Why is it smart to size up the schools before your first home?
When you buy a home, you also buy into the area schools. So, wether you have children or not, be sure to keep your home's resale value in mind. Families will often spend thousands of dollars more for a home located in a better school district.
- Start with statistics
Typically the best place to start is with research that relies heavily on statistics like test scores, high school graduation and college attendance rates, student-teacher ratios and spending per pupil. This data can give a snapshot of the condition of a school or school district over the recent past. Ask your real estate agent, informed friends and school-finding services.
- Visit, walk-through, ask
If you have children and want to find out what the schools will be like for them, you need to visit the schools and see how well they are run, how ancient or modern are the buildings, and how well equipped they are. Pay attention to class size and teacher workload and whether enrichment courses are offered. You also need to talk to school staff to see what problems exist or are looming ahead. Budget cuts, a demographic shift in the area or local development that overwhelms schools with new students -- all can change the quality of schools.
- Decide for yourself
Even if the schools are the best in the state, you should look for what is best for your children. Some youngsters need a small, quiet school where individual efforts are rewarded, others thrive in a large, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Or your children may need personal attention to help cope with special learning styles.