5 Little-Known Factors That Influence the Quality of Schools in Your Neighborhood

Christa Baxter
Sep 07, 2023
Icon Time To Read3 min read
kids in computer lab

There are many resources to help you grade and select schools, but they may not tell the whole story. There are several lesser-known factors that can influence the quality of schools. Read on to learn about simple methods you can use to find the best schools in your new neighborhood.

1. Higher house prices can mean better schools

House prices are often higher in neighborhoods with better schools. It makes sense—people do research, find out where the best schools are, and move into those areas. More demand means the prices go up.

One study by Redfin suggests that the price increase can be as much as $50 per square foot for neighborhoods with high-quality schools. Fortunately, that doesn't mean you can't find a bargain. There are still areas with good schools and reasonable prices, but you might need to do a little more digging.

What you can do:

  1. Get school ratings for the locations that interest you.
  2. Look up the boundaries for each school.
  3. Find the average or median prices for homes in the school boundaries.
  4. Compare prices against the grades of the schools.
  5. Make a shortlist of neighborhoods and schools you want to research further.

2. Charter schools boost public school quality

As you’re researching, you’ll come across charter schools. These are independent schools where parents can choose to send their children, and they are often held to higher educational standards than regular public schools. There are over 6,000 charter schools in the country, and more than two million students attend them every year.

A combination of charter schools and more school choice has forced public schools to change their approach and raise their educational standards. This is good news for you, as charter schools in a neighborhood are a good indication of higher quality public schools.

What you can do:

  1. Search for charter schools in your area of choice.
  2. Compare the list with the map of public schools in the area.
  3. Make a shortlist of public schools in the same neighborhood or boundaries as charter schools.

3. The smaller the school, the better the quality

The number of students in the average school is five times what it was 50 years ago. As schools and campuses have grown, standards have tended to fall. Research shows that smaller schools are better than larger ones in almost every area.

According to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota, “Big campuses foster more alienation, drug use and risky behavior. Students often feel less attached to those campuses and less comfortable around peers and school staff."

It’s easy to see why smaller schools perform better: they provide more specialized activities and a better ratio of teachers to students, and their smaller size makes it easier for your children to get involved.

What you can do:

  1. Make a list of the schools that interest you, along with contact details.
  2. Visit each school’s website or give them a call.
  3. Find out how many students they have and the ratio of teachers to students.
  4. Make a shortlist of the smaller schools.

4. The view can change everything

You know you feel better when you’re outside appreciating a pleasant view, taking a walk through nature, and enjoying the weather. The same is true for students. There’s evidence that green space, good landscaping, and natural views lower stress levels and improve performance. In a study conducted by the University of Illinois, just being able to see nature through a window helped restore students’ attention and enhance concentration.

What you can do:

  1. You probably already have a shortlist of schools from some of the other steps in this guide.
  2. Visit the schools and ask to see some of the classrooms.
  3. Find out what schools have good landscaping and views of nature.

5. School distance matters

Choosing a school that’s close to your home and letting your children walk to school is great for their mental and physical health. Research from the University at Buffalo shows that walking to school and physical activity during recess reduce stress levels. It’s also good for their fitness (and yours as well, if you walk with them).

What you can do:

  1. When you’re planning where to buy, look for homes within a mile or two of the school.
  2. Use Google Maps to find safe walking routes your children can take.
  3. Walk your children to school so they can learn the route.
  4. If you have time, accompany them each day.

Once you’ve made your shortlists, visit your top choices. Even the best online research isn’t a substitute for seeing a school and finding out how the teachers and students interact. School quality isn’t just about grades. Talk to other parents and find out about extra-curricular activities, the attitude of the staff, and your children’s prospective peers.

Choosing a school is an important decision, but don’t let it stress you out. Remember these are just guidelines, and prioritizing what’s most important to you will make your search and decision more manageable. Spending some time on research, talking with your children, learning about the local area, and visiting prospective schools will all help you make the best choice.

Christa Baxter
Written by
Christa Baxter
Christa Baxter has worked as an editor for more than eight years and specialized in moving content for the last three. She leads the Move.org content team in producing whip-smart moving tips and recs. After relocating four times in the last calendar year, she’s got strong opinions about moving best practices. (Just don’t ever pull a Marie Kondo and suggest she whittle down her personal library.) She earned a BA and MA in English with a minor in editing.