Best cities: $100,000-$199,999

From northern boomtowns to modernized Quaker townships, these top 10 cities offer families excellent public schools and median home prices between $100K and $200K.

By GreatSchools Staff

Mason, Ohio

Mason, Ohio

Education quality score: 96.56
Median home price: $189,500
Population: 29,555

George Clooney is the native son of this fast-growing Cincinnati suburb, which ranked on CNN Money’s “Top Places to Live in the United States” in 2010. Residents enjoy small-town life with some state-of-the-art attractions — including the Lindner Family Tennis Center, two water parks, and Kings Island theme park (voted “best kids' area” in the United States for nine consecutive years by Amusement Today). A family town with 67.5% of its households containing married couples, Mason boasts a school district that earns a perfect score every year on its Ohio Report Card. Classrooms are new and up-to-date, with 4,600 computers in the district — one for every 2.6 students.

William Mason High School excels in multiple arenas. Although it spends $1,901 less per pupil, it is one of Ohio’s Academic Top Ten and a silver medalist on Newsweek’s list of the top public high schools nationwide. How does it do more with less? Enthusiastic student involvement may play a role. Students have reached state championships in numerous areas including the math team, debate team, girls’ basketball, and girls’ track team. The school newspaper and wind symphony are also among the state’s best. Graduating students have entered every Ivy League school and received athletic scholarships in a dozen sports. Contributing heavily to the success is a young, highly motivated faculty that includes two Ohio Social Studies Teachers of the Year.

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Fishers, Ind.

Fishers, Ind.

Education quality score: 95.89
Median home price: $183,800
Population: 66,080

Located 20 miles from Indianapolis, Fishers is a small town whose population has exploded sixfold in the past decade. BusinessWeek named Fishers the “most affordable suburb” in 2010, while Money magazine ranked it as the country’s “10th best place to live” in 2008. Amusements include 17 parks, a Renaissance Faire, and community theater with family-friendly shows. There’s a private pre-K-8 Islamic school, Eman, with an on-site mosque, Arabic language classes, and a strict dress code. But the primary lure attracting new residents are the 18 public schools in its district, Hamilton Southeastern Schools — every one of which has a GreatSchools perfect-10 score.

With more than 95% of its graduates aiming for a college education, Fishers High School is one of the country's top-performing high schools. In addition to high academic standards, it offers a character education program and small classes — a commendable goal when you’re the fastest-growing school district in Indiana. The high school also excels in extracurricular activities, with state-contending teams in Quiz Bowl, Spell Bowl, Destination ImagiNation, cross-country running, rugby, cheerleading and dance, and percussion ensemble.

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Fort Thomas, Ky.

Education quality score: 94.22
Median home price: $176,960
Population: 15,298

Is it something in the water? Our lists contain numerous schools on the Ohio River, and Fort Thomas is one of the most impressive. Built on “dark and bloody ground” where Cherokees battled Shawnee and Miami warriors, Fort Thomas has emerged with an athletic record that's as famous in Kentucky as Man o’ War. Highlands High School has won 18 football state championships, and the girls are equally tough, raking in six state titles in cross-country, two in soccer, and two in track.

Academically, the district also dominates. For 15 consecutive years, Fort Thomas has been the highest-ranked K-12 school system in Kentucky. Students average 606/613 on their SATs, 100 points higher than the national average. Parents get high marks for their involvement as well, and 63.8% of the teachers have master’s degrees. Recent success is owed to the young superintendent, John Williamson — his resume includes four master's and an award for Kentucky English Teacher of the Year. He’s currently promoting health: After losing 55 pounds, he set about improving the district’s cafeteria nutrition and began offering classes in exercise science, herb gardening, and dance.

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Allison Park, Penn.

Allison Park, Penn.

Education quality score: 94.07
Median home price: $169,860
Population: 23,395

This Pittsburgh suburb in heavily forested Allegheny County boasts a microscopic 10.9-1 student-teacher ratio in its school district, with resulting success: All five public schools are top-ranked by GreatSchools with 10s. Hampton Middle School has a mountain biking class, and Hampton High School has a program for gifted learners, plus 29 sports teams and clubs, including disc golf, in-line hockey, and ultimate Frisbee. Superintendent John Hoover told GreatSchools that the Rigor, Relevance, and Relationship (RR&R) framework was introduced at the high school this year “to provide not only a very challenging curriculum, but one that is relevant and meaningful in the 21st century.”

