You’re in the process of buying a home. You have plenty of things to take into consideration. However, because you have kids, the thing that’s most important to you is the quality of the school district in which your home is located.
As such, you’re wondering how to determine school district suitability. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll get into the specifics below.
How Important is the Quality of Your School District?
While the quality of your school district isn’t the end-all-be-all, it does tend to correlate with the quality of your area at large. Generally speaking, the better the school district, the better the area that surrounds it.
A good school district generally produces good kids. Not only are they academically inclined, but well-behaved as well. As such, areas with good school districts tend to be safer and experience less crime.
Now, this isn’t to say that you should uncompromisingly shoot for the best-rated school district in the area. There has to be a personal fit as well. If you don’t fit in with the local residents, your experience will be an unfulfilling one.
In the end, it’s about balance. You want a school at which your child can feel safe and learn at the proper pace. However, you don’t want your school district choice to override everything else.
Kids don’t have to go to top-notch school districts to excel in life. While these schools may turn out the top graduation rates and produce the most college graduates, the other schools aren’t too far behind. As long as you’re supportive of your child, he or she should stay on the right path.
Assessing the Quality of School Districts in the Area
When moving to an area you’re not familiar with, it’s hard to know which schools are and aren’t reputable. Fortunately, the internet exists, allowing you to get a feel for the quality of different school districts in the area.
Wondering which sites will best assist you in this endeavor? Read on to find out.
The most prominent online school rating system is Niche.com. Niche covers essentially every school in the United States, grading them based on the quality of their academics, teachers, diversity, college prep, safety, and clubs & activities. They offer overall grades as well, doing so with the use of the A+ through F grading system.
Niche also provides school test scores, including ACT averages, SAT averages, and graduation rates. They also provide metrics such as school finances and teacher-to-student ratios.
Perhaps the most useful part of Niche is its review section. In this section, actual students and teachers discuss their experiences with their respective school districts. These can go a long way in helping you get a feel for a specific school.
Another option for assessing the quality of a school district is Greatschools.org. This site actually allows you to enter an address, then finds the school districts that are in that address’s general proximity.
Like Niche.com, Greatschools.org ranks all of the schools in its database. However, whereas Niche gives schools a letter grade, Greatschools gives schools a number grade (out of 10).
This website is exceedingly detailed, providing information not only on general test scores but on efficacy in different subjects (ie. math, English, history, etc.). It even has information on school hours, dress code, and school transportation.
Like Niche, Greatschools has a review section containing hundreds of reviews from past and current students and their parents. When used in combination with Niche, it can help you garner a deep understanding of a specific school district’s quality.
Visiting Schools in Person
While the internet can be a great place for spotting the best and worst schools, it shouldn’t be your only resource. If you really want to get a good feel for a particular school district, you have to experience it in person.
Start by calling the school district’s main office. During this call, you can ask any questions that you might have. You should also arrange to take a tour of the school.
If the school district is resistant to letting you tour, you should approach with caution. Most reputable schools will allow potential students’ parents to tour them. Those that don’t allow you to go on a tour could be hiding something.
If you can, you should check out all of the district’s schools. While your child might be going to elementary school now, he or she will eventually be going to middle school and high school. You want to make sure that they’re all suitable for your child.
How to Determine School District Suitability
One of the biggest mistakes you could make is buying a house and then realizing that it’s not actually in the appropriate school district. As such, before handing over that downpayment, you need to get a little clarification.
You might come across school district maps and these maps might very well be accurate. However, whether it’s because you read them wrong or because boundaries have changed over the years, these maps might not be sufficient for confirming that your home is in the right area.
This is why it’s important to call up the school district for verification. Not even the best real estate agent can give you the level of clarification the school district can give you. School officials are the ultimate authorities on this topic.
When speaking to the school district, make sure that your location is sufficient now and for the foreseeable future. If the school were to change its zoning, your home could fall outside of the district, resulting in your kids have to attend a different school.
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