One of the first things people tend to ask when deciding where to move is “How are the schools?” If you’re starting a family, already have one, or are a student yourself, that’s a pretty valid questions.
It’s also true that good schools increase your property value over time. But not everyone wants to live in a huge city with tons of schools, so where can the more peaceful sort go that still offers good education options?
As it turns out, there are a lot of places for people like those. The Movoto Real Estate Blog noticed that there were so many, it only seemed natural to rank them by how good their schools were. So we put on our thinking caps and studied hard to get this top 10 list of the best small cities for education:
While some of these rankings might surprise you, we promise we’ll show our work in the very next section.
If you’re curious where your hometown ranked, you can see the top 50 small cities for education in the table at the bottom of this article. It should also be noted that the majority of our bottom ranking cities were in California. For now, let’s take a look at our methodology.
How We Created This Ranking
We selected 140 small cities (populations between 50,000 and 60,000) then used the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey, AreaVibes, and GreatSchools.org to collect what we deemed important education criteria. Those criteria were:
- Student-teacher ratio/li>
- Money spent per year per student
- High school graduation rate
- GreatSchools.org rating (based on test scores for the area)
From there, we ranked each place in each category from one to 140, with one being the best. Then we averaged each place’s scores into a Big Deal Score, with scores closer to one being the best.
With that, we found that Chapel Hill was the best small city for education. Let’s take a look at why it—and the rest of our top 10—are best for students.
Many people are concerned about test scores when selecting a school. In that area, Chapel Hill stood head and shoulders above the competition, with a nine out of 10 ranking for test scores. However, more than that goes into creating a good education environment, and this city was at the head of the class there, too.
This place had a low student-teacher ratio of 13 to 1 and a high school graduation rate of over 94 percent. Top that off with whole a lot of school money being spent per year per student, and you have a place that offers good academics, a good outlook for your future, and an environment that fosters growth.
2. Novi, MI
The second place on our list also managed a nine out of 10 mark for test scores, and also had a fairly good student-teacher ratio of 16 to 1. It even had a high school graduation rate of 94 percent. In short, our top two were very similar places.
Novi did have one area in which it scored better, with schools spending $6,723 per student per year. If you’re looking to study here, you’re looking at a lot of personal attention, rigorous classes, and a bright academic future.
3. Oak Park, IL
Like our top two places, Oak Park offered nine out of 10 test scores. It also had a graduation rate over 94 percent, and a decent student-teacher ratio. This indicated an all-around great place for learning success.
Where this place really excelled, however, was in the amount schools spent on their students. Schools in the area spent a whopping $8,229 per student per year. So expect your school in Oak Park to offer you a good education and a good growth environment as well.
While schools in Cedar Park don’t seem to spend quite as much on their students as our top three schools they still offer some pretty amazing learning opportunities. With a student-teacher ratio of 13 to 1, students here are bound to feel looked after and get personal attention when needed.
The test scores here were also high, ranking eight out of 10. Top that off with a high school graduation rate over 94 percent, and there’s no doubt the schools here are ready to cater to you or your young students.
5. Auburn, AL (tie)
If you’re looking for well scoring schools and lots of individual attention, you can find it in Auburn. With test score of eight out of 10 and a student-teacher ratio of 14 to 1, schools offered challenging studies and help from teachers when you look for it.
There was also a fair amount of money spent per year per student here, and a high school graduation rate of over 91 percent. If you want a bright future for you and yours, you need look no further than this fine city.
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5. Royal Oak, MI (tie)
Tied for fifth with Auburn is the still very educational city of Royal Oak. This second Michigan representative on our list had an eight out of 10 mark for test scores, as well as a graduation rate for high school students of 92 percent.
There was a good student-teacher ratio of 17 to 1, plenty of schools to choose from in case you’re looking for the perfect fit, and many counselors to help when your student hits a snag. It also doesn’t hurt that schools here spent $6,475 per student per year.
Hoffman Estates offers a lot of great things across the board for students. Eight out of 10 test scores, great high school graduation rate, and a good student-teacher ratio all kept this place easily in our top 10.
It’s worth mentioning that the student-teacher ratio here was what really jumped out , with only 16 students per teacher. There were also a number of schools in the area, so parents have some options when decided where to send their little pupil.
If you want good prospects and lots of help from teachers, this is the place to go. The student-teacher ratio in Manhattan was 13 to 1, and there were plenty of counselors around if students need someone to lean on. There was quite a bit of money spent per student as well, so you’ll get financial attention too.
Where this place really shone brightly was in high school graduation rate. Over 95 percent of students graduate high school here, giving them a leg up in their future goals. We will say than Manhattan had lower test scores than our other top 10, but there were still quite good.
This city was at the very top in the way of high school graduation rate. Over 96 percent of students graduated, and they did so with test scores that ranked eight out of 10. Not bad for our only Iowa representative in the top 10.
There was also a decent amount of money spent per student per year, and the student-teacher ratio was 16 to 1. Overall, very positive scores that indicate a great educational environment in West Des Moines.
10. Lakeville, MN
Though it’s the last of our top 10, Lakeville is hardly last in education. They had a test score ranking of nine out of 10 and a high school graduation rate of 96 percent, both scoring at the top of the list for those categories.
Though it didn’t do quite as well as others on our top 10 list in money spent per student per year and student-teacher ratio, both were still ranked very decently overall. If you’re looking for your student to have high marks as they head out for college or the working world, you could certainly do worse than this little city.
We Hope You Learned Something
If you’re looking to learn, or help loved ones learn, you should look no further than these very educational top 10. All offer good student test scores, high graduation rates, and school environments that offer personal attention both financially and emotionally. They’re all A+ in our book.
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