Mortgage California Blog

How To Figure Out If Your Local School Is A Good One

July 26th, 2013

Public SchoolHow To Figure Out If Your Local School Is A Good One

You’re moving into a new neighborhood, and you know you have kids in your future, if not your present. And you want to be sure that you’re in a good school district. So how do you know?

Test Scores

Some people feel that the higher the test score, the better the school. But it’s best to dig deeper into the curriculum to ensure that your child is getting a well rounded education rather than being just taught to take the test. They don’t tell you whether students are learning critical thinking skills or how engaged students are in the learning process. They don’t tell you if students are learning to lead. They don’t reflect art or music.

But the test scores can be useful to a school if it wants to identify areas that may need more staffing and training.

Practical Tips


  1. She Knows
  2. CafeMom
  3. GreatSchools
  4. Time Magazine
  • Ask to observe a class for a day
  • Go to your state’s department of education website and they’ll have test scores and school ratings
  •  drop into the library and ask the librarian about the local schools
  • National Center for Education Statistics offers publications, reports, statistics and other data tools to help you find the best school for your kids. TheirSchool District Demographics System (SDDS) allows you to see snapshot reports, view district profiles and download data to compare different school districts.
  • Use tools like,  and
  • Look to see how many students get free lunches
  • Go to the school’s website and look at photos of the students and teachers.  See if you can read the handbook online and the conduct codes.
  • Research local newspaper archives online for that school to read about fights, crimes and school administrator problems.
  • Google the name of the school and the local news stations and problems with the schools will come up with news.
  • Look at class-size, what they teach, how they teach, do they let kids naturally advance, what standardized testing is ‘required’
  • Ask other parents that have kids in the district.
  • Talk with the principal. Do they have pride in their school? Ask about how many parents volunteer.
  • How do they raise money? Donations? Scrip? Do they have book fairs?  Will your child have to sell items frequently?

In the end, follow your instincts. If your kids are young, think about how it will be for them to go to their neighborhood school and have local friends. If your kids are older, focus on if the high school will get them into the college of their choice, and if you will be happy living in that house after they’ve left.

Do you think you went to a good school system when you were growing up?

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