If you are moving to a new area, it’s important to check out the school district before purchasing your new home. With a little preparation and research, you can find out a lot about the quality of schools in the community and pick the best school district for your children.
Start with the U.S. Department of Education
The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics offers publications, reports, statistics and other data tools to help you find the best school for your kids. Their School District Demographics System (SDDS) allows you to see snapshot reports, view district profiles and download data to compare different school districts.
Get off to a good start: Choosing a kindergarten >>
Use comparison websites
A number of websites compile information about school districts and specific schools, from preschools to colleges. Some free sites to consider include SchoolDigger.com and GreatSchools.org. Though SchoolDigger offers a nice overview, the GreatSchools website features comprehensive information such as distric overviews, test scores, school environment, parent reviews, and even homes for sale in the area.
If you want to compare specific schools, rather than districts, check out Public School Reviews. You can compare up to three schools at the same time. The results consist of enrollment statistics, racial demographics, student-teacher ratios, parental ratings, state test scores and other detailed information.
Talk to moms
Find online and offline support groups and discussion forums composed of parents throughout the city in which you are moving. Join up to learn about the pros and cons of different school districts. Getting honest opinions from parents who actually live in the district is the best way to learn more about the schools in the area.
Statistics and reports can tell you only so much. The best source of info about the school district is parents.
A good place to start is City-Data.com. The site’s forums have more than 700,000 users, and you’ll often find discussion about school districts and neighborhoods. Also look on parenting websites and message boards (including the one right here on SheKnows) to talk with moms about their kids’ schools.