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Phoenix High School Recommendations?

Phoenix High School Recommendations?

Old Dec 17th 2014, 9:26 am
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Question Phoenix High School Recommendations?

We are relocating to Phx from the UK around March 2015 and our son is currently in Year 8 at a local private school here in Sussex. Until we can get out there to physically look at schools where we will obviously get a better feel, we only have internet to go on and would like to get some personal recommendations for High Schools in Phoenix area. We are open minded as regards Private or Charter schools but want to be able to continue the small class sizes and academic focus he currently has (he is very bright boy but not in the least sporty! I know this may be hard to avoid though .. . A friend has recommended Brophy but whilst it looks impressive, we are not Catholic and whilst I accept that most schools are faith based, Brophy looks very heavy on the religious front? A colleague of my husband also recommended Basis, which also looks impressive from a results perspective. Can anyone offer any personal feedback on either of those or recommendations for other good high schools? It would be very much appreciated as finding it all quite stressful at the moment as most schools seem to be requiring applications to be completed in January! EEK!
Thanks so much.
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Old Dec 17th 2014, 2:13 pm
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

You will find most private schools are faith based. That said Brophy has a very good Rep. As faiths go, Jesuits aren't too bad so ive been told.

Phoenix public schools aren't well funded. Scottsdale may be better but still low down in national ranking.
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Old Dec 17th 2014, 3:11 pm
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

Thanks so much for taking the trouble to reply. OK, that makes me feel a bit better!
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Old Dec 17th 2014, 3:39 pm
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

Originally Posted by Craftycow View Post
Thanks so much for taking the trouble to reply. OK, that makes me feel a bit better!
Should clarify, I don't and have not had a kid at Brophy but I know people who did. Mine is a toddler at a Jewish daycare right now though we are currently considering Montessori for next year. If you thought finding secular high school was tricky, daycare is worse.
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Old Dec 17th 2014, 3:45 pm
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

I can imagine! Good luck with that
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Old Dec 17th 2014, 7:29 pm
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

Try Greatschools.org. I don't know private schools in the Phoenix area, but there appear to be several highly rated non-faith based schools.

You should be aware that popular schools are likely fully subscribed. Private schools typically run an application "season" towards the end of the year, followed by assessments and interviews at the start of the year, with places offered around the end of February. You should not be surprised to find that the best private schools can't offer your son a place for August 2015 and will instead refer you to the end of 2015 application process for enrollment in August 2016. The number of places available will be mostly dependent on turnover, except at the start of the 9th grade (first year of high school), when k-12 schools sometimes expand their class size.

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Old Dec 17th 2014, 10:09 pm
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

BASIS is very hard to get into - my info is from a few years ago, via a friend whose child was applying at the time (and got in), but I understand it's very heavily oversubscribed and operates a lottery to decide places.

On the other hand, I expect it has spots coming up during the year. One reason for its stellar success in the league table is that kids who aren't wholly dedicated to the pursuit of academic excellence drop out along the way. It suits kids who are very driven, very competitive, and don't mind doing several hours of homework every night from a young age.

The Scottsdale public schools are generally very good and result in many kids who go to brand-name universities, so you could always try the local offering if there's a private school wait list. A local school is also better for teens, I think, as they can then have a more independent social life.

My son's a 9th grader at a very highly-rated school in Mesa, so if you want any info about how AZ schools work generally, or living in metro Phoenix, just ask. I've been here a little over 3 years. Education at a high school level is a STEEP curve - it's very important to understand how the schooling works - electives, GPA, AP, Honors classes, etc. I made an appointment with my (then) son's middle school counsellor and threw myself on her mercy; she spent 1-2 hours explaining it all to me and drawing little 'progress through the grades' charts. He's also very academic and non-sporty, and the counsellor was very helpful about arranging to get him tested into the right level of classes for his abilities.

I don't know if it's the same in private schools, but at his school, the grade/ classes you're in are quite fluid. He's a 9th grader by age (14, almost 15); he's doing 9th grade English and Social Studies. But he's doing 10th grade Math and Science (Geometry and Biology), so his peers in those classes are somewhere in the range of 14-16. He's also in a higher level French class as we lived in Switzerland previously, so his classmates there are all 1-3 years older than him. PE is done with same-age peers, but the kids in the Beginning Drawing art class can be from any of the 4 grade years. It's all very different from the UK, and very fascinating to watch how it's really maturing his social skills to be mixing with such a diverse range of teens.

