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Going to schoolThere are a few things that make or break your decision on a new house, and the quality of nearby schools is a major one. We all want our children to have the best opportunities, and there’s a wide disparity between the quality of public schools in our country.

So how can you ensure that you’re getting good information about the local schools? Here’s a handy guide:

Data Is Available Online

Ever since “No Child Left Behind” came into effect, schools and school districts have been required to make certain data available publicly. The required data revolves around testing scores. Each State Education Department publishes these separately, so you’ll need to do an online search in order to find the “report card” for your state.

Many states have additional information available, such as class size, special awards and distinctions, and absentee rates. However, it’s important to not rely too heavily on numbers. Testing scores aren’t always a good reflection of the quality of education available. You might want to look closer at the teacher-to-student ratios, the rate of employee turnover, delinquency rates of students, and additional information about their electives such as art, music, and sports.

Take a Tour

The best way to get a read on a school is just to be there. Call the school and schedule a tour, where you can get a feeling of the environment. Look for student work on display, get an idea of the mood and cooperation amongst the administrative staff, and look at how the teachers and students interact.

Talk to Your Neighbors

Alright, so you’ve only just met them, and so it’s hard to tell whether or not you can trust their opinions, but the people who live around you will have the best information about the quality of the local schools.

In order to get a glimpse behind the scenes, you can also attend PTA meetings, or school board meetings, where you’ll see the issues that are most under discussion, and how involved the community is with the education of their youth.

Double-Check District Lines

School boundaries are sometimes confusing. Often, you can live in the city that the school is named after, but not technically be within the school’s boundaries. In order to confirm your child’s eligibility, call up the local school district and give them your address.

Don’t Discount Alternative School Options

With all the funding issues and ups and downs of the public school system, it’s important to remember that public schooling might not be the way to go for your child. Look into religious institutions, private schools, and charter options close by. Get an idea of tuition. Sometimes, choosing a better price for your home and paying more for alternative education options is worth it!