Finding a Good School in Another State
What’s the best school in your area?
When families with children move to a new city, often one of the primary drivers for where they choose to buy or rent a home is its proximity to the best schools. If that’s where you are, and selecting a school that’s a good fit for the entire family is an important “to-do” on your list, you’ll find that time spent researching and comparing schools is time well spent. Fortunately, there are several reliable websites available that offer ratings, comparison tools and additional helpful information — like the curriculum offered, extracurricular activities available, student-teacher ratios and test scores — to help make your decision easier. Read on to learn more about some of the best resources for finding the top schools in your area.
Resources for rating and comparing schools
With countless data sources to explore, many find that it’s easier to use an online tool that aggregates the data and rates schools based on the outcomes. Here are a few tools to check out:
- GreatSchools — This nonprofit provides ratings and information about all area schools, allowing you to compare several schools side-by-side. It also offers helpful parenting resources including a Test Guide to help you understand the skills your child is expected to know in your state.
- SchoolDigger — This site offers school test scores, rankings and student-teacher ratios for over 120,000 elementary, middle and high schools. It compiles data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the United States Department of Education, the US Census Bureau and local Departments of Education.
- Niche — Here you can look at parent and student reviews for private and public schools — and drill down into things like best teachers, best college prep high schools, safest school districts, most diverse school districts and best high schools for athletes.
- Public School Review — This review site offers free public school profiles. It offers statistics on things like student/teacher ratio, graduation rate and diversity, and compares to other schools in the district.
- Local district websites — Do an online search for a district’s website and you’ll normally find things like demographics, test score data and information about teachers. Keep looking and you can typically learn more about the districts’ culture through things like the calendar of events and pictures around campus. Look for “at a glance” pages (giving district overviews) and annual reports (with more test data and ACT scores) for more in-depth information.
Select the right school for your family
Once you’ve reviewed the data, it’s time to compare and weigh the options. Here are some things to consider:
- Your family needs. You know your kids best — what’s the best fit for them and the family? Would they thrive better in a smaller environment with more attention, or would they do better with a larger school that offers more academic, social and athletic opportunities? What’s their ideal learning style — public, private, an unstructured curriculum? Is after-school care needed?
- Location. Do you need a school that’s close to home or work for easy drop-off or pick up? Will kids need to walk to and from school? What is the traffic like at peak times?
- Transportation. How will the kids get to and from school? Is bus service available? If so, where does it drop and pick up? Can they safely walk on sidewalks, crosswalks, etc.? Check into the transportation options available.
- Policies. Districts and the schools within the districts will have differing policies around things like behavior, dress, academics and safety. As you narrow down options, make sure you are aware of and okay with these policies.
Preparing your kids for a new school
After you’ve narrowed down schools, make a visit if you can. It’s best to go during school hours to meet teachers and students and see things in action. You may also consider going to an athletic event, band or choir concert or academic event (depending on your child’s interests).
Once you’ve selected a district and a school, help them prepare for the first day (and those that follow). This “Moving With Kids” blog post has great tips for keeping them involved in the move and helping them adjust to their new surroundings.
Have questions about choosing the best school district?
For most, starting a new school is rarely easy, but there are definitely things you can do ahead of time to make the adjustment a little more manageable for yourself and the kids. If you have questions about moving to a new city, or advice to share with others on choosing a school or helping kids adapt after a move, we would like to hear from you in the comments below!