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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 06/20/2011

How D.C. ranked as the top city to raise a family

Not everyone agreed with last week’s news that Parenting magazine chose Washington as the best city in the country for families.

Judging from the lively debate in our comments section, many parents find the city expensive, hard to navigate and lacking on the education front.
(Carol M. Highsmith - For The Washington Post)

One reader wrote:

“Are you kidding? It is one of the worst places in America to raise kids. You’d have to pay me to live in DC — in fact they do give people big home-buying subsidies and still can’t get many parents to live there. One of the few good things about DC are the free museums and monuments, but take those away, and almost any place is a better place to raise kids. My biggest complaints about DC: terrible schools, corrupt city government, the scary crime rates, the homeless and trash on the streets, the lack of trees, the traffic, the parking, the expense . . . need I go on?”

Wow.

I like it here, as I find the city to be a diverse, educational, challenging playground for my girls. Luckily for me, there were also a number of D.C. supporters. Here’s one:

“We’re raising a toddler in downtown DC and we love it. It has its challenges for sure but it’s way more interesting than the burbs where my husband and I both grew up. We walk to the Smithsonian once a week, live a few blocks away from two great parks, know our very diverse group of neighbors, walk to the grocery store, walk to our doctors, etc. . . . The city vs. suburb argument will always exist. Different strokes for different folks.”

Either way, it’s clear that the reaction was mixed.

I circled back to Stephanie Wood, Parenting magazine’s executive editor, and the women who oversaw the rankings to ask for more details about how the District came out on top.

Wood said the city soared in the rankings because of the new Charm and Culture Index. That index added up the number of not only the free museums, but also farmers markets, libraries, playgrounds and colleges (because colleges tend to bring the arts and other amenities.) It was added to this year’s formula because focus groups told Parenting that they wanted rankings to reflect the fact that part of a great family city is having fun with kids.

Charm and Culture was weighted equally against the other categories of Education, Health and Community, which included data on employment, crime and affordability.

The District also did well in the education rankings, which shocked some locals. Wood said the city’s test scores were strong last year compared with other cities. Also, the District spends far more per pupil than most others. The city also has an impressive number of blue-ribbon schools and accredited preschool programs compared with other cities.

By the way, Arlington County, which topped last year’s rankings only to fall to dropped to No. 70 this year, still did well on the schools ranking, as Linda Erdos, an Arlington schools spokeswoman, pointed out to me. It was No. 4 in the magazine’s education rankings this year.

Parenting’s Wood said that no matter which city came out on top, there would be critics.

“There are going to be people who don’t want to live in an urban area. That’s a given,” she said. “If you do like cities, then there’s so much they can offer a family.”

Do you agree that the District is a top destination to raise a family? Disagree? Tell us using #kidcities and we'll post your replies back here.

@washingtonpost #kidcities, as far as diversity, culture, art, and free activities DC is great. But what about the schools?less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

#Kidcities DC would be a great place to raise kids. All the art, history and monuments! Best park, unlike NYC it's all for FREE!less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone Favorite Retweet Reply

@washingtonpost Anyone claiming DC is the best place to raise kids has never left the beltway. #Kidcitiesless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone Favorite Retweet Reply

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 06/20/2011

 
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