted on 08/09/2011

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One that doesn't stress the kids out about standardized test scores :P

I would like to see music, art, drama, and science specialists -- all increasingly rare around here. Offering more languages besides French would also be great. Lots of recess, lots of PE time (but focusing on fitness and physical activity, not just on skills drills, so that everyone benefits and not just the really athletic kids). Lots of cultural and socio-economic diversity. A strong culture of respect and caring. Teachers who love teaching.

Sherri - posted on 08/09/2011

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We moved here for the school district ALONE!! The curriculum, the advancement in learning, every child's individual needs taken care of 100% (no matter if they are way advanced or need extra help), the loyalty and caring of the teachers.

Knowing they are miles ahead to get into college vs. surrounding areas since our high school also offers rigorous Advanced Placement courses and IB courses for juniors and seniors specifically geared for college placement. The High school was the first school in the state of New Hampshire to offer IB classes, and the first group of IB Diploma students graduated with the rest of the first senior class in June 2010. A total of 11 seniors earned the IB Diploma.

Rosie - posted on 08/09/2011

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i'm with sara. my husband attended the schools we send our children too, and i am very comfortable knowing that the type of education he has received, my children will receive as well.
i'm pretty sure that the school district is rated by test scores from the iowa tests of basic skills. while i dont' think testing is the be all end all to education, i do believe it shows something. if everyone was testing crappily i would have a problem. i have however experienced that teachers go above to try to help my childs individual needs, and the school is usually willing to help find resources that i wouldn't be able to have if i homeschooled-especially for my oldest child who has ADHD, OCD, and i think a high functioning autism. i have encountered a few who weren't willing to help, but overall i have had a good public school experience, and my children are all excelling.

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The schools my children will attend are ranked first in the state for academics. Athletics and arts are also excellent. But I'm not really going by those ratings. I was both a student and teacher in those schools. I've seen first hand how the schools operate. I know what happens to kids who are 'ahead' and 'behind' their peers. I know the extras that are available to the students. I know many of the teachers. It's not 100% perfect, but what is? I'm very comfortable with it.

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