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Old Dec 18th 2014, 7:50 am
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

I LOVE this forum! Everyone is so helpful. Thanks for your replies and the information. Kodokan - I did not know about the concept of moving between grades based on ability so that is interesting, and thanks for your offer of general info. I am sure I will have lots more questions but right now there are a million and one things rushing through my head and I am not even sure what the questions are just yet! I will be sure to ask though once I do, thanks!
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Old Dec 18th 2014, 3:18 pm
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

Well, they don't move between grades as such (although being placed in the year above or below your chronological school grade is allowed here). Its more to do with the modularity of the system, and how graduation is dependent on credits earned rather than passing an end-of-course exam.

Take math, for example (this is all based on my son's school, which should be broadly representative). A kid needs 4 math credits to graduate high school in AZ. In the normal event of things, that means s/he takes 4 years of math classes, 9th-12th grade; the order is usually Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Pre-Calculus. (Math here is done as separate disciplines each year, rather than being mixed up.) But if a kid passes a screening test in (usually) late elementary, then around the age of 12 they're placed in an accelerated stream: they burn through pre-algebra in 7th grade, then do Algebra 1 in 8th grade, Geometry in 9th, Algebra 2 in 10th, Pre-calc in 11th.

Now they've got their 4 credits; they could theoretically stop, although that's not advisable given they'll need to keep doing math in college anyway. What they actually do is take a higher, college-level class in 12th grade, Calculus or some such. Often this is an AP (stands for Advanced Placement) class, where they take an A-level-a-like exam at the end, which gets them college credit and therefore reduces their course load in college, or the time it takes to get their degree (again, it's modular - one they've got 120 credits, they're done, regardless of whether that takes 3 years or 6).

Good schools offer a wide range of AP classes, which you can think of as doing A level standard work with a national final exam. Each of those classes can earn the kid 3-14 credits (foreign languages attract the most points), so it's common for smart kids to finish high school with 30 credits or more for college already, ie, a whole year done and dusted, for free. The savings in time and money are huge, plus of course it looks super shiny on the college applications.

My son's school accelerates for math and science as a combined package, so he's a year ahead in both from the regular track. He's also in Honors classes for his English and Social Studies, which are weighted classes that award a higher GPA. The ones to focus on for your son, though, would be anything accelerated, as there is a strong 'missed the boat' element if you don't get on that path early enough. (He's still plenty young enough at 12.) That said, there's again more flexibility - my son could've actually done Geometry at summer school this year, which would've been a few hours every morning for the month of June. Then he'd be 2 years ahead, and take college level math classes in both 11th and 12th grade; a kid he knows higher up the school did this. Kids can also take courses online, for credit, either over the summer or alongside their day school. It really is stunningly flexible, permitting kids to work at their own pace and ability level, by subject.

And it's not some freakish gifted thing that you need to feel awkward about pushing for, for your special snowflake - I'd estimate that the top 20-25% of kids are in the accelerated math/ science stream, and placed in Honors for English/ Social Studies. If your son is the type in the UK to be in the top 1-2 sets for subjects, expected to go onto A levels and do well, that's where he'll be here, amongst similarly-academic and motivated peers.

Hope this gives you some background, and reassures you that your son would be getting a great, targeted education, even if you end up in public schools!

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Old Dec 18th 2014, 3:32 pm
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

Kodokan - thanks once again for taking the trouble of penning such a comprehensive overview. This is REALLY helpful We will definitely pursue this as our son is in the top set for all his subjects currently and also been studying Latin, French and for the last 18 months, Spanish as well so hopefully something to be gained there too. Thanks again, much appreciated.
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Old Dec 18th 2014, 3:48 pm
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

Originally Posted by Craftycow View Post
Kodokan - thanks once again for taking the trouble of penning such a comprehensive overview. This is REALLY helpful We will definitely pursue this as our son is in the top set for all his subjects currently and also been studying Latin, French and for the last 18 months, Spanish as well so hopefully something to be gained there too. Thanks again, much appreciated.
No problem, I know what a worry schooling can be, with this age of kids. I've found the schools here to be very helpful about making sure that kids are in the right place. We arrived from Switzerland, with kids who'd been in French-speaking schools for 4 years; my 7 yr old could barely read in English, and my 11 yr old hadn't written a sentence in English since he was 8 nor had no academic history/ transcripts that made any sense to the US. Within 6 months, they'd tracked him, tested him, and sorted it all out.

Friends who are teachers say that sure, nobody likes bossily unreasonable demanding parents blind to their kids' actual abilities and faults, but sensible ones who are keenly interested in supporting their kids' education, and want to work in partnership with the school to achieve their goals, are perennially welcome. I've found hitting up the school counsellors with an approach of 'gosh, I know absolutely nothing about all this, please explain everything at the level of a 5 year old, I'm SO grateful for your time and trouble!' pays dividends...

