At some point as we get older where we live suddenly is no longer about the character of the neighborhood, the proximity to great social activities like pubs, restaurants, and culture but instead becomes all about the quality of the school district. I mean you still want a nice house in a nice neighborhood, it is just more important that that nice house and neighborhood are in a great school district.

I all of a sudden find myself hitting this point in my life. My husband and I currently live in one of the best (actually I think it might be the best) school district in Missouri (we moved here before school district was even a thought for us). The catch is that we live in a one bedroom condo and anything bigger in this area is prohibitively expensive. So we find ourselves in the position of having to find another good school district that also has homes in the area that are at least some what reasonably priced.

What I have found as I search the real estate listing and research school districts is that you definitely pay a premium to live in what is considered a great school district. A good school district, however, seems to offer all the benefits of a great school district but with homes that are affordable.

So what is the difference between a great school district and a good school district? Can you really accurately rate a school’s performance? Does a good school district become a great school district just simply because the taxes on those prohibitively expensive homes are so high that the school board has more money than they know what to do with? Are the teachers in a great school district really any better than those in a good school district?

I want my children to go to a school that values academics and giving a child the environment they need to grow and learn. A school where the arts and english are valued as highly as math and science. And a school where tolerance and acceptance of others is encouraged and demonstrated. If a good school district offers all those things I am looking for, than to me it IS a great school district.

There is more to finding a home for your family than just school district, I think we tend to lose sight of that. Just as important as where your child will go to school is where your child will play, and what recreational and cultural activities are available close by. A child learns and grows by playing, making friends, going to school, and being loved and encouraged by his parents. Finding a nice home in a nice neighborhood that offers all of these things, plus good schools will make it a great place for your child to grow up.

And so my search for just that begins (or rather continues).

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12 Responses to It’s About More Than A Great School District

  • Having just gone through this experience I can share that where you live plays a very big impact on everything. Gratefully, we landed in the perfect solution area for us from school to friends to recreation. Good luck!

    Holly’s Corner
    (Here via the carnival of family life.)

  • This post really struck a chord with me. Our family has been involved in ongoing conversations about “where to live” for a couple of years and it takes so much effort!

    We are very concerned about school district quality, and we live in a rural area, but on a lake. We’re so unwilling to give up our lake home, but we’re concerned the district doesn’t challenge our kids enough. And sometimes it seems that our kids don’t really fit in. Their experiences are much more cosmopolitan than those of their classmates.

    A move to a “great” district would require a job change for my husband (minor detail), and it would require us to live not on a lake.

    It is a big question and an important conversation.

    Best wishes to you!

  • Mike says:

    It gets even more tricky to pick a good school district when you consider that different districts have different specialties. I grew up in a large city with very mixed income classes. Within the same exact high school, you could see a huge difference in the teachers that taught the honors classes than the regular or remedial classes.

    And it showed in the test scores, the “smart” kids were really smart and the rest did not do nearly as well.

    And how do you know where your kids will end up when you try to pick a school when they are young.

  • kailani says:

    I am currently going through this debate with myself. We live in a newer part of an older neighborhood that does not have a good school system. In fact, there was a planned drive-by shooting at the nearby high school last month. We will try to get a district exemption to a better school but if we can’t, then we may have to move.

    Here via Carnival of Family Life.

  • I agree. When we have bought our last two homes (in different states), we did look at schools, because we thought it would matter then (but we moved right before she started school), and so we knew it would matter now. We’re in a good district, but what I’ve found from talking to others around, is that our elementary school is really great. The teachers seem to have a respect for their jobs and for the school and teachers. I love it, but I don’t know if I could have predicted that, unless you actually want to go to the schools and talk to the teachers or parents and see why they like it so much.

    Good luck.

  • Lisa Mitchell says:

    Thanks for sharing your comments and experiences. It seems to be an ongoing struggle to balance all the needs of the family, including good schools.

  • Homeschooling is a wonderful alternative, and you don’t have to worry about school districts (except for those property values…). :-)

  • Mike says:

    As a high school English teacher, I have a thought or two on this topic. Primarily, be concerned that the district provides the best possible opportunity for students to learn. Test scores or state ranking may or may not reveal anything about this.

    Find a district where football (and programs that support it) are not the primary reason for the existance of the district.

    Find a district that recognizes that students and parents bear at least 50% of the responsibility for a student’s education. If all a principal can talk about is diversity, social justice, tolerance, etc., you’ve probably not found such a school.

    Ultimately, the trick is to find a school where genuine American values such as personal responsibility, hard work, honesty, reliability and integrity matter. If these values are in play, your child will likely have the opportunity to get a fine education. The rest will be up to your child, and you.

  • Rory says:

    The difference between a good school district and a great school district is the students… not the schools.

  • Thanks for the great suggestions Mike.

  • You are very right Rory. The students make all the difference.

  • Polski3 says:

    I might add, check to see if the district administration and school board are dictators or if they allow their teachers to use approved materials the teacher believes and can demonstrate, are best for their students (as opposed to canned programs like Open Court or some of the math programs).

    Also, are the teachers and board constantly fighting over the teachers contract? Or, are state-allocated COLA’s routinely added to the teachers salary ? Are the teachers in the district happy to be there? Or are they generally not happy because of the way they are treated/regarded by district administration and the board?

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