If you’re looking for a new home for your family, chances are you will also be looking for schools closer to your new community. So, how to find a good school district?

Buyers frequently come into the home-hunting process with a list of wants and needs. Clean, safe communities ideal for raising a family will always be a priority for people with children and those who plan to have families in the future.

Children sit on the floor in a question while one boy raises his hand -- how to find a good school district

Finding a good school district for your children doesn’t have to be an arduous task (Photo credit: Rawpixel.com)

How to find a good school district suitable for your kids?

To start, you’ll want to find the publicly accessible profiles of the school district and specific schools in a neighborhood. GreatSchools, Public School Review, Niche, and SchoolDigger are a few helpful websites.

You can use these resources to learn how test results compare to state averages, academic growth over time, the student-teacher ratio, and enrollment patterns.

You can also learn about a campus’s diversity, which is crucial because, according to The Century Foundation, racial and socioeconomic variety can benefit communities, educational institutions, and students.

Remember that data won’t give you the complete picture of a school and its quality.

To learn more about the goals and achievements of the school district and the individual schools, browse their web pages.

In addition, visit the webpage of the parent-teacher organization (PTA or PTO) for the school you plan to attend. You may have a greater understanding of parental involvement in the school through these pages, which can be helpful.

Feedback from parents can be just as valuable. On the websites for individual schools, you may frequently discover parent reviews; however, think about communicating with families directly.

For example, contact PTA board members: Their contact information may be available on the PTA website. Alternatively, you can ask the school for suggestions from helpful parents.

Real estate agents may also have information about the schools in the area, mainly if they have observed changes in the demand for properties in the region from families with school-aged children.

Also: Keep an eye on the news for contract negotiations of school districts. You may learn a lot about the state of a particular district and how happy (or dissatisfied) its members currently feel about their jobs.

Satisfied teachers are going to provide your child with a better education. Remember that ranking sites offer stats on the percentage of teachers in each school who are certified and have taught for three years or more. Pay close attention to those numbers.

The “good school district” effect on the real estate market

Because parents constantly seek out the best schools for their children when moving to a new area, major financial decisions, such as purchasing a home, are often influenced by education, which has a significant impact on the residential real estate market.

To balance off high demand, prices for properties in desirable areas (i.e., close to good schools by foot or car) frequently rise. This can be detrimental for low- and middle-income families while being advantageous for the local economy of a school district.

In other words, rising property values offer advantages and disadvantages.

In 2022, around 31% of surveyed home purchasers from all generations relocated with at least one child under 18, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2022 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report.

Comparatively, 23% of survey respondents across all generations cited school district quality as a deciding factor in communities. Twenty percent of buyers said that proximity to schools was essential.

Buyers with younger children will consider education while looking for new homes. As a result, while setting the price for their homes and putting them on the market, sellers also consider education.

However, purchasers without children also profit from highly rated school districts because they wish to start families in the future or just want to take advantage of the benefits that excellent educational programs have to offer to the entire community.

According to the RAND Corporation, K–12 educational options that are more competitive and well-funded benefit their surrounding communities more. Better school districts have a variety of positive effects on smaller and larger communities, including lower crime rates, higher property taxes, and greater civic engagement, as evidenced by higher election turnout, participation in cultural events, and better news literacy.

Buyers with children often concentrate on residences inside excellent school districts with reasonably short walking or driving commutes since parents typically want to send their children to high-quality schools.

Muslim girl in school alongside a white girl classmate working together - how to find a good school district

School diversity makes for a better educational experience (Photo credit: Rido)

But what qualities characterize an excellent school?

You will be looking for the following: Academically demanding, maintaining high graduation rates, producing high standardized test scores, providing low student-teacher ratios, and offering a lot of extracurricular activities.

When evaluating learning environments for kids and teachers, GreatSchools ranks and analyses pre-K to 12 schools using information from the Office of Civil Rights, which also considers equity.

GreatSchools places importance on the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of student bodies, giving more inclusive and varied schools higher ratings than more homogeneous schools.

In addition, GreatSchools considers the diversity of classes and programs offered, typically as electives, instructor experience, and student progress.

