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Four Tips to Finding the Right School for Kids

Zillow • Aug 27, 2014 at 3:13 PM

By S.E. Slack

Moving to a new place and need to find the right school for your kids? It’s a tough task. Ask 10 parents about the same school and you’ll get 10 different answers. Here are four tips to finding the best educational fit for your children.

Online school rating sites can be quite helpful. School rating sites, such as Schooldigger.com and GreatSchools, can help you easily compare test scores by city and state. You can also find information about the school districts available to you. Sites like these also give you a snapshot of student diversity, community ratings and typical enrollment numbers.

Watch, however, for an abundance of high or low ratings. Lots of high ratings could mean an online campaign has been waged by the school to improve a site’s rating; large numbers of low ratings could be a campaign by just a few disgruntled parents.

If you’re looking for a home out of state and can’t check a school out personally, try looking for a Facebook page related to the school. Houston, for example, has hundreds of schools. Crockett Elementary, right in the heart of Space City, has a parent-teacher organization page that newcomers can read and post to as they look for information. One parent found that a great way to connect with others as her move approached and she was able to set up playdates for her children to help them feel welcomed to the neighborhood.

If online searching and socializing isn’t for you, give school principals a direct call. Ask why their school should be your choice, request references from parents and find out what the school’s biggest accomplishment is. Ask about security and safety procedures, too. Some principals will not have time to take your call while others will happily share details about their school and why your children should attend. Contacting the district superintendent, too, can often help answer questions you might have as you weed through various school options.

Finally, listen to your intuition. Test scores don’t necessarily reflect the quality of a school; some schools teach specifically to statewide testing while others take a more hands-off approach, such as a Montessori-based curriculum. However, just because a school has a certain curriculum or approach doesn’t mean it’s better than another. A good real estate agent can help you find other parents in the area to talk with so you can make a well-informed decision before you move.

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