For homebuyers with children school districts are often a deciding factor in purchasing homes. Not to mention the fact that even with children out of the picture school districting can drastically affect a home’s market value. These are of course commonly known things, so it comes with no surprise that all major real estate websites (trulia, realtor.com, Zillow, etc…) provide information on school district lines and the quality of schools in the area. Some of these sites, such as realtor.com, even allow you to search for listings specifically based off school district. With this in mind the question arises, where do these sites get their “school quality” data, and just how trustworthy is this information?
Unsurprisingly all major real estate sites get their school data from the leading resource on school district information, GreatSchools.org. GreatSchools averages over 30,000 unique visits a day and has, for all intents and purposes, created a monopoly in the school information sphere online. The site has done this by fostering a wealth of knowledge on schooling, and even more importantly, by citing reliable data on the quality of over 150,000 different schools.
GreatSchools creates it’s overall “GreatSchools Rating” by averaging a school’s test scores, college readiness, and student progress. These three individual scores are based on standardized test scores and teacher/student statistics gathered from the state Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Interestingly, a school with an overall rating of 7 in California is probably not comparable in quality to a school garnering a 7 in Georgia. This is partially due to the fact that different state’s Departments of Education provide different statistics, but is mainly due to GreatSchools’ policy of creating relative scores based on state averages. Because of this a school with a rating of 5 in a state with a great school quality average might actually be better than a school with a rating of 9 in a state with terrible standards.
At the end of the day school ratings on real estate listing sites may not be the best way to compare a high school in Seattle with one in Phoenix, but this doesn’t mean the sites are unreliable. All of the sites directly use the overall rating found on GreatSchools, providing homebuyers with exactly what’s advertised and exactly what their looking for, an accurate depiction of a school’s quality relative to its area.
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