Monday, May 16, 2005

SLC School Info

Favorite Husband has some friends at work who, of course, will also be relocating to Salt Lake City along with us. As a service to everyone, I've offered to post the information I collect on my blog so that we don't all have to do duplicate research on schools. So here's what I have so far:

There are four school districts in Salt Lake county (map): Granite, Salt Lake, Murray, and Jordan. Granite and Jordan are geographically the largest. In the larger metro area, there are Tooele district to the west, Alpine district to the south, and Davis to the north. Some people may be interested in commuting far enough to live in those districts; we're not, so if you research any of those three districts, if you send the info to me I will post it. Otherwise there will be no information on those districts here. Also, my focus is on elementary school education, because that's where my kids are. If you would like me to post info you've collected on middle school or high school, you can send it to me too, but otherwise there will be none.

Granite district is the one we're always hearing about on the news that has problems. It is the district that serves West Valley City, which we've been assured is a gang stronghold. While it's probably not as bad as the Los Angeles-area environment in which FH grew up, we'd still prefer to live somewhere else. It's bad enough we're going to have to live where we must lock our car doors outside of zucchini season; let's not go live in the very worst part of town too.

Granite and Salt Lake districts don't have any elementary-level charter schools (except for the charter school for the deaf). They do, however, have charter high schools, so if you have high school students you might want to look into those. Granite has schools starting at grade 7, and Salt Lake at grade 5. Murray district has none at all. You can find a directory of charter schools here.

That pretty much leaves Jordan district, which covers (among other places) Sandy, Midvale, Riverton, West Jordan, South Jordan, and it looks like parts of Draper and Salt Lake City as well. Jordan has four elementary-level charters. American Preparatory Academy has two campuses, one in Draper and a brand spanking new one in West Jordan. I e-mailed the West campus and they told me their waiting list was over a thousand students long. North Star Academy in Riverton also has an extra-long waiting list. And I haven't yet e-mailed Summit Academy, but I suspect I'll get the same results. All four of these are using Core Knowledge and Saxon Math, like Thomas Edison Charter School does. If you're wanting to get your child into a charter school, you can pretty much forget it.

However, Jordan district also has school choice, which means that you can (with certain restrictions) put your child in a school other than your neighborhood school if you want; details here. School choice does allow for some limited school-shopping, but more importantly it puts "economic" pressure on all the schools to be the best they can be, making all the schools better than they would be otherwise. (I use quotes around "economic" because it's not so much about financial pressure as it is about how people use the limited school resources they have, which ultimately is what economics is all about.)

Another thing to consider about Jordan district is that some of its schools are on year-round schedules. If you're house-hunting in Jordan district, you might want to look into whether the local school is on the traditional or year-round schedule. This list gives contact information and tells whether a school is year-round or not. Year-round scheduling is sometimes done to alleviate overcrowding (since only 3/4 of the students are in session at any given time), but it may also be done due to parent demand for year-round child care.

So we are going house-hunting pretty much only in Jordan district. I'm sending for their information packet; you can do the same here.


Suppose, then, that you find a house you like but you want to know what the school is like. Then you want to go here and look up that school's report card. (All schools, not just elementary schools or Jordan district, are featured here.) There you can find information about each school, such as how large it is and what the average education level of teachers there is. You can also find test scores broken down by grade level and subject and by gender, socioeconomic status and disability status. You'll want to compare them to the district scores which are also on the report card right next to the school's scores. A school that regularly scores above the district average is one of the better schools in the district. However, you should also consider how good the district is also-- the worst school in a good district could be better than the best school in a bad district, so being "below average" is not necessarily a bad thing.

I'll post more when I get the chance, but I am so far behind on my laundry that I fear I may never get out...

UPDATE: Favorite Husband sends me this link to another charter school, Wasatch Peak Academy in North Salt Lake. This is in Davis district. In looking to find out more about it, I came across this map which shows not only the districts, but lists the charter schools in each district.