Top public schools: $400,000-$599,999

From Beltway burbs to lakefront towns, these top 10 cities offer families wonderful public schools and median home prices between $400K and $600K.

By GreatSchools Staff

Acton, Mass.

Acton, Mass.

Education quality score: 97.10
Median home price: $520,570
Population: 20,753

This little town's got history with a big H. The home of Isaac Davis, the bold militiaman who headed up the first attack on the British during the Revolutionary War, Acton enjoys its fair share of downtown New England picturesque. But the leafy Boston burb is no stranger to nature either — its parks include the Acton Arboretum, with 64 acres of gardens, orchards, and woods.

Acton's schools are highly regarded, and last year Acton Boxborough Regional High was recognized as a Blue Ribbon school. The district uses open enrollment to assign students to schools. Parents rank their school preferences, then enter a lottery that determines their ultimate placement. Lottery systems are used in many districts nationwide to ensure diversity and give all parents a chance to get their children into high-performing schools. But in Acton no matter where kids end up, every school has a stellar record and unique core philosophy. At the Merriam School, for example, teachers stress project-based learning and stay with the same group of students for two years at a time.

Kids seem to agree. One happy student at the Douglas School wrote in to GreatSchools with this glowing testimonial: "I'm a kid and I think Douglas is awesome! At my old school I didn't like to learn. Here I'm getting 100s on my tests! Choose this school, you'll love it!"

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Sammamish, Wash.

Sammamish, Wa.

Education quality score: 95.88
Median home price: $569,140
Population: 35,242

If Sammamish has its quirks, they're quirks worth learning about. Near Seattle but secluded on the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish, this town allows residents to reap the rewards of both rural and suburban lifestyles. Though it lacks a post office, Sammamish boasts a symphony orchestra and great schools in two districts, Lake Washington County School District (northern Sammamish) and Issaquah School District (southern Sammamish).

Sammamish-area schools are bursting with innovative programs. Last November, for example, the Green Team at Issaquah Middle School joined with MIT to investigate how garbage moves through cities. Lake Washington also runs 11 incredibly popular "choice schools" like the 90-student Renaissance School of Art and Reasoning, which focuses on the visual and performing arts.

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Southlake, Texas

Southlake, Texas

Education quality score: 95.21
Median home price: $464,480
Population: 26,224

This Fort Worth suburb is a small, affluent community with good schools and safe neighborhoods. Points of interest include Southlake Town Square, a high-end shopping mall that opened in 1999. Though Southlake is home to Travelocity, one the nation's largest travel agencies, many residents commute to work in the surrounding Dallas/Fort Worth metro area.

The citizens of Southlake take pride in their schools, all of which use an iconic green, white, and black "Carroll Dragon" mascot. Most of the schools are in the Carroll Independent School District, the largest district in Texas to earn an "exemplary" rating — and for good reason. Carroll Senior High School boasts a 0% dropout rate and 98% of its seniors go on to college, plus five schools in the district have been named Blue Ribbon schools. The district has eco-cred to recommend it too: One of its middle schools was recently awarded a $2 million grant to install solar panels.

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Severna Park, Md.

Education quality score: 94.57
Median home price: $488,540
Population: 28,385

Not even an official city, just a "census-designated place," Severna Park still ranks as one of the top places to find great public schools. A small community bordering the Chesapeake Bay, Severna Park is only an hour's drive from downtown Baltimore and its many amenities, not the least of which is the preeminent Johns Hopkins University.

This coastal hamlet's school district, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, has nine Blue Ribbon schools, and 82% of its graduates attend four-year colleges and universities. Beyond rigorous academics, Severna Park High School is also known for its music and theater programs, which organize an annual classic rock 'n' roll revival. Students at Severna Park High can also avail themselves of a sailing club that belongs to the Interscholastic Sailing Association.

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Madison, Conn.

Madison, Conn.

Education quality score: 94.24
Median home price: $440,490
Population: 18,793

Not far from New Haven, Madison is a coastal town and the site of the incredibly popular Hammonasset Beach State Park, which provides more than two miles of public beaches. Its historic downtown is home to a bookstore, restaurants, shops, and a century-old brick library, the E. C. Scranton Library. What's more, by limiting the development of franchises, community leaders work hard to maintain Madison's unique character.

