Educational Leaders Weigh in on What Matters Most
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.
While we’ve said it over and over, often we still see families living and dying by 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 own Strategists and agents quantify the not-so-quantifiable—to, in other words, anchor the school conversation in something. Still, though, we always remind parents to roll up their sleeves and dig in. 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
Given our long-term outlook, we’ve been excited to see what seems to be a serious trend from school leaders, especially in the NYC area. That trend? Principals, superintendents and other educational insiders at top-tier public schools encouraging parents to do the same—to look BEYOND suburban test scores and see the big picture. “Consider this,” writes Stamford Superintendent of Schools Earl Kim. “There is nothing average about a Stamford student. SPS graduates represent a broad spectrum of experiences…Therefore looking at that average, or mean score, is meaningless. It is not a true representation of our students.” In Patchogue, Superintendent Michael J. Hynes took things a step further, telling teachers “You are more than a score…Keep your head up and your eye on what is most important.”
Dr. Kim continued, citing another common challenge in assessing high-performing suburban districts based on scores. “Stamford also has many students whose parents spare no expense for SAT prep courses or private tutors, or who have taken many practice tests before sitting for the actual exam.” The end result? Artificially inflated suburban test scores that speak to parental investment and not school rigor or student preparedness from their coursework. Looking at a school with the highest scores, then, may show parents are ready to spend $1,000 per hour on top tutors, $25,000 for ACT bootcamp and tens of thousands of dollars per year on test taking strategies—starting in kindergarten.
Finding YOUR School
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 your idea of a “good school” is? Suburban Jungle to the rescue! Click here for your free suburbs strategy session.
The Stamford Advocate