Three Easy Ways to Evaluate San Antonio Schools

One of the biggest considerations for many homebuyers—whether it's the first or fifth time around—is the quality and ratings of the schools in the neighborhoods they're considering. That's no different in our area; San Antonio residents and transplants tend to put school quality toward the top of their list in considering a community.

It can be challenging, however, to quickly find the information you need to compare San Antonio schools within a given neighborhood. Depending on where you draw the boundaries, the greater San Antonio region boasts between 15-20 school districts and hundreds of campuses. How do you begin looking? The following three places are a good way to start:

Texas Education Agency ratings

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is the state's governing body on education practices and standards, and one of its biggest responsibilities is assessing and rating the quality of Texas school districts and campuses. Every year, they publish accountability ratings for every one of the 1,237 districts and 8,435 schools in the state, and they constitute the official word on the quality of Texas schools, rating them in a range from Academically Unacceptable to Exemplary.

There are critics of TEA evaluations, however, as the largest criterion is student performance on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) standardized test, itself a contested measure. Moreover, TEA recently began using a controversial tool called the Texas Projection Measure, which gives districts a boost for students who didn't pass the TAKS but seem likely to in the future. Still, if you want to know what the State of Texas thinks about local schools, look no further than the TEA.

Local media and third parties

We had to give the state the first nod, but many head first to local media for school information—with good reason. San Antonio media are generally on the ball with school coverage, and that certainly includes district/school ratings and evaluations. Many communities have small newspapers or publications that are helpful; if you need a more-comprehensive resource, the San Antonio Express-News, the area's largest newspaper, covers assessments made by state and third-party organizations.

Speaking of third parties, the occasional non-profit throws its own evaluations into the mix, and the results can be useful. Children At Risk, a Houston-based organization, provides ratings for many districts and schools across the state, and they may be a good source if you want a multi-variate assessment. In addition to TAKS scores, they factor in attendance and graduation rates, participation rates and scores on the SAT/ACT and AP exams, relevant public assistance/poverty details, and more.

Online sources and groups

Without a doubt, parents often are the most-vocal advocates (or critics, for that matter) of a given school or district. But unless you know the locals or have a ton of time to attend PTA meetings across the region, it can be hard to gauge parent opinion. That's where the web comes in handy; there are numerous places online where you can get firsthand reviews and ratings from people who are in the know.

One of the most-popular online sources for parent opinion is GreatSchools, which has ratings on both public and private schools. In addition to overall school quality, parents are asked to assess schools according to teacher quality, principal leadership, and parent involvement, which may offer interesting dimensions beyond test scores. SchoolDigger, another popular online source, evaluates schools using test scores, enrollment details, and other school-specific criteria, along with neighborhood/city information such as crime rates, real estate data, and more.

In any case, these various sources offer a ton of information that is useful for anyone coming to the San Antonio area and considering new schools. Because it's all easily accessible, you'll be armed and knowledgeable when the time comes for your move.

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