Madison ranks third in Connecticut (after New Canaan and Darien) for student scores on the CMT and CAPT, two statewide standardized tests, and 94% of the class of 2009 went on to four-year colleges. But that's not all. In Madison, even the jocks are brainiacs: For the past three years, the girls' soccer team at Daniel Hand High School received the state's National Team Academic Award for a team GPA exceeding 3.25. Chalk it up to a tight-knit community and schools with high expectations and an abundance of opportunities.

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Bainbridge Island, Wash.

Education quality score: 93.54
Median home price: $526,970
Population: 21,854

A short ferry ride from Seattle, Bainbridge Island exudes rain-soaked Pacific Northwest charm and a certain amount of rustic splendor. Bainbridge residents work hard to preserve the open space and natural characteristics that define this increasingly affluent island community. And the fact that a city of this size can sustain two newspapers, the Bainbridge Island Review and the Kitsap Sun, seems like a throwback to a smarter, simpler time.

Bainbridge Island's schools rank high in part because three-quarters of the teachers have master's degrees and the schools get consistent backing from the area's enthusiastic citizens through their support of school bonds and taxes. Captain Charles Wilkes Elementary, home of "the whales," produces an online newsletter called Whale Watch to communicate news to parents.

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Lake Oswego, Ore.

Education quality score: 93.52
Median home price: $460,440
Population: 36,698

Portland's well-heeled cousin is home to some of Oregon's most expensive real estate, but stepping back from the lake, families can find somewhat more affordable homes. Once an iron town, the community of Lake Oswego now offers residents a stunning public space on the former Iron Company grounds: George Rogers Park.

With two gleaming Blue Ribbon high schools — Lakeridge and Lake Oswego, both remodeled in 2004 — Lake Oswego's school system churns out more than a few high-achieving students. The high schools offer 13 Advanced Placement courses and in 2009 between them graduated 12 National Merit finalists. Lakeridge High received a silver medal from U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best High Schools 2010."

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Brentwood, Tenn.

Brentwood, Tenn.

Education quality score: 92.17
Median home price: $496,440
Population: 35,058

Yet another wealthy suburb, this one hailing distance from Nashville, Brentwood offers its residents a bucolic lifestyle, with access to 600 acres of parks within city limits. Perhaps an indication of its educated populace, the city has one of the most trafficked public libraries in the state. Brentwood is also home to many of Nashville's musical elite, including Jack White of the White Stripes, Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, and Trisha Yearwood.

For those who can afford it, Brentwood does boast stellar schools, which rank among the highest in Tennessee. But their success goes beyond numbers alone: Nine of the elementary schools in Brentwood's district, Williamson County Schools, offer an innovative pre-kindergarten program designed to ease the entrance of at-risk kids into the area's kindergartens. The district staff is well educated too, with 55% holding master's degrees and another 4% PhDs.

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Arlington, Mass.

Arlington, Mass.

Education quality score: 91.76
Median home price: $484,740
Population: 41,015

Arlington is a city that occupies a unique place in U.S. history: Paul Revere traversed it in his legendary travels and 20 militiamen lost their lives there during the Revolutionary War. Today residents enjoy an easy New England lifestyle, with access to many parks, museums, and libraries and Boston just a short drive away.

Arlington Public Schools boasts schools that continue to perform year after year. One GreatSchools parent ventured this glowing review of Arlington High School: "Amazing kids, astounding music department, and incredibly caring teachers who do wonders in a building that needs a little TLC."

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Greenwood Village, Colo.

Greenwood Village, Co.

Education quality score: 91.68
Median home price:
$564,340
Population:
13,954

Just south of Denver, Greenwood Village is an appealing locale for parents looking to settle in the Mountain West. The community is educated and its economy robust enough for the suburb to serve as the headquarters of major companies like eBags, the Red Robin restaurant chain, and Western Union. It's the site of Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre (recently rechristened Comfort Dental Amphitheatre), the largest outdoor amphitheater in the area, and nearby Westlands Park sports soccer fields and playgrounds. And downtown Denver? Less than 15 miles away.

Greenwood Village's six elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools (in the Cherry Creek and Littleton school districts) smack of superlative achievements. Cherry Creek High School  is a national Blue Ribbon school that has received an "excellent" rating from the Colorado School Accountability Report, and the district as a whole received the highest possible accreditation rating ("accredited with distinction") from the state. Littleton High School, meanwhile, was designated as one of only eight U.S. "world-class schools" by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and has unique strengths in the performing arts.

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