Evaluating Public Schools

This section provides tools to aid in finding the best public school option for your child. Compare private and public schools, explore school zoning issues, and delve into the public school grading and ranking system. Find information on the safest schools and what they are doing right.
View the most popular articles in Evaluating Public Schools:
If you’re in the market for a new home you better be researching local school districts – it could mean all the difference for your family, whether you have children or not.

When people search for a new home, there are many factors that weigh in on their decision: price, amenities, neighborhood, the square footage, rent or own, new or old, and much more. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to add another important aspect of home buying to this research list- school districts. Even if you don’t have, or never plan to have school-age children, school districts can still have quite an impact on your home value and living area.

Here are four of the main reasons why the quality of school districts is something that you need to keep in mind when you buy your next home.
  Why Research School Districts

1. A Good School District = A Good Neighborhood

All other things constant, a good school district tends to equal a good neighborhood. And when it comes to real estate, the name of the game is location, location, location. Great location can mean safer neighborhoods, abundance of places to eat, ease of access to transportation, proximity to urban, beach or vacation areas, and amenities like public parks and services.

If you do have kids, a good location and good neighborhood are even more important. Just ask John Wetmore, “walking” safety expert and Producer of “Perils for Pedestrians.” “Parents need to consider how their children will get...
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American public schools have made tremendous progress since the Supreme Court declared school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. Schools throughout the nation are more diverse than ever before as a result of desegregation, immigration of people to this country, and emigration of citizens from one region of the nation to another. Sixty years after the Supreme Court’s decision, schools in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and other southern states where segregation was once so prominent have shown great gains in diversity.
 
But which states have the most diverse public school campuses? We collected data and analyzed the numbers to develop an original list illustrating how much diversity truly exists in each state’s public schools. 
 
Diversity Scores of Public Schools
 
To equally compare the diversity of public schools in our country, we mined student population data and calculated diversity scores at the school, town, county and state levels. 
 
While “diversity” commonly refers to the presence of minorities, we were interested in understanding the presence of more than one ethnic group on campus. For example, while the Los Angeles Unified School District has many schools that have 90% or more Hispanic students on campus, this would be considered a homogenous school, rather than a diverse one.  
 
As such, our formula determines the likelihood that any two students are from different ethnic groups.  Scores closer to 1 indicate greater diversity, while scores closer to 0 indicate lesser diversity.  
 
When examining the various levels of scoring, school-level scores are more or less indicative of the town,...
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A new PDK/Gallup Poll offers some interesting statistics on how parents view the current state of public schools. While standardized testing did make its way into the poll, more parents were worried about school funding than how to assess school and student performance. The majority of parents also thought their neighborhood school was doing a pretty good job, although they didn’t rank public schools as well on a national level. Read on to learn more about how parents see the condition of public education today.
 
About the Poll
 
The poll is a collaborative effort between Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup. The poll is conducted annually, and is considered one of the best-known research instruments today. This year, researchers surveyed more than 1,000 Americans over the age of 18, asking both questions from previous years and questions new to this year’s survey. Because it is performed annually, researchers are able to track changing views of the education system, as well as evaluate new ideas and processes in public education.
 
The Standardized Test Question
 
With No Child Left Behind and Common Core Standards still floating around Washington, the big question remains whether standardized testing is proving its worth in the education realm. According to this recent poll, parents don’t find standardized testing very valuable for their children. Less than one-quarter of those polled thought tests had improved the quality of education in public schools. Three-quarters believed testing had made no difference or even hurt the education environment for students.
 
Standardized testing came in fifth...
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As awareness over the dangers of brain trauma increases, school districts, states and even the federal government are looking at ways to minimize the dangers in youth athletics. With new policies and training in place, the hope is that those working with youth sports will more effectively learn to recognize and treat the symptoms of concussions. Take a look at how some groups are tackling this problem head-on to minimize the risk to the youngest athletes in this country.
 
What is a Concussion?

