Top education towns 2011: Median home prices $400,000-$599,999

From southeast Florida to northwest Washington (with a few stops in between), these U.S. cities offer upscale homes, plenty of green space, and top-of-the-line schools.

By GreatSchools Staff

Parkland, FL

Education quality score: 95.98
Median home value: $426,390
Population: 25,106

Parkland is a small, prosperous city located halfway between Miami and West Palm Beach. As its name suggests, Parkland boasts plenty of green space, which it protects with strict zoning laws. There are acres of parks, trails, and wilderness preserves, where visitors may catch a glimpse of a coyote, or even an alligator.

Parkland has managed to avoid the fast-food restaurants and big-box stores that cover so much of Florida, and takes pride in its small-town atmosphere. Its retail and business sections are clustered together village-style, welcoming bikers and pedestrians alike.

Kids in Parkland attend neighborhood schools in the Broward County school district. The district, which includes 230 traditional schools, 68 charter schools and one virtual school, routinely receives top marks from the Florida School Recognition Program, and boasts the state's first district-wide, anti-bullying program. Florida’s constitution mandates class size limits for all public schools. Up through third grade, classes cannot have more than 18 students, and even high school classes are limited to 25.

Westglades Middle School features state-of-the-art technology in its classrooms and labs, and offers a large number of advanced classes. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, named after the journalist and environmentalist who fought to protect the Everglades from development, has been repeatedly recognized by Newsweek as a top U.S. high school.

Learn more about schools in Parkland, FL.

Photo credit: Carl Mikoy

 

Southlake, TX

Education quality score: 95.74
Median home value: $476,880
Population: 26,297

This Fort Worth suburb is small, but mighty. Mighty pricey, that is. In 2008, Forbes named Southlake the U.S.'s most affluent neighborhood, with average household incomes topping $140,000. And whence comes much of the money? Plenty of residents commute to high-end jobs in the surrounding Dallas/Fort Worth metro area. Plus, Southlake is home to the mega online travel website, Travelocity.

Along with a generous offering of family-friendly parks and playgrounds and a stunningly low crime rate, Southlake is proud of its newly renovated town-square-cum-tony shopping center, Southlake Town Square, which draws visitors region-wide. But the town is especially proud of its schools — and of the Southlake Carroll Dragons football team — so much so all the district's schools share the "Carroll Dragon" mascot.

Most of the town's schools fall within the Carroll Independent School District, the largest district in the state to earn an "exemplary" rating from the Texas Education Agency — and for good reason. Carroll boasts a zero percent dropout rate and 98 percent of Carroll High School seniors go to college. Five of the district's schools were named Blue Ribbon schools by the U.S. Department of Education. The district has eco-cred to boot: One of its middle schools was recently awarded a $2 million grant to install solar panels.

Learn more about schools in Southlake, TX.

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Severna Park, MD

Education quality score: 93.22
Median home value: $417,090
Population: 28,841

Not quite an official city, but rather a "census-designated place," Severna Park ranks as one of the country's top spots to find quality public schools. A diminutive community bordering the Chesapeake Bay, Severna Park is just an hour's drive from downtown Baltimore and its many big city amenities, including the preeminent Johns Hopkins University.

This coastal hamlet's school district, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, has 10 Blue Ribbon schools, and 80 percent of its graduates attend a two or four-year college or university. District schools maintain an admirably low student-to-teacher ratio: Classes in six through eighth grade average 20 students; for high school classes, there are no more than 23 students.

Severna Park's elementary schools consistently rank amongst the state's highest on the Maryland School Assessments. Severna Park High Schoolis known for its rigorous academics, but it doesn't rest on its scholarly laurels. The high school has won 83 state athletic championships, and hosts its popular annual musical revue, "Rock N' Roll Revival." High school students can further round out their education by joining after school clubs that include everything from calculus to fly fishing to Amnesty International.

Learn more about schools in Severna Park. MD .

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Sammamish, WA

Education quality score: 92.78
Median home price: $519,060
Population: 41,916

Sammamish's name comes from two Native-American words: Samena (hunter), and mish (people). But people who find themselves in this pretty town don't need to hunt for quality schools and homes. Located conveniently near Seattle, but nicely secluded on Lake Sammamish's scenic eastern shore, residents get the best of rural and suburban perks.

Sammamish may not have a post office, but it does have a symphony orchestra - and stellar schools in two separate districts. Sammamish-area schools are bursting with innovative and award-winning programs: Over half the seniors at Skyline High School are enrolled in one or more International Baccalaureate (IB) classes, the Math Club placed first in the State Math Competition, and the cheerleading squad won recognition at the 2011 state championships. Eastlake High School, along with McAuliffe Elementary School and Mead Elementary School, were honored recently for “overall excellence” by the Washington State Board of Education.

Learn more about schools in Sammamish, WA

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Belmont, MA

Educational quality score: 90.90
Median home value: $551,920
Population: 23,217

This bucolic Boston suburb's streets are lined with stately mansions — thus its nickname, “the town of homes." Belmont has no end of verdant open space, and its schools offer a wealth of academic advantages.

Of all Belmont's schools — there are four elementary, one middle, and one high — Belmont High School is the district’s all-star, winning the 2009 gold medal from U.S.News & World Report, which also named it the country’s 100th-best non-private high school and Massachusetts’s second best. Belmont High, which provides a stunning 17 Advanced Placement courses, outstanding athletic departments, and a nationally recognized music program, was rated among the top 100 for public schools.

