Study up on schools
When parents learn they're relocating, finding the
right house is their main concern -- and that decision often rests
on where they find the best schools. There are a few places on the
Web that can give you a head start at narrowing your choices before
making a house-hunting trip.
Public school reports
Report headquartered in Fairfield, Conn., offers information
on school districts across the nation. It's limited to public schools
but it's free. You fill out some information about yourself, select
up to six school districts you're interested in and a real estate
agent in your new home target area will contact you. The agent will
send the report either through e-mail or snail mail.
Neil Rosen, president of The School Report, says parents
will get information on, among other things, average class size,
SAT and ACT average scores, student-teacher ratios, programs, languages
and clubs. The report also includes data on the number of seniors
who graduated, how many plan on attending four-year colleges, two-year
colleges, or plan to enter the armed forces. There's also a section
listing key school district personnel and their phone numbers.
"We empower parents. We don't do anything to rate,
rank or tell anybody what's better," says Rosen. "We give so much
information to let parents figure what's best for the family. They
have all the numbers to call the right person; it saves them a lot
Information in The School Report is gathered directly
from school districts and, while it may be accurate, there's always
the possibility some districts boost some numbers to look better.
Includes private schools, too
is another service that lets people check out schools. Executive
Vice President Dr. Steven Sundre says the Westerville, Ohio-based
business has reports on every public school in America, plus more
than 14,000 private schools and American schools overseas. Sundre
calls it the most comprehensive database -- "Even the U. S. Department
of Education relies on us for data," he says.
Sundre says the data isn't collected from school districts;
rather, it's gathered from third-party sources to which school systems
are legally or quasi-legally required to report -- state departments
of education, testing agencies and accrediting agencies.
"We present the information in an understandable format.
If you got a report and it said the average per pupil expenditure
at XYZ school is $6,033, you wouldn't know if that was good, bad,
in the middle or excessive because you don't have a range," says
Sundre. "We take the raw data and translate it into a national percentile.
So, if you see that per pupil spending is in the 93rd
percentile, you would conclude that's pretty good. If it were in
the 23rd percentile, you would want to look elsewhere."
SchoolMatch will cost you, but you can save a bundle
by ordering online -- approximately 50 percent. Depending on how
much information you want, report prices range from $19 to $97 when
ordered by phone (1-800-992-5323) to $10 to $68 for the same information
when ordered online.
In addition to those commercial sites, the U.S. Department
of Education's Web
site has a section on research and statistics that may be useful.
Also, keep in mind that many school districts and
individual schools have Web sites. While you're not likely to find
the bad and the ugly along with the good, you may find some worthwhile
information, including an idea of how the campus looks.
-- Posted: July 7, 2004