Inbox: Where to Live Based on the Quality of Seattle Public Schools?

I’ve been having a dialog with one of my readers who is looking forward to moving to Seattle. His last email summarized some of the research he has done on Seattle schools, and I thought the entire email is so good that it deserved a wider audience:

Dear Anna —

I’ve got another issue you might want to explore on your blog, and get readers’ feedback. Do people looking to buy real estate in Seattle base their choice of neighborhoods on the quality of schools? From my understanding of the Seattle public school system, it seems that one does not need to consider high schools among ones neighborhood selection criteria, since at least in term’s of today’s system, there’s no admission advantage (other than just being close) that accrues to living in the “reference area” of ones preferred high school. However, there does appear to be an advantage to living in the reference area of ones preferred elementary and junior high schools. And if budget cuts ultimately mean cutbacks in school choice (though that has been averted for the time being), then it’s likely that it will be even more important. So, what this means is that if school quality is important to you, you should look at the neighborhood elementary and junior high schools.

However, if one looks at the Seattle city schools in comparison to suburban schools in terms of grade scores (as tabulated by the Seattle Times School Guide), quite a few elementary schools (e.g., Lowell, View Ridge, Wedgwood, Hay, Lawton, North Beach, Whittier, etc.) compete with the best suburban schools (Mercer Island, Bainbridge Island, etc.). However, at the junior high school level, all but a few junior high schools (Eckstein, Tops, Washington) fall out of step with the best suburban schools. And at the high school level, only the Center School ranks with schools on Bainbridge, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Issaquah and the Northshore. The obvious conclusion, then, is that if you seek top notch schooling in the upper grades, your choice comes down to having your child compete for a place at a few select Seattle city public junior highs or high schools, or else looking at private schools, or moving to the suburbs.

What do you think of this analysis? What other school related-factors are there to consider?

I hope you don’t see this as too self-serving. It strikes me as it is a fundamental part of buying real estate, but is rarely fleshed out in public, probably because of the hot-button racial issues involved.

(I’ve left the writer of this email anonymous at his request)

When he asks if any other factors should be considered, I think of some of the specialty programs that different schools offer. For example, all of the 5th grade students at Greenwood Elementary School are taught how to fly airplanes (Cessna 172’s). I imagine that some parents would be willing to give up a few test score points to know that their child was in a more stimulating environment.

What other specialty programs are there that might be of interest to parents moving to Seattle?

What other school-related factors should he consider in looking for a home in Seattle?

I would definitely like to open up his questions to other readers, so please feel free to leave comments below.

2 thoughts on “Inbox: Where to Live Based on the Quality of Seattle Public Schools?

  1. I am on your blog trying to find out what to do, myself. Because of the economy, we have to lease out our house in South Orange County -Calif.
    Which leaves us with having to rent when we move to Seattle. I have found only two elementary schools and one high school that I feel comfortable with our children going to. (Our children are in accelerated classes with arts enrichment.) I am trying to figure this all out by looking at maps and rental sights. My head is spinning.

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