All parents want their children to have the best chances in life, and that means providing a high-quality education. If you're moving to a new home, you will want to check the schools where you've purchased a house, so you can choose the right place for your kids.
We've looked into some of the best ways to assess the quality of schools, so you can choose the best ones for your children. Read on, and get the reassurance you need about how to make the right educational choices.
Do the research and write down what you learn about schools
You're going to be gathering quite a bit of information, so it's important you capture it all correctly. Buy a notebook or create an online document specifically for your school research, and record data consistently. That way, you'll be able to do a side-by-side comparison and make an informed choice on the right school.
Talk to realtors about school quality
Since good education is important to parents, especially when they are moving, it's something many realtors know about. Speak with a real estate agent that you trust and ask for their honest opinion on schools in your potential neighborhood.
Find and take part in teacher and education discussion groups
One way to learn about specific schools is to ask the people who work there. Look for online discussion groups that teachers and educators take part in. Ask them about their experiences and their opinions of various schools in the area.
Talk to other parents who have children in certain schools
Parents will have strong opinions as well! You can meet them online in communities like Nextdoor or in Facebook discussion groups. You can even meet them at the school gates and ask their opinions. Whatever you do, do your research, as a few hours spent now will make a big difference to your children later.
Get involved in the local community
Another great way to learn about schools is to get involved in neighborhood and community events. Go to a Little League game, a Meetup group, a cookout, a book club or the local park. Talk to parents there about schools and how they view them. As a bonus, you'll also start to build good connections in the local community.
Look at data about how well schools are performing
Although stories from realtors, parents and teachers are very useful, they are subjective and might be biased. That's why it's important to balance those views with hard data about school performance. Here are some websites you can take a look at:
- GreatSchools provides parents with essential information and school ratings to help improve educational opportunities for their children
- SchoolGrades applies a national standard to testing data so that parents can more accurately compare a school's performance
- Niche ranks school districts and schools for K12 education
- SchoolDigger has plenty of information on schools including test scores, rankings, district boundaries and student/teacher ratios
Remember to take account of catchment areas and school boundaries. Most schools will only consider students that live within a certain region or distance, so your home should be located within the right district. You will also want to check on school bus routes to ensure they are easily accessible for your children.
Explore other aspects that impact the quality of schools
There are several other areas that can have effect how good an education your children can expect. These include:
- Better schools can influence house prices: Some studies show that the presence of a good school in a neighborhood can increase house prices by as much as $50 per square foot. In short, if you want to live near a good school, you may have to pay a premium on the house price.
- Smaller schools tend to be better: Generally, the smaller the school, the better the quality of education. Larger campuses can feel alienating to students, and smaller schools may have a different niche and better student to teacher ratios.
- Charter and private schools boost the performance of public schools: It might seem slightly counterintuitive, but research suggests that the presence of high-performing charter and private schools forces other schools to get better, due to competition. Research if there are any private or charter schools near other schools that you're considering.
- Consider the environment around the school: There's more to a school than just test grades and class sizes. The environment around the school can have a big influence, too. Good landscaping, greenery and access to nature all help to lower anxiety and can boost academic performance.
Think about your kids' next schools, too
Don't limit your search to the schools your children are likely to attend right now -- think about their future educational needs. In addition to finding a good elementary school, you might want to explore how good the middle and high schools are in your area. That way, you won't need to make a choice between a compromised education as your children grow and having to move house again.
Create a shortlist of ideal schools near your new neighborhood
By the time you've completed this research, you should have plenty of information to help you make a decision. Review everything you've captured and create pros and cons for each school, dependent on you and your children's priorities. Next, you'll want to make a shortlist of your top three schools.
Go to an open house or make an appointment to visit the schools
Online research and stories can tell you plenty, but there's nothing like visiting the schools yourself. Go along and get an idea of how each school feels. Talk to the staff on the ground about the good parts and the challenges of working at the school. Find out about possible extra-curricular activities and opportunities for your children. Learn about the attitudes of the staff, and find out about the children your kids may be sharing classes with.
Pick a school and apply if necessary
Finally, once you've looked at the data, spoken to people and attended the school, it's time to make a choice. Talk to your kids about the schools they like the most and combine that with your information to find the perfect place. Apply if necessary and register them by transferring school records.
Once you have found the right school, you can focus on finding activities for your kids to do afterwards. Find out about local parks and pay them a visit to see if they are clean and well maintained.
You can also look at local magazines advertising area attractions. Additionally, you can explore the neighborhood's shopping malls, restaurants and any other place your kids can go to socialize.
Here are some other places of interest to consider investigating:
- Amusement parks
- Boating and fishing facilities
- Public pools
- Community theaters
Once you find the perfect school for your kids and locate the best recreational facilities, you'll be one step closer to finding the right neighborhood for you.