One of the first goals in educating the general public about the dangers of concussions is to first explain what a concussion looks like. According to the North Jefferson News, a concussion is caused by either a direct blow to the head or a blow to the body that jars the head. The impact or jolt interferes with normal brain function. Although a concussion is classified as a mild form of traumatic brain injury, it is still serious – particularly if the individual suffers more than one in a season.
 
Symptoms
Symptoms of a concussion might include loss of consciousness, although this occurs in only about 10 percent of all concussion cases. Other symptoms might include feelings of pressure in the head, confusion, headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision. Some children may complain of a fuzzy or foggy head, while others may seem unsure of what they are doing or where they are.
 
Treatment
Treatment for a concussion can vary, based on the specific symptoms and the individual child. If a...
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Public education has gotten a bit of a bad rap in recent decades, as many families are exploring other education options, like homeschooling, private schools and charter schools. However, public schools still serve a significant role in preparing the next generation of world leaders. Check out these 10 potential advantages a public school education can provide.
 
Cost
The cost of a public education can’t be beat. Although some parents might complain about the recently added expenses of supplies and participation in sports teams, these schools are still much more budget-friendly than their private counterparts. According to GreatSchools.org, the average tuition for private schools in the United States during the 2008-2009 school years was $10,841. The average cost for a boarding school during that same year was $23,448. Schools affiliated with the National Association of Independent Schools charged even more.
 
In addition, private schools get additional funding through private donations. In many cases, this could mean parents of students at the schools may have to invest time and money on fundraising events for the school throughout the year. While public schools also participate in fund raisers, the bulk of their funding still comes through federal, state and local government sources.
 
Availability
Public schools provide access to an education for every child in a community. The Huffington Post notes that by law, public schools cannot turn students away based on academic performance, income level or disability. This ensures that every student in a neighborhood has the same educational opportunities as the neighbors down...
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Recent Public School Articles
Are the Three Rs Robbing our Children?
Are the Three Rs Robbing our Children?
For far too long the American public school system has failed to address “out-of-school” factors like poverty and their impact on what happens in the classroom. As the nation continues to become increasingly diverse, many schools are adopting comprehensive approaches to education that account for the unique needs of students so that each child is prepared for their future and not just for a year-end test.
States Fight to Teach “Ignorant” Science to Students
Wyoming recently became the first state to reject the Next Generation Science Standards because of concern regarding lessons that teach human-caused climate change. Several other states have also taken measures to reject the standards, which has some education officials concerned about the quality of instruction students in those states will receive.
School-to-Prison Pipeline Persists Despite Local, State and National Efforts
Inadequate funding and resources for schools, harsh zero-tolerance discipline policies, police presence in public schools, and de facto segregation continue to create school environments in which poor and minority students have little chance of succeeding. The result is a continuation of the school-to-prison pipeline that has been commonplace in the American education system for decades, despite federal, state and local efforts to curb the problem.
Evaluating Public Schools

Getting Started

An overview of school designations, best practices for evaluating your options, and tips on choosing the best school for your child. Learn about Blue Ribbon, Vocational and Special Education schools. Get tips on finding the right school in a new neighborhood, city or state.

School Zoning

Learn more about zoning rules, how they impact schools and your child. This section offers information on the history of school zones, what they are, and how they work. Get information on who decides school boundaries and the impact those decisions have on the community.

Grading and Ranking Schools

Explore the public school grading/ranking system, how it works and what it means. Get latest national rankings and read what critics of school grading have to say. Take a look at the nation’s top performing schools as ranked by U.S. News and Newsweek.

Public School Safety

A comprehensive look at the safety of US public schools. Learn what schools are doing to combat gangs and drugs, prepare for natural disasters, and protect your children from predators. From web cameras to armed guards, see what tools public schools are employing to keep kids safe.

Public vs. Private Schools

A comparison of public and private schools, the pros and cons of each, and a look at the cost of getting a stellar education at both. Take a look at some of the most expensive schools, notable public school alumni, and learn more about “private” public schools.