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High school ratings
Old 03-29-2018, 11:17 AM   #1
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High school ratings

I am planning on retiring from my mega corp exec j@b in 6 years or less. Being a late bloomer, my first born will be getting to middle school age around the time of my retirement. We live in a very low COL rural area and quite enjoy our life here, but the high schools in our county's two school districts are rated below average and they don't offer a single AP class. Being a scientist with multiple degrees myself I am hoping that my kids will also show strong interest and aptitude towards academics. I am quite willing to work extra years to stash funds that it would take to move to area where better rated schools, either private or public, are available, if seems important. Roughly speaking this would mean retirement in 4 to 6 years instead of 2. My wife and I are both first generation immigrants so we don't really have very good idea about how meaningful the school rankings are for the kid's future. Since some of the members here may have been through these decisions in the past I was hoping to get some insightful and well-reasoned advice here.
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Old 03-29-2018, 12:31 PM   #2
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That's a tough one. I have a 3 year old and 12 year old. They are both in the same private school with a good reputation (in Peru). The 12 year old has always been #2 in his class and could easily be # 1, but does not want to stand out. The 3 year old is just entering his second year and from what I can see is slower in physical development but absorbs knowledge much quicker. I believe it is genetic as my 28 year old daughter was brilliant, attended a level 8 school in NY, U.Mich, U.Denver, always at the top of the class and had her Doctorate by 27.

I was barely a "c" student at the same high school and a college dropout who believes in ambition over education. After I retired 30 years ago, I did go back to University to obtain my degree and ace'd every course, but never bothered to pick up my diploma.

So, I am saying, watch your children's development and tailor your plan according to their needs.

In our case, my oldest is not being challenged enough but has the desire and ability to get into "Harvard Law school". This will require me to uproot our lives and move to the USA to an "excellent" public school district to give him his "shot"!

I love the life I lead and the place I live but would sacrifice it all in a heartbeat for my Son's.
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Old 03-29-2018, 01:50 PM   #3
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We moved to a town that had a reputation for top notch schools. While the kids got an excellent education, it wasn't necessarily because of great teachers. In my opinion, the teachers were average at best.

The reason the kids excelled was because of the high percentage of high achieving, professional households in the district where the kids doing well in school was expected, and not an option. The kids would get together after school and figure things out in groups, to make up for average teachers.
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Old 03-29-2018, 04:00 PM   #4
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If you or you kids are driven and on a path like NYEXPAT, I can’t help you. If you are on the better than average, you can make a good life for yourself path, I submit that it may be possible to do very well even from a rural lower performing high school. My daughter went to an average school and graduated 9th in her class. She was accepted to U of Mich and Mich State. She went to MSU and is doing well. I went to a average high school and second tier colleges for my bachelors and masters and did very well. My last decade of work I was breaking $200K per year and had a number of U of M and MSU graduates working for me.

Schools are only part of the equation. For some careers top notch schools are required. To succeed financially and professionally many more factors are in play. Best wishes in your decision.
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Old 03-29-2018, 04:47 PM   #5
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I wouldn’t worry about ratings, but the high school not even offering any AP courses is a shame. The extra rigor and expectations of AP classes helped my kids develop good study habits that served them well in college.

Are your kids skating through school with little effort? Do they have classmates that can push them academically? A few of our nieces and nephews went to small, relatively poorly-rated high schools. They all did very well in high school. Most of them also did well in college, but a couple struggled with the increased competition from very well-prepared classmates.
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Old 03-29-2018, 05:12 PM   #6
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I would not worry so much about the rankings as the offerings and the support for academics. It's not too early to get involved with the school district - go to board of education meetings, attend events at the high schools, even meet with the principals. If they don't have the $$ or trained teachers or enough interest to support AP classes, do they have any programs with local community colleges or online classes to challenge students who want to go above and beyond?

Back in the day, I went to a relatively small HS with no AP classes (they were not nearly as common as they are now). But there were several students in my class who were interested in pursuing math/science degrees, so they worked out an accelerated math program for us and we got a semester of calculus even though it wasn't official (they made up a class called "advanced math"). I did just fine at a top notch college.

