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Top 10 cities to live and learn 2011

From an island retreat to mid-western hamlet, our top 10 cities may not resemble one another at first glance. But each offers residents a priceless amenity: extraordinary public schools.

By GreatSchools Staff

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Falmouth, ME

Education quality score: 100.00
Median home value: $351,550
Population: 10,669

This quintessential New England coastal town may seem eerily familiar. Schooners aplenty and breathtaking beaches (and bracingly cold water) attract the eye – but your sense of déjà vu is courtesy of Stephen King, who set more than a few scenes in this quiet hamlet near his hometown of Portland. Horror, however, is not this town’s biggest claim to fame. Falmouth's got serious education chops, consistently outperforming state and national averages in achievement and earning the only perfect score on the educational quality index. The low student-teacher ratio (12:1), a generous dollars-per-pupil spend of $10,075, and a highly-educated staff (more than 60 percent of teachers have at least a master’s degree), add up to an all-star student body.

Last year, 90 percent of the high school’s graduates went to four-year colleges, including Ivy League and other highly selective schools. Recently visited by an accreditation committee, Falmouth High School earned kudos for its mission and academic results. The high school “takes the business of preparing students academically, emotionally, and socially very seriously,” the committee reported. To wit, every student must complete 30 hours of community service and present a senior discovery portfolio including student work, a copy of a college application, a resume, and copy of a current CPR card to graduate.

Learn more about schools in Falmouth, ME.

Photo credit: InAweofGod'sCreation

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

05/24/2011:
"600-700 students is small. We have 1100+ in some K-5 St Johns, Fl Schools and still manage to be an A+ district."
05/19/2011:
"I am currently in High School in the Carroll school district, and I will say that the district is far behind when it comes to technology. They might have enough money to spend on computers and interactive whiteboards, but the teachers seem very uneducated for the most part. In the past couple of weeks there have been lots of network issues. Aside from the old computers, the computer programming classes teach old languages that are rarely used these days. Also, I should point out that students aren't allowed to use any electronic devices of their own, this includes a laptop to type a paper, e-book readers, and music players. I'm not sure if my expectations are too high, but I personally could be a lot more productive with a laptop at school, and I feel that the IT staff break more than they fix. It would be better to let students run some of the servers, like my friends do at other high schools."
05/3/2011:
"My only issue is that not one of these communities is a real CITY. Please change the name of your article to reflect the SUBURBAN nature of your choices (even 36K is not a city!). Perhaps the organization's name should be GREATSUBURBANSCHOOLS.org since you had to rule out many rural and urban schools. I would love to see a real assessment of great city schools."
05/2/2011:
"We have 3 children Southlake schools and the programs are wonderful. The parents are very involved and I don't know any who have a nanny. We love it here!"
04/27/2011:
"I can't speak for all, but I can tell you Manhattan Beach is not a small system. With a population of 36,000 and 5 elementary schools. The two elementary schools listed both have well over 600 students K-5."
04/27/2011:
"Responding to comment on small size of communities or schools listed. I can't speak for all, but I can say Manhattan Beach population is 36,000. NOT a small town. Pacific School has over 600 students K-5. Grandview has over 700 students K-5. Great schools and great kids overall!"
04/27/2011:
"I live near Southlake... and I work near Southlake. I know many who have worked in Southlake. The parents can't parent--they have nannies do it all for them. My suspicion is that the drop-out rate is probably hidden, or that it has to do with the generously high income of the parents, or both. But I'll tell you... those students sure are brats!"
04/27/2011:
"I notice all of these are very small systems...which probably means a limited number of problem kids. None of these are over a population of 25,000 people and so their school systems are very small."
04/26/2011:
"Where is the list???"
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