Monday, July 7, 2008

America's Best Places to Raise a Family

This Forbes article surprised me. It lists the best 20 counties, in the country, to raise a family. Marin County came in at number 15. Apparently Marin would have been higher on the list except for the gnarly $901,900 median home price. Keep in mind that is median (the middle valued house), not average.

What surprised me? Marin County tops the nation in education. I'm getting a clearer picture of the education crisis when Marin tops the list. I am a Marin native, and a Marin teacher, and I have seen education, specifically math education, decline in the last 30 years.* (I write about the unsettling fact that the U.S. ranks 25th out of 29 developed nations in Math education for high school students, so my thinking might be a bit skewed compared to the average American.)

Forbes gives the average SAT score in Marin as 1,133. For those of us older than 30, the College Board added 100 points to the score in 1994 - so that average score should look more like 1,033 to us. 1033 does not seem that great to me. The average score was designed to be a combination of 500 in English and 500 in math, in 1941 when the test began. But, since the average combined score had decreased to about 850 by 1994** the College Board raised everyone's test score by 100 points, making the student average 950, closer to what it was when the test was designed.

In other words... our children in Marin, averaging 1,033 are not doing significantly better than the average student in 1941. Oh but, we must take into account that more students are taking the test these days because more students are going to college. But still...

15. Marin County, Calif.

Population: 248,742

If money were no object, Marin would be tops on our list. It offers the best education in the country, with a 97% graduation rate and a list-topping average SAT score of 1,133. Marin is filled with picturesque bay-side communities like Tiburon and Sausalito, and outdoor attractions include Point Reyes National Seashore, Muir Woods Redwood Forest and Mount Tamalpais. Good luck finding a place to live: The median home price is a staggering $901,900, the most expensive on our list.

* Of course it is also declining in the rest of the country and in other developed countries - England and France are having trouble urging their teenagers to study math.
**
Dumbing Down Our Kids : Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves but Can't Read, Write, or Add

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