Don't underestimate the value of travel, academically oriented hobbies such as chess or robotics, and just plain reading as part of your kids' educations.
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Old 03-29-2018, 05:17 PM   #7
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We went through a similar decision a few years ago, and it probably added a few years to my work career, but it was worth it to get my daughter prepared for a challenging college environment, where we are happy to say she is doing well. Talking to her university's admissions staff after the fact, they said one major factor is how well a student has done considering their situation, so it's not necessary to get a top-notch private school education, but at least demonstrate that one can succeed at the college level. Without even a single AP course, for example, it would be hard to show that potential, in my opinion.
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Old 03-29-2018, 05:18 PM   #8
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My sister home schooled her oldest until part way through high school. The local high school wasn’t very good, but there was an opportunity for high achieving students to take some classes at the community college their junior and senior years and get college credit to boot. As a result my niece graduated college in 3 years.
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Old 03-29-2018, 05:31 PM   #9
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I notice the home and parents are far more important than the actual school. Kids who see parents read, help with school work, expect good grades, and take an interest in knowledge do well.

If you go into a house and they have no books or magazines, it's not a good sign.
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Old 03-29-2018, 05:33 PM   #10
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As stated above you might check if there is a local community college and if it is possible to take courses there while still in HS. In many respect those are actually better than ap classes as if you pass the class you get the credit (and if the state has the transfer between junior college and senior college worked out the credits would transfer). If there is not such a program now, and there is a local CC you might push for this sort of program, since these are real college classes.
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Old 03-29-2018, 05:38 PM   #11
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So you would move after you retire? I wasn't clear about that. We have a small rural high with no AP offerings . My two DD's were in school 20 years ago. Our state offers a program where any high schooler in the top 25% of their class after junior year or the top 50% after senior year can attend any state school CC or 4 year free of charge including books.

My oldest got her AA from the local CC 2 days before her high school graduation ceremony. The youngest graduated from a top tier Big 10 business school in 3 years. I'd recommend looking at any states you are interested in to see if they offer this kind of learning experience. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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Old 03-29-2018, 05:56 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freedomatlast View Post
We moved to a town that had a reputation for top notch schools. While the kids got an excellent education, it wasn't necessarily because of great teachers. In my opinion, the teachers were average at best.

The reason the kids excelled was because of the high percentage of high achieving, professional households in the district where the kids doing well in school was expected, and not an option.
Same here. The schools where I live are rated the best in the state (OK, it's Kentucky and that just means they are taught to aim carefully when they spit tobacco). But I really agree that parents make more of a difference than teachers.
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Old 03-29-2018, 06:22 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SilentWalker View Post
the high schools in our county's two school districts are rated below average
Can you give us some particulars? How did you calculate "below average?" Just from some sort of published ranking list? By comparing standardized test scores? Or?
Quote:
they don't offer a single AP class.
That could be a problem if your kids will by applying to highly competitive schools. Is your goal that they attend "top ten" schools in their field?
Quote:
we don't really have very good idea about how meaningful the school rankings are for the kid's future.
Personally, I would be more concerned about how you think your kids will turn out as adults after living and going to school in your area. Will they be able to cope with life's stressors? With they live life with integrity and responsibility? Will they enjoy the satisfaction of hard work well done?

DW and I went to both elementary and high school in inner city Chicago. AP classes? Ha! Graduating alive and intact was our goal and it was a close call for me........ But we both got into colleges and, with the help of jobs and financial aid, graduated. We had decent careers enjoying life and raising a family along the way. And we FIRE'd, DW at 55 and me at 58. We're still in touch with several other "survivors" and they all, without exception, seem to have done OK in life too.

Do your kids have any needs that aren't being met by their current school system other than the lack of AP classes?
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Old 03-29-2018, 07:57 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunset View Post
I notice the home and parents are far more important than the actual school. Kids who see parents read, help with school work, expect good grades, and take an interest in knowledge do well.

If you go into a house and they have no books or magazines, it's not a good sign.
Sunset has it right! We moved from a trendy and somewhat smug village to a rural area where the rating of the school was not too good. All of our our friends said that it was a mistake because of the schools. Well, we stuck with our kids, made sure they kept up, and encouraged them to try as many activities as they could handle. The kids sought out friends like themselves and it all worked out just fine. We now have a Registered Nurse and a Pharmacist in the family and could not be more proud!
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Old 03-29-2018, 08:06 PM   #15
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Zero AP classes.
Move.
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Old 03-29-2018, 08:17 PM   #16
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Zero AP classes.
Move.
But if they have a community college agreement where dual hs and college credit can be earned that is actually to be preferred, because there is no AP exam at the end because the classes are college classes. The original question did not disclose the existence or non existence of such programs. Further you have to consider the size of the school districts involved. If they have fewer than 200 students in each year of HS it becomes hard to justify AP classes as you would not have enough students to justify the AP classes.

I just checked for example for the town I live in in in the Tx hill country, and there is a satellite of a San Antonio Jr College that provides dual credit courses tuition free for both HS and College credit. (of course the kids then need cars)
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Old 03-29-2018, 08:40 PM   #17
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Your children are still so young, and it may be a little early to tell how strong they will be academically--and how motivated they'll become later in life.

There are many really smart kids out there, but very few that grow up with what it takes to get into Harvard or MIT.

Our local schools are a product of very low property taxes, especially in rural areas. We have our granddaughter in the best private school and she is tops in the 1st grade. But we have another 11 years to go since we have custody of her and behaviors can change.

Parenting is so important in the lives of children. But the quality of the people in our children's lives--friends, teachers, other parents and relatives--is also so important. We just take it year by year, and all we can do his love'em and keep our family happy and pointed in a positive direction.
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Old 03-29-2018, 08:43 PM   #18
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You might consider homeschooling, esp as your retired status would allow time. If you have the science background you could make it really effective. Check for homeschool coops in your area.
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Old 03-29-2018, 10:29 PM   #19
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I appreciate the multitude of varying opinions and advice. I never thought that the schools without AP classes could have a program with community colleges for dual credits. The closest community college is not very conveniently located though, as it is nearly an hour drive from my town, but it is certainly something I need to check out.

We actually do have a good private K-8 school with busing from our home street and it is partially managed by our parish, so I am mainly concerned about the quality of our public high schools here. On the other hand, if we are going to move away to a town with a top high school, we might as well move earlier to get the kids into a good public middle school as well.

Our current district schools from elementary to high are all rated 4/10 in GreatSchools rating, which is based on the standardized test results. The graduation rate is 87% and English and math proficiency ratings are around 30% to 40%.

It is true that I am worrying about this really early considering that our kids haven't even started school yet and it is impossible to even guess at this point how our kids are going to develop between now and high school age. The one and only reason I felt a need for at least having a plan A and plan B at this point is because it will determine how long I need to stay in the corporate grind. If I get out within the next year or two it probably means that we are not going to be moving to any of the top school districts in this state because they typically are in HCOL areas, and definitely any private prep schools with $20k+ tuition are going to be out of question.

The home schooling is a possibility at least theoretically. After all I am well qualified to be a university professor. However, I have concerns about home schooling impact on social skills and language development (both parents non-native English speakers).

So, the reason behind these questions right now is to better understand if my FIRE decision might have a long term limiting impact on my kids' future opportunities for getting quality education.
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Old 03-30-2018, 09:07 AM   #20
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Years ago when I lived in Michigan, a group did a study comparing school funding levels with college attendance of high school graduates. The only significant correlation was the income level of the zip code where the child lived. Had no correlation to the amount of school funding per student. Their conclusion was that if your kids peers are planning on college, your kid will too. Michigan immediately privatized the data so no more outside studies on school funding could be done.....

Of course, if you live in a high income zip code, you can also probably afford college easier also.
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