Ann Dolin, author of “Homework Made Simple” and President of Educational Connections, Inc. has recently published a new book:
In it, she mentions www.HomeBySchool.com as a valuable resource to sort through unbiased school data. Here is an excerpt of her book:
Another important consideration that influences a parent’s decision to stay with their public school is the district in which the family lives. Location matters when choosing between public and independent. In Maryland, schools in the Chevy Chase area, for example, boast higher scores than in Rockville. In DC, schools in the Northwest area of the District are stronger than in Southwest. In Virginia, public schools in the Arlington area have higher test scores than schools in Alexandria. Where your home is located is going to be a significant deciding factor in whether to choose independent or public.
How do you know if your local base school is a good option or not? One way to make this determination is to look at the data. The easiest marker is test scores. Look at average SAT scores, MSA scores (Maryland), SOL scores (Virginia), and Advanced Placement (AP) offerings as a starting point. I especially like the Washington Post’s education columnist’s Jay Matthew’s Challenge Index. It’s a yearly ranking of the top public high schools in the United States determined by the availability of AP and IB classes and the number of graduating students. You can find more information on the Challenge Index on the Washington Post’s website.
For websites that allow you to compare local schools, try www.greatschools.org or www.schooldigger.com. You can sort by grade, type of test, and subject scores. Standardized tests are the easiest way to compare public schools to each other, and any extra time you spend on research will pay off in your search.
Closer to home, the Maryland Department of Education has an outstanding website to help parents review its 24 school systems. Here you’ll find information on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA), High School Assessment (HSA), and demographic and enrollment facts. By far, this website is the easiest to use when considering public schools in the close-in suburbs of Montgomery County. Visit www.marylandpublicschools.org/MSDE/schoolsystems.
If you live in or around Fairfax County, Virginia, check out Marina Brito’s website, www.homebyschool.com. Although it’s primarily focused on helping families choose a public school when they are moving to the area, I’ve found great value in using it to gather data on various schools. The Northern Virginia school systems, especially Fairfax County (the nation’s 11th largest), do not do a good job of putting all their data (state test scores, ACT and SAT scores) into one place. Instead, parents are left to sift through individual school websites. Although other websites are a good resource, Marina’s site is unbiased and relies on the data.
If you are interested in learning more about Private Schools in the DC Metro area (including Northern Virginia and Maryland), be sure to check out Ann’s book: