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The 13 Most Resilient High Schools in Fairfax County

Each year for the past 3 years, the Virginia Department of Education has updated their standardized tests known as the Standards of Learning (SOLs).

How resilient to tougher standardized tests is a school?

How resilient to tougher standardized tests is a school?

The SOLs are administered toward the end of the year to all students starting in grade 3. These tests are one way to try to objectively measure the performance of a school.

The intention of the SOLs is to measure how well the school districts are educating the students, so each year, they challenge the kids a little more, and they make the tests a little bit harder.

For example, the overall SOL passing rate* for all of Virginia has gone down the last three years due to the tests getting tougher:

Virginia SOL Passing Rates (last 3 years) Continue Reading…

How to get into Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST)

How to get into Thomas Jefferson High School (ranked #1 in VA)?

Well, how did Serena Williams become the #1 ranked female tennis player?

Serena Williams didn’t just decide one day to play tennis with the pros.  No, she practiced, and practiced from when she was 4 years old.  She took lessons, attended a tennis academy for several years, and played for many hours every day.

Serena Williams wins the 2013 US Open

Serena Williams wins the 2013 US Open

By the time Serena was ready to participate in the pros, she didn’t just show up at the tournament – she had 10 years of experience playing tennis, and she was ready to compete with the best of them.

So you see, when you want to be among the best, you have to start early to be ready.

Virginia’s best high school:
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST)

In Fairfax County, we are lucky to have one of the best high schools in the entire US (currently ranked #2 nationally by US News): Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (a.k.a. TJHSST, or “TJ”).  But getting in is not easy and students must start preparing early to be ready.

TJ is a school which caters to highly achieving students specifically focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and although it is located in Fairfax County, it is technically not part of the Fairfax County Public Schools district.  Instead, TJ is a Virginia state-chartered magnet school, which serves students from across several school districts in Northern Virginia.

So, when studying at TJ, students are being challenged by the best of the best in the entire region.

Getting into TJ is like getting into a pro tournament

Just like in a pro tournament, one doesn’t walk into TJ just expecting to get in.  It takes a good dose of preparation to have the best chance.

What’s required to get into TJ?

The first step is to live within the area serviced by TJ, such as the following 6 participating school districts: Continue Reading…

The 7 Best School Boundaries For Your Buck

Last Spring, when Andrea and Pete were moving to Fairfax County, they wanted the best possible school for their daughter, Haley.

Choosing the best (and most affordable) school boundary

Choosing among the best school boundaries

But, like most of us, they had to stick to a budget so their challenge was to find the school boundary with the best schools, while still keeping to their budget.

When they started their search, they focused on school rankings

For school rankings, they looked at The Ultimate Fairfax County High Schools Ranking©* (which compiles rankings from The Challenge Index,  average SAT Scores,  as well as the Virginia SOL  (Standards of Learning) Test Results).

This way, they had a list of Fairfax County Schools ranked by academics.  But can they really afford to buy in any one of these boundaries?

Next, they looked at the affordability of homes Continue Reading…

The Top 20% Fairfax County Elementary Schools Ranking (by SOL pass rates 2011-2012)

Sylvia and Marcus are looking for the Top Fairfax County Elementary Schools

Sylvia and Marcus are moving to Fairfax County this Summer.  They have already made a couple of trips this Spring to get themselves familiar with the area, and to figure out which schools are the right ones for their kids.

Sisters looking for Top Elementary Schools in Fairfax County

Emily and Sasha are looking for the Top Fairfax County Elementary Schools

Sylvia and Marcus’s have two kids: Emily and Sasha (rising 6th and 7th graders, respectively).

Emily and Sasha need great Elementary and Middle Schools

As part of their new home purchase, Sylvia and Marcus are looking to find highly-ranked Fairfax County Elementary Schools, as well as great Middle Schools for each of their kids.

And, since they’re planning on staying in Fairfax County for several years, they want to make sure that the High School is also very strong academically.

But how to identify schools with strong academics?

One way to identify schools with high academic scores is to use the Standards of Learning (SOL) passing rates.

The Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests are standardized tests applied at all the public schools in Virginia. These tests are useful to see how well a school scored above the district’s average; it’s one of the ways you can use to compare one school vs. another.

To help Sylvia and Marcus with comparing schools with good academics, we compiled for them a table of the average SOL pass rates of all the schools in Fairfax County. Continue Reading…

US News 2013 Best High Schools Ranking

For the year 2013, US News teamed up with a renowned Washington, DC-based research firm to rank all the high schools in America.

Best High Schools Ranking

Best High Schools Rankings

Together, they analyzed over 21,000 public high-schools in 49 states and D.C.*.

How did US News come up with their ranking of Best High Schools?

This year, their ranking methodology was to:

1. Identify the schools that had above-average test results for reading and math (in standardized tests).

2. Next, they considered the results of the least-advantaged students in those schools and ensured that their test results were above their State average as well.

3. Lastly, the schools that made it through the first two steps were judged based on their “College Readiness Index (CRI)”, calculated by using Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB)** test scores of the 2010-2011 academic year.

Getting from qualifying to ranking the Best High Schools Continue Reading…

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