Strong school districts tend to be too expensive for lower-income families

Families with low, or even average, earnings may find it difficult to afford a property in neighborhoods with competitive school districts due to the high demand for homes in these locations.

However, according to The Impact of Educational Quality on the Community, a study from the RAND Corporation, stronger school districts are “positively correlated” with rising home values because parents are more ready to spend money to ensure their children obtain a higher quality education.

This absence of lower socioeconomic class families widens the gap between them, establishing a link between class and level of education.

Affordable housing is frequently found in school districts with lower standardized test scores, fewer opportunities for children to participate in extracurricular activities, and less financing from outside organizations such as the local government.

Due to the failed school districts that serve them, the neighborhoods around these properties also frequently experience a lack of financial stability.

Citizens with financial stability who can afford to spend more on their children’s education are drawn to competitive schools, leading to thriving local economies that further benefit these schools.

These schools also prepare their students (and their communities) for economic success by academically challenging their student bodies and giving them the tools they need to excel in college and the workforce in the future.

As a result, school rankings play a more significant role in property buyers’ search criteria as the gap between academic achievement and wealth reaches new heights.

A smiling black girl gets ready to board a school bus -- how to find a good school district

Asking about transportation options should be on your list (Photo credit: seanlockephotography)

Narrowing down the search

Deciding between public and private schools can also play into your neighborhood choice. For example, you can have more freedom in choosing the location of your new house if you prefer private schools because you won’t need to look for a spot inside a specific school district’s boundary.

Knowing the boundaries of school districts and the locations of their schools will help you focus your home search.

However, remember that school districts sometimes change their limits, and you may find yourself in a district (or a neighborhood designated to a certain school) you did not want. Once you have a short list of school districts in mind, get in touch with the district administration to confirm there aren’t any upcoming border changes.

  • Schedule meetings with administrators, principals, or teachers once you’ve reduced your list of options. Here’s a partial list of questions you should be asking:• What is the disciplinary procedure at the school?
  • How does this school track pupils’ development in meeting grade-level requirements?
  • What advanced programs do you offer students to prepare for college?
  • Is there a free bus service to this school?
  • What can you tell me about the parents’ organization?
  • What role does technology play in this school’s teaching and learning processes? Is your computer lab kept up to date?
  • What artistic programs are available to students – music, dance, graphic arts, etc.?
  • Are there services for mental health on-site?
  • What options exist for pupils in terms of extracurricular activities?
  • What precautions are being taken to ensure students are always safe in school

Consider your children’s current ages and consider how long you plan to stay in the area. Will your kids need to change schools again in less than three years because they’ve progressed to junior high or high school? If so, are you happy with those future schools in your district? Only you will know how much planning is necessary.

Optimally, you’ll want to find a neighborhood with schools of varying levels that meet your standards.

Prioritize this search and keep at it until you get the results you want for your children. It may not have the same instant gratitude as a sparkling new chef’s kitchen, but well-educated and contented kids in good schools will make for a happier home.

To summarize, here are the things you’ll want to pay attention to when looking for a new school.

  • Academic performance: One of the most important things to consider when choosing a school district is the academic performance of the schools. Look for districts with high test scores and graduation rates, as well as a track record of preparing students for success in college and beyond. 
  • Extracurricular activities: A well-rounded education includes more than just academics. Look for school districts that offer a wide range of extracurricular activities, such as sports teams, music programs, and clubs, to help your child find their passions and develop new skills. 
  • Diversity: A diverse school district can provide your child with a well-rounded education and prepare them for success in a global society. Look for districts that have a diverse student body and faculty and that offer programs and resources to support students from different backgrounds. 
  • Safety: Ensuring that your child is safe at school should be a top priority. Look for districts with a strong focus on safety and security, including measures such as school resource officers and emergency response plans. 
  • Teacher quality: The quality of the teachers in a school district can have a huge impact on your child’s education. Look for districts that prioritize hiring and retaining high-quality teachers and that offer professional development opportunities to help teachers stay up to date on the latest teaching practices. 
  • Community involvement: A strong sense of community can be an important factor in a child’s education. Look for school districts that have active parent-teacher organizations and that encourage community involvement in the schools. 

Communities featured in this article

More articles like this