Researching New Schools Online

Doing Online Research Before You Move

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 You probably already know what the number one factor that will most likely determine where your child will attend school:  Where you live.  If you are moving to a new area, where your new home is located will be the main factor in where your child goes to school.  Want to make sure your child goes to a good school?  Then you will need to check out the schools in the potential places you are moving to.

Local Newspaper - do an internet search to find the online version of the local newspaper for any potential community you are considering.  Local newspapers are full of information that will tell you a lot about the schools.  You can read up on articles covering school board politics, any state or local legislative issues that may affect local schools as well as local interest pieces that often showcase events taking place in the schools.  This is a great way to find out about the character of a school from a distance, before you may get a chance to visit in person.

National Center for Education Statistics  Find out the size of a school, student to teacher ratios, number of students, whether a school is located in a city, suburb or rural school, race and ethnographic information.  

GreatSchools.org - This website is run by a national nonprofit.  There are tools to make comparisons between school and look up standardized test scores.

 There are convenient links to real estate listings if you find a school that looks appealing to you.  Parents and community members can provide reviews of schools, giving you a glimpse of what people who feel strongly enough to provide a review of the school think of the school.  

Schooldigger.com This site provides tables of data gleaned from the Nationa Center for Education Statistics and various state departments of education to provide rankings of best and worst schools.

 The data relies heavily on test scores, which provide only part of the picture of what a school is all about.  Still, this is a great site to see how well a school is meeting the needs of its students.  You can also see how a schools rank has changed from previous years, letting you know if a school is working on improving or may have recently faced a new challenge that dropped test scores.

School Reports from Homefair.com  This site also gleans information from other sites to provide you a compilation of information to help you learn about schools.  This site provides street addresses, GreatSchools ranking, number of students and faculty, information about extracurricular activities, as well as start and end dates.  The amount of information for different areas can vary on this site, as some areas have much more information available on this site than other areas.

School and District Websites - With all of the web sites reporting on schools and districts, it is easy to forget to check the websites for schools or districts themselves.

 Once your list is narrowed down, make sure to check the local sites!  The school and local district websites not only offer you a wealth of statistical information, but can also tell you a lot about a school and local district without making an in person visit to the school.  School districts are required to make test data available to the public, and most do so through their websites.  You can also often find information about extracurricular, pictures of the schools, discipline policies, curriculum guidelines, school supply lists, and any unique information about what is expected of students.  For example, while researching schools across the nation, I noticed many elementary schools will have lists of words for each grade that children are expected to read by sight or be able to spell.  These lists shared many of the same words, but each has been just a little different.  Having this list before a move could help you prepare your child before the move.

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