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:
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Is Your Child's School a Blue Ribbon School?
Did your child's school make the list? We cover the latest Blue Ribbon Schools awards given by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
The U.S. Department of Education recently released it 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools awards, which includes 219 public and 50 private schools across the country. The National Blue Ribbon Schools program has been a mainstay of the education system in the U.S. for the past three decades, providing parents, students and members of the community information about the top-rated schools in the country. The awards are primarily intended to serve as an example and inspiration for the entire education system in the U.S.

Announcement of Awards Eagerly Anticipated

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently announced the recipients of the awards from one of the 2012 Blue Ribbon Schools, Arlington Traditional Elementary School, according to a report in the Washington Post. The program recognizes public and private schools at both the primary and secondary level that have demonstrated outstanding student achievement or improvement over the past academic year.

“Our nation has no greater responsibility than helping all children realize their full potential,” Secretary Duncan was reported by the Examiner as stating at the award presentation. “Schools honored with the National Blue Ribbon Schools award are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers. Their work reflects the conviction that every child has promise and that education is the surest pathway to a strong, secure future.”
The Selection Process
To qualify as a Blue Ribbon School, schools must be nominated by the state’s commissioner of education. The U.S. Department of Education then selects the finalists
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Police Make Hundreds of Arrests at NYC Schools Last Year
We examine recently released statistics that show more than 880 NYC students were arrested at public schools last year. Were minority students targeted?
Photo Credit: NYCLU
A new report issued by the New York Civil Liberties Union indicates that the NYPD is making an average of around four arrests each day in New York City public schools. In addition, the police wrote around seven summons daily for students with less serious infractions. The report has been met with widespread concern, particularly in light of the fact that the large majority of students arrested were students of color. Is the NYPD exercising too much power in the public schools of the city, or are the police merely doing the job they were hired to do? The answer to that question appears to depend on who is asked.

Hundreds of Arrests on Record

 The NYCLU recently released their report after conducting an analysis of police activity in the city’s public schools. The agency took advantage of a new city law to compile their report, which requires documentation and disclosure of school safety information, according to a report at SI Live. The report found that during the 2011-2012 school year, the police made a total of 882 arrests of students while the students were at school, with an additional 1,666 summonses issued.
Around 95 percent of the students arrested were black or Hispanic, despite the fact that students of color only make up around 71 percent of the total student population in the city. Of the minority students arrested, 63 percent were black students. Around 48 percent of the summonses issued were to students from the Bronx, according to
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What are the Best High Schools in America? Top 15 Ranked Schools
U.S. News recently released its latest list of the best high schools in America. We’ll take a look at some of the schools on the list and whether the rankings are warranted.
A new report from U.S. News and World Report reveals the top-rated high schools in America, but it is not without its share of accolades and controversy. This list was compiled after the publication carefully analyzed 22,000 high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Schools were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals, based on a range of criteria. While some schools are celebrating their inclusion on the list, others are left scratching their heads, wondering how and why they were selected among so many good high schools across the country.

Three Steps to the Top-Ranked Schools 

The creation of the U.S. News list was achieved through a three-step process, which was implemented by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). First, the publication looked at student performance, by weighing math and reading scores on high school proficiency tests against the percentage of economically disadvantaged students at the school. Schools that scored higher statistically than the state average were evaluated through the next step in the process.
Next, U.S. News and AIR looked at whether the least advantaged students were performing at a higher rate than the state average. This list included Hispanic, African-American and low-income students. Schools that were performing better than average in this area proceeded to the next step of the evaluation process.
Finally, schools were judged on their college-readiness, through Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test data. Both of these programs offer college-level courses across the country, as well as the
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Sexual Harassment at Age 6: The Tale of a First Grade Suspension
A six-year old in Aurora, Colorado, was suspended after singing an LMFAO song to a little girl in his class and reportedly “shaking his booty.” We look at the case and the sexual harassment problem in public schools today.
Most educators, parents and students would agree that sexual harassment is a particularly devastating form of bullying that can negatively impact a student’s academic performance, as well as the physical, emotional and mental health of the student. The definition of sexual harassment, according to the Free Dictionary states, “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive environment.” As one six-year-old Colorado boy discovered, sexual harassment also apparently knows no boundaries in terms of the age of the perpetrator or the victim.

The Story of D’Avonte Meadows

D’Avonte Meadows is a first-grader at Sable Elementary in Aurora. The six-year-old was recently suspended from school for three days, after being accused of sexual harassment and disrupting other students. The crime? Allegedly, Meadows was singing a line from an LMFAO song, “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” to a female classmate while waiting in the lunch line at his school.

According to a report at the Washington Post, Meadows was sent home from school after the incident, along with a letter from the school district to his mother, explaining why he was suspended. School officials would not comment on the case initially, but did point out the definition of sexual harassment according to school board policy, which called it an “unwelcome sexual advance.” There is no age limit associated with the policy.
 The day after the suspension, the school district issued a statement, stating its
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10 Tips for Choosing the Best School for Your Child
Make sure you consider these 10 factors when choosing the school best poised to provide the most effective education for a child’s specific needs.
The right school for your child can make all the difference in his or her successful academic career. The good news is that there are many options in education beyond the public school down the street today. The bad news is that the abundance of options often leaves parents in a quandary over how to choose the best environment for their children. It is important to know what to look for in a school to ensure your child receives the best possible education for his specific needs. In some cases, that might indeed be the public school down the street, while other children may need a different environment to facilitate their learning process most effectively.
What are the Choices?
Many parents are unaware of the different choices they have in educating their children today. According to Education.com, some of the options available in K-12 education include:
Neighborhood Public Schools
It is important to learn about the various types of schools available nearby, so you can make an informed choice for your children.
Factors to Consider when Selecting a School
Once you know which options are available to you, it is time to determine the best environment for your child, based on the 10 steps we have outlined here:
Finding a Good Fit
To find the best learning environment, a parent needs to set the following four criteria outlined at GreatSchools.org:
  • What you want your child to learn (specific subject matter, level of academic difficulty)
  • How
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Evaluating Public Schools

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.

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.

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.