Why It’s Finally Time to Look BEYOND Suburban Test Scores

Aug 7, 2023

We hear it over and over: “I want the best school for my kid.” If that sounds familiar, read on.

We’ve always said it—finding the right district is about MUCH more than just suburban test scores. From finding a school that syncs with your kids’ unique personalities to, as a family, determining what gets an A+ in terms of size, academic offerings, extracurriculars, and more, unpacking the education scene can be tricky—but, arguably, it’s one of the most important steps in choosing the right suburb.

“Most calls I have with parents or people who plan to have kids say the same thing,” says NYC Strategist Allison Levine. “‘I want the best school for my kid.’ And I get it. I have kids, and we also wanted to find the right spot for them. But that’s the key—finding the right school, not the best school.”

While we’ve said it repeatedly, we often see families making decisions based solely on test scores and hit-or-miss school rankings. We get it—it’s hard to truly “get” a school district until you’re completely immersed in the day-to-day. Test scores, rankings and other quantifiable factors help parents, and even our Strategists and agents quantify the not-so-quantifiable—to, in other words, anchor the school conversation in something. Still, we always remind parents to roll up their sleeves and dig in, not just focus on “the best school for my kid.” Talk to parents in the district. Hit up a PTO meeting. Check out the next game, school play, orchestra performance or recital. Swing by pick up or drop off and scope the childcare scene.

Looking BEYOND the Scores

There’s also been a significant shift among school leaders, particularly around the NYC area. This trend involves principals, superintendents, and other educational figures from prestigious public schools urging parents to adopt a broader perspective. They’re advising families to look beyond just suburban test scores and consider the overall picture of the educational environment.

Some Long Island schools, for example, are implementing “Do No Harm” policies surrounding Regents Exams, where scores won’t factor into a student’s grade. And they aren’t alone. Many educators from coast to coast are pushing back on the importance of standardized test scores, calling out that these one-off tests don’t truly gauge the quality of education in a school or district. 

Another challenge? In some districts, a disproportionate number of families invest in high-priced private tutors, which can artificially inflate test scores. That, then, can impact a school’s ranking – especially if you don’t plan to make the same investments. 

Finding The Best School for Your Kid

The reality? No two schools in the city, the suburbs or anywhere are the same. Your job, then, is to find where your brood fits in. That could be the pressure cooker community where tutors and after-school study sessions are the norm, or it might not be—and that’s OK. Because at the end of the day it’s about where your family fits in, and where your kids will excel in the classroom and out.

Need help figuring out what school is best for your kid? Suburban Jungle can help. Click here for your free suburbs strategy session.

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