In Belmont, high expectations begin early. From elementary school on, students receive stellar test scores and high marks. These expectations include a tradition of community service for even the youngest residents: Kindergartens through 12th-grade students are expected to participate regularly in volunteer activities, from working in food banks to hosting relief fundraisers. Belmont adults set a good example: Parents and town organizations have a record of contributing money and time to improve local schools, although recently, hard times have fallen on this upscale town, with less support than usual from taxpayers.

Learn more about schools in Belmont, MA.

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Madison, CT

Educational quality score: 90.06
Median home price: $450,350
Population: 18,844

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

Madison ranks third in Connecticut (after New Canaan and Darien) for student scores on the CMT and CAPT, two statewide standardized tests. An admirable 94 percent of the 2009 class went on to four-year colleges, and the Robert Brown Middle School was tapped as a National Blue Ribbon School.

Wait, there's more! In Madison, even the jocks are brainiacs: For the past four years, the girls' soccer team at Daniel Hand High School received the state's National Team Academic Award for a team GPA exceeding 3.0. Chalk it up to a tight-knit community, schools with high expectations, and an abundance of opportunities.

Learn more about schools in Madison, CT.

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Syosset, NY

Educational quality score: 89.14
Median home price: $542,220
Population: 17,987

Neither town nor city, Syosset is an official hamlet. Sitting on Long Island's north shore, this small, wealthy enclave in Nassau County has a thriving retail, restaurant, and business district. Town residents have vigorously fought to retain its homey, small-town feel, successfully fending off the construction of an upscale mall.

Along with its charm, Syosset’s top-ranked school system proves a primary draw for young families. From elementary through high school, the schools consistently win national awards, and not just because of standardized test scores. The district boasts a 130-page course catalog, listing a robust selection of unique classes for kids from kindergarten on. World languages are a top priority, and even the youngest students get to sample different tongues to see which they want to pursue: Kindergartners take Russian; first graders are introduced to Chinese; and second, third, and fourth graders can choose from Spanish, French, and Italian. Latin begins in fifth grade, and high schoolers can study any of those languages as well as Japanese and American Sign Language.

The school's arts program is unrivaled. The district has set up extensive partnerships with New York City museums and art organizations. Aspiring Syosset singers get one-on-one vocal lessons at the Metropolitan Opera and teachers get training at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. The district is also listed in the country's top 100 schools for its music program. The results of all this training aren't surprising, but still impressive: 99 percent of graduates continue on to college, many heading to the Ivies and other top-ranking schools.

Learn more about schools in Syosset, NY
 

Westwood, MA

Education quality score: 88.98
Median home price: $516, 280
Population: 14,050

Norman Rockwell would have felt right at home in this scenic New England town. It’s no wonder Westwood attracts so many families yearning for a relaxed small-town life with an easy commute – via two commuter rail lines – to Boston, a mere 12 miles away.

Westwood also maintains a strong commitment to education. Last year, the independently-run Westwood Educational Foundation awarded the top-notch school system nearly $78,000 in grants – funding everything from spelling bees to math contests. The school district consists of five elementary schools, Edmund W. Thurston Middle School, and state-of-the-art Westwood High School, which was recently rebuilt for a cool $45 million. Year after year, Westwood students score in the top percentiles on national reading and math tests, and an overwhelming majority of high school graduates matriculate to college. But it’s not all work in Westwood: The town has an embarrassment of recreational areas, nature preserves, playgrounds, and ball fields. The downside to all this upside: Like many of the towns featured here, Westwood lacks diversity, its population is 95 percent white.

Learn more about schools in Westwood, MA

Photo credit: Elizabeth Thomsen

Lexington, MA

Education quality score: 87.70
Median home: $581,330
Population: 30,325

A mere scone’s throw from Boston (12 miles northwest), Lexington is a small metropolis with a plentitude of high-tech industries that keep the local job market thriving. It’s also rich in U.S. history: the Battles of Lexington and Concord, where the American Revolution’s first shots were fired, took place here. Most of the town’s children — 93 percent to be precise — attend the excellent public schools.

With a population of 2,000, Lexington High School is large but manages to sustain an outstanding academic reputation: Students choose from a wide array of college prep courses, extracurricular activities, and interscholastic sports. In the spirit of giving back, each pupil must put in 40 hours of community service.

Learn more about schools in Lexington, MA.
 

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Greenwood Village, CO

Education quality score: 87.55
Median home price: $552,020
Population: 13.762

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 — Greenwood Village is headquarters for major companies including eBags, the Red Robin restaurant chain, and Western Union. It's the site of Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre (recently rechristened Comfort Dental Amphitheatre), the area's largest outdoor amphitheater, and nearby Westlands Park, which features soccer fields and playgrounds. And downtown Denver is 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) pride themselves on their superlative achievements. Thirteen Cherry Creek schools and five Littleton schools received the Colorado Department of Education’s “John Irwin Award,” which recognizes the top eight percent of schools that demonstrate the highest achievement on statewide assessments. Meanwhile, schools in the Littleton district, nationally recognized for its Inspired Writing program, typically score 15 percentage points higher than the state average on standardized tests. Littleton High School's class of 2009 was awarded nearly $30 million in college scholarships, and in 2011 eight district seniors were named National Merit Finalists.

Learn more about schools in Greenwood Village, CO.

Photo credit:Metro Denver