What are the BEST public schools in Cleveland (or Akron)? We get this question all the time. Sometimes it is coming from a skeptical family who has lived in an area where the public schools are not well thought of. Sometimes the family has a gifted child who needs a challenging environment and sometimes the student has learning issues and needs extra help. Whatever the needs, every parent wants a smooth transition to a new school so their children will be happy and engaged.
But consider this: if everyone you talk to says the “best” school district in the region is one that doesn’t offer lacrosse and your daughter is a varsity player who LIVES for the sport, is that still the school you would aim for?
Everyone has good intentions when they try to steeer newcomers to the “right” neighborhood or school, but beware of the person who offers you advice when they haven’t asked you a single question about your child’s interests or needs. Instead we offer you some thoughts on how to narrow down your choices if you are relocating to a new town.
First, there are dozens of ways to “rank” schools. One of the most referenced and objective is each state’s Department of Education. In our state, the Ohio Department of Education releases an annual Report Card every August, which ranks all public school districts in the state based on six components:
- academic achievement compared to national standards
- per student progress since the last school year
- narrowing the gap in key areas (math, reading, graduation rate) for students no matter their socioeconomic, racial, ethnic or disability status
- graduation rate
- K-3 literacy
- preparedness for college or career
There are 613 public school districts in the state of Ohio (we know, regionalism NEEDS to happen soon if we don’t all want our taxes to continue to soar!) and 97 districts in NE Ohio that surround the Cleveland and Akron area. Instead of giving the schools an overall rating, the Ohio Department of Education’s rankings used nine different categories including: Grade Standards Met,. Lowest 20% Growth; Grade Value Added (examines student growth), etc. The Plain Dealer analyzed those results and provides great summary & chart to help navigate.
So, how does your family narrow it down to the 2-3 they want to visit and consider for your children? You may consider looking at not just these rankings but a few others that get a lot of national attention for a bigger picture, including:
- US News & World Reports Best High Schools in the country
- Washington Post’s “America’s Most Challenging High Schools”
- Newsweek/Daily Beast’s “America’s Best High Schools
- Blue Ribbon Schools
- Cleveland Magazine’s Rating the Suburbs – issued every June, this is a very comprehensive (and much debated) ranking of the suburbs and schools that surround Cleveland & Akron. You can buy a copy on-line for just $15, however use this as just ONE source of info and be cognizant of the fact that the top suburb changes every single year and most reasonable people would have to assume that there is very little a suburb or school could do to change its ranking in just 12 months, so the new rankings every year must be more about selling magazines :)!
We suggest you make a list (using your children’s input) of the questions you will ask each of the schools on your short list such as:
- What is the typical classroom size?
- What kinds of encore classes (above and beyond core curriculum) does your school offer (arts, phys ed, music, etc.)?
- What foreign languages do you teach and beginning in what grade?
- Does your school offer the International Baccalaureate® program?
- Describe your lab facilities, off site field trips and other hands on learning.
- How is technology incorporated into the day – ipads, interactive projection systems or white board (AKA Promethean boards) etc.?
- What are the demographics of the school (socio-economic mix, ethnic & racial, children with disabilities, etc.)?
- What sports are availbe in each season; Is there a “pay to play” fee? What is the required documentation and mandatory start date for transferring students?
- What percentage of your high school graduates go on to a 4-year college?
- Are there enrichment programs before or after school?
- Does your school provide transportation?
- Does your school have a dress code or uniform I should be aware of?
- Has your school district had any recent levies on the ballot? Did they pass or fail and why?
- Are there gifted programs/AP? How do students test into these programs?; Can these classes transfer into college credits?
What other questions do you feel are important? Add them to the Comments box below!
Executive Arrangements Inc. walks each client through these kinds of questions to narrow down the dozens of school choices to the ones that make the most sense for their criteria, and then arranges school visits, connections to parents in that district and written info in a detailed relocation packet. If all this sounds worthwhile, connect us to the company moving you to NE Ohio so we can begin to help you