The quality of community schools is consistently ranked as one of the most important factors in parents’ decisions about where to buy a home. School quality is also important for home buyers who have no children, since it has a significant impact on housing values and on the ease of selling homes in various communities. In this section, I provide links to information on local schools and how they compare to schools across the country.
Schools Districts by County
One of the best web sites in Colorado focused on performance stats, financing, and developments in Colorado education is Education News Colorado.
There are two public school districts in Boulder County, the Boulder Valley School District in the south half of the county and the St. Vrain School District in the north. The schools in Boulder, Louisville, Superior, Lafayette, Nederland are all within the Boulder Valley district. Some schools in Erie and Broomfield are as well. The schools in Longmont, Lyons and Niwot are in the St. Vrain district, as are some parts of Erie. The appropriate district web sites contain extensive information on the schools within the districts, on educational philosophies, and on curriculum.
The schools in Arvada, Westminster and the southern parts of Broomfield are in the Jefferson County School District.
The western parts of Broomfield and Broomfield County are in the Boulder Valley School District, while eastern Broomfield is in the Adams 12 Five Star district and some southern parts of Broomfield are in the Jefferson County District.
The following web pages clarify which schools in Erie and in Broomfield are in which districts.
State and National Resources for Comparing Schools
- CSAP Results — results from Colorado educational testing program
- ACT Results — results from national college admissions testing
- Accountability Reports — reports of performance of individual schools
The National Center for Education Statistics This is the best single source of information on schools, school performance, and the demographic composition of communities and schools. If you go to their list of Data & Tools, you’ll find a wealth of useful data.
Some Thoughts on Comparing Schools
- Rule One: Don’t rely on real estate agents or other parents. In a previous lifetime, I did research in several primary schools in the school district where my children were enrolled. The research involved videotaping full days of interaction between teachers and students and interviewing the teachers about what they were trying to accomplish. I was struck by the lack of correspondence between what was “known” in the community about these schools and teachers and what I was seeing in the classroom. When I asked parents about their often very strong opinions of various teachers (what they were like, how they taught, and how they got along with the students), I was stunned to learn that their “knowledge” of their local schools was based primarily on random comments from their 7 year old — or their neighbor’s 7 year old. Because schools are so important to parents — and because they generally know almost nothing about what happens there — they will grasp at the flimsiest pieces of information and build very strong opinions on them. Take everything you hear on the street with a truckload of salt.
- Rule Two: Rely on educational statistics, because that’s the only real information you’re going to get. Don’t rely on them because they’ll tell you which school is best for your child. They won’t. Most of what is most important in education is not measured by educational statistics. They won’t measure whether your child will be inspired to excel or trained to think critically by her teachers. They will, however, tell you whether most of the kids in her school learn to do basic math or to read well and take tests. They will also tell you whether the kids in her school learn enough to do well on the standard tests used in college admissions. That’s worth something.
- Rule Three: Don’t imagine that school performance is created solely in the school. One of the few things that educational researchers agree on is that there is a very tight correlation between the educational background of the parents and how a child performs in school. Pick a neighborhood where most of the parents have college degrees and you’ll find a school where the students perform better than their peers nationally. Pick a school in another neighborhood and you’ll find a school where test scores are more similar to the national average. Assuming that the district has advanced placement courses for your child when they reach high school, your child can probably get an excellent education in a school with average test scores. In the real world, when you’re choosing between schools with extremely high test scores and average ones, you’re really making a choice between exposing your child to a school where most of the students’ parents have college degrees and a school that is more diverse economically and socially. That’s a decision that is important to lots of parents, and a decision that school test scores and demographic data can rationalize.