Side note: your son will be a colossal hit socially, if my son's experience is anything to go by. He's a 9th grader in a school of 3,600 kids, a little reserved, not that gregarious, yet EVERYONE seems to know him, or know of him; he's the only British kid in the school, and his uber-cool Harry Potter-style accent gives him celebrity status.
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Old Dec 26th 2014, 5:56 am
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

Do you know where in Phx you will be living/working ? It's a big city and no point finding a school in N. Phoenix if you are based in say Chandler or Mesa.

I live close to Pinnacle High School which is rated well and part of the Paradise Valley School district, where most of the schools are good and well funded. The school district straddles North Phoenix and Scottsdale which are more affluent areas.

If you are in the schools catchment area then you can register the day before they start (note in Phoenix this is the first week of August). But if you want to register at a school out of your local area I believe registration is the beginning of January.

I have a 3rd grader at Fireside Elementary near PHS, and am slowly learning the US education system fortunately my wife is American and helps !!! We only moved to Phx 3 years ago and she spent a lot of time looking at School districts and felt Paradise Valley School district was good.

Let me know if I can help with any local advice, we have a great house in the Desert Ridge area (North Phoenix, Tatum Road and HWY 101) with schools and shops near by. But nothing can prepare you for your first summer here May to October !!!
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Old Dec 27th 2014, 8:51 am
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

Originally Posted by fr0gpil0t View Post
Do you know where in Phx you will be living/working ? It's a big city and no point finding a school in N. Phoenix if you are based in say Chandler or Mesa.

I live close to Pinnacle High School which is rated well and part of the Paradise Valley School district, where most of the schools are good and well funded. The school district straddles North Phoenix and Scottsdale which are more affluent areas.

If you are in the schools catchment area then you can register the day before they start (note in Phoenix this is the first week of August). But if you want to register at a school out of your local area I believe registration is the beginning of January.

I have a 3rd grader at Fireside Elementary near PHS, and am slowly learning the US education system fortunately my wife is American and helps !!! We only moved to Phx 3 years ago and she spent a lot of time looking at School districts and felt Paradise Valley School district was good.

Let me know if I can help with any local advice, we have a great house in the Desert Ridge area (North Phoenix, Tatum Road and HWY 101) with schools and shops near by. But nothing can prepare you for your first summer here May to October !!!
Thanks so much for taking the time to reply. Just learned though that school years are one year different between US and UK and so whilst our son would probably be ready academically to enter 9th grade in Sep 2015 he would be at least a year (and in some cases 2 I understand) younger than all of his peers and not sure he is emotionally/socially mature enough to do this and would prefer him to be with peers his own age. That said, we are now having to rethink as he will be a year off high school if he is having to redo Year 8. We will probably be looking at N Scottsdale area to live as close to my husbands work and some colleagues have recommended Great Hearts Academy or BASIS charter schools? Not sure if you are able to share any experience of those? Registration for those is indeed happening now, but they don't seem set up to deal with applications online from outside the U.S. and have not replied to emails indent enquiring before Christmas (although they may have broken up for the holidays by then). Still have managed to fudge state and postcode bits and hope applications went through. Obviously we will try to get out for a visit to view schools before we move at end of March but a bit freaked out that we may miss the boat in terms of registrations before we are even able to look at them!
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Old Dec 27th 2014, 2:31 pm
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

Have you found the city-data forums yet: Phoenix area Forum - Relocation, Moving, General and Local City Discussions - City-Data Forum

I know there are threads about schools on there, and BASIS/ Great Hearts get mentioned - there's a search function, so you'll be able to see what others think (from memory, it's quite polarized and Marmite).

Good luck for your applications. If your son gets in one of them, and it doesn't work out, make sure you're in an area with a good public high school to switch to. The North Scottsdale schools are largely excellent, so it shouldn't be a problem.

How long are you here for, by the way? Is re-entry to the UK with a 15/16 year old with no GCSEs going to be a problem, or is this a permanent move?
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Old Dec 27th 2014, 7:59 pm
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Default Re: Phoenix High School Recommendations?

Originally Posted by kodokan View Post
Have you found the city-data forums yet: Phoenix area Forum - Relocation, Moving, General and Local City Discussions - City-Data Forum

I know there are threads about schools on there, and BASIS/ Great Hearts get mentioned - there's a search function, so you'll be able to see what others think (from memory, it's quite polarized and Marmite).

Good luck for your applications. If your son gets in one of them, and it doesn't work out, make sure you're in an area with a good public high school to switch to. The North Scottsdale schools are largely excellent, so it shouldn't be a problem.

How long are you here for, by the way? Is re-entry to the UK with a 15/16 year old with no GCSEs going to be a problem, or is this a permanent move?
Ooh, no didn't know about the city-data forum. Thanks, will go check that one out. Yes, had considered the possibility of moving back with no GCSEs ... It is a permanent role so potentially will have to consider that and make it a 5 year minimum but of course you can never tell what will happen in the future!
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