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By GreatSchools Staff
If the key to prime real estate is location, location, location, then the foundation of an exceptional education may be community, community, community.
“The secret to our success has to do with the parents and the community,” says Williamson of Fort Thomas, echoing every other superintendent interviewed for this story. With a median home price of just $176,960, Fort Thomas is a far cry from the verdant Massachusetts suburbs. But, says Williamson, an intensely committed parent body — the first line of fire when it comes to supporting a school — makes all the difference. So too does greater community involvement, like Fort Thomas’s dynamic partnerships with Western Kentucky University, Thomas Moore College, and the Cincinnati Ballet.
For some cities, community support happens in the voter booth: In Mesa, Ariz., residents consistently support their schools by passing educational bonds and taxes in local elections. “Education is a commodity everyone here values,” explains Mesa’s superintendent, Michael Cowan.
However, community support is not something you can simply purchase with high taxes or university partnerships. From parent involvement to committed teachers, an abiding focus on education suffuses the character of these cities.
In the end, the Utt-Grubbs chose Cary not only for its great schools but also its educational culture: three large universities; more PhDs than anywhere else in the nation; and Research Triangle Park, the country’s largest high-tech research park.
Granted, the family doesn’t own their home. They’re leasing for now, trading in one American dream (owning a home) for another (a bright future for their kids). But their gamble seems to be paying off. Sam landed a job as a wireless engineer with Verizon, and Kelly runs her creative media company from home. Perhaps even more important, 9-year-old Andrew and 7-year-old Christopher love their school, Carpenter Elementary.
What really matters when it comes to finding the right city to bring up your kids? That’s for you (and every other parent) to decide. But the Utt-Grubbs' story offers living proof that sometimes you can have it all.
So how do you find the proverbial needle in the educational haystack? Our study of some 18,000 U.S. cities identifies the top places nationwide with the best public school districts by population (small, midsize, and large cities) and median home price (under $100K, $100K-199K, $200K-399K, $400K-599K, $600K-799K, and $800K or more).
We eliminated cities with fewer than five public schools and 10,000 people, and — for all but the largest cities in the country — those with too high an unemployment rate. School ratings are based on a combination of GreatSchools ratings and National Assessment of Educational Progress data.
For more information, check out our methodology for choosing the best districts.
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