Ranked in the top 3% nationwide by U.S. News & World Report and the top 5% nationwide by Newsweek, Hampton High also deserves praise for the 40 hours of community service required of all students prior to graduation. Its eccentric mascot “Talbot,” a large, medieval, now-extinct hunting dog that was snow-white in color, matches its demographics: 97.66% white, a lopsided percentile typical of every town on this $100K-200K list.

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Cleveland, Ohio

North Royalton, Ohio

Education quality score: 92.54
Median home price: $199,720
Population: 29,373

Oompah-pah! Oompah-pah! The marching band at North Royalton High School is one of the best in Ohio: It has trumpeted at the Rose Bowl and Indianapolis 500, with between 250 and 400 students enrolled in its ranks annually. Band leader Marty Lydecker is retiring soon, after 36 years of waving his baton. Five choirs also chime here in this suburb near Cleveland. With small-town amenities like an old hardware store, tailor shops, and a shoe repair shop, North Royalton also boasts great outdoor space including a new 15-acre park with walking trails, a community garden, and natural springs in the heart of town. 

Academically, North Royalton makes the best of good teachers and high parent involvement to achieve two 10s and three 9s among its schools, with 90% of its graduates entering college.

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Westfield, Ind.

Westfield, Ind.

Education quality score: 90.31
Median home price: $150,090
Population: 20,459

Founded by Quakers in 1834, this Indianapolis suburb was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Nowadays that liberating activity is celebrated at the annual dance/footrace/health fair fundraiser at Westfield High School, which devotes a third of the proceeds to teachers for "innovative class enrichment" — with the remainder set aside for college scholarships.

Active PTOs have helped three elementary schools achieve four-star Ohio ratings, and the middle and high school both earn 10s from GreatSchools. A parent survey on the district's website indicates that 94% of parents believe teachers are "caring and professional" and that 94% are "satisfied or very satisfied" with their child's school.

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Noblesville, Ind.

Noblesville, Ind.

Education quality score: 90.22
Median home price: $157,110
Population: 41,561

Home of Verizon, this fast-growing town has been named "best buy" for 10 straight years by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Geeks thrive at Noblesville High School thanks to teachers who integrate technology, 800 computers, three engineering classes, an upcoming aerospace course, distance learning studios, and a Project Lead the Way program that offers college credit. In addition to the perfect-10 high school (which also features a healthy athletic department), Noblesville has four elementary schools that are rated 10 and two middle schools that are 9s on GreatSchools.

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Plainfield, Ind.

Education quality score: 90.18
Median home price: $136,430
Population: 25,739

Seeking a town with community values? This Indianapolis suburb incorporates high-minded goals into its calendar!

Based on a citywide survey, school superintendent Jerry Holifield instituted the calendar of values in 1991 with extensive civic support. Every month focuses on a specific virtue — for example, April is "respect for the environment" and May is "integrity" — publicized via posters in businesses around town. Named for the "plain" clothes of the Society of Friends, Plainfield continues the traditional Quaker values of its early inhabitants.

But don't be fooled by the high school’s pacifistic mascot, “The Quaker.” Sports are tough at Plainfield High — the boys’ basketball squad won the state championship in 1999 — and academics are even more competitive. Plainfield is the only Indiana school district in which all public schools earned four stars two years in a row, and GreatSchools rates them all 10 or 9.

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Morton, Ill.

Education quality score: 89.70
Median home price: $161,750
Population: 16,007

Welcome to the "pumpkin capital of the world." This tiny town in the rural heart of Illinois produces 85% of the world's canned pumpkins, plus an annual Pumpkin Festival attended by 100,000. The hardworking community (many German and Swiss Mennonites arrived in the 1870s) has also created a golden school district where more than 50% of the teachers have master's degrees.

Morton High School is rated 10 by GreatSchools, with 85% of its graduates continuing on to college, an excellent girls' track team, teachers described on our website as "compassionate" and "good communicators," and an award-winning band that marched in Barack Obama's inaugural parade. Every other school in the district is a 10 or a 9. Ethnically, it's extremely homogenous: 97.87% white.

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Bethel Park, Pa.

Bethel Park, Pa.

Education quality score: 89.16
Median home price: $147,820
Population: 31,700

A leafy Pittsburgh burb with a crime rate only one-fifth of the national average and a self-supporting volunteer fire company, Bethel Park is geared for family fun. Community trivia contests are the town’s big fundraisers — brains bring in the bucks here.

GreatSchools awards a 10 to both Independence Middle School and Bethel Park High School. The latter boasts an 80-acre collegiate-style campus, 10 Advanced Placement classes, trips every other year to a sister city in China, SAT scores 55 points higher than the national average, a new technologies center, and outstanding sports and music programs.

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