This week Newsweek’s “America’s Top High Schools” article came out and once again New Jersey schools are at the top. This is great news for New Jersey parents and their kids. These rankings have a huge impact on many things, but most profoundly on residential real estate. After all, if it’s all the same, why not buy a house in a top ranked high school district versus a below average district?
To adjust my client’s expectations and to be able to speak to these rankings intelligently, I took a look at the findings and did my own analysis to see what this list really reveals. There are some very interesting trends I spotted:
- New York state has the most number of high schools on the list – a total of 59
- New Jersey has the second highest number of schools on the list – a total of 51
There is no doubt about it, New Jersey schools are at the top of the top; having the most amount of schools placing in the top 20 (or 4% of the the 500 schools that made it to the list). The state has 2 schools that place in the top five, 3 schools in the top ten, and 7 in the top twenty. Compare that to the next highest, New York state, which has only 3 in the top twenty. So it is fair to say that New Jersey public schools are outpacing the academic achievements of all other states by a wide margin.
Consequently, these rankings have a direct correlation to the property values and accompanying real estate taxes in the state. Those schools with higher rankings tend to be in communities with higher property values and higher real estate taxes to fund the school budgets. The only way to get around high prices and taxes is to find a home in a county that offers magnet schools and/or charter schools. (See below for more info on magnet and charter schools).
In addition, Newsweek also measured how schools perform in communities where students live below the poverty line. If you factor this into account, none of the top ranking New Jersey high schools fall within less affluent communities. Basically, only the wealthy areas have top ranked schools in New Jersey.
But other states are able to provide a high quality education to their lower income students. There are three schools in the top 20 that have a significant amount of students below the poverty line (measured by those that qualify for reduced-priced or free lunch):
- # 3 Ranked Stuyvesant High School, NY – 47.3% of students below the poverty line
- #7 Ranked Whitney (Gretchen) High School, Ca.- 18.9% of students below the poverty line
- #8 Northside College Prep High School, Il. – 37.5% of the student body is below the poverty line.
All of the above schools require a placement test, only offer honors and AP classes and accept less than 10% of those who apply. Essentially, these are schools for the gifted and talented. And the racial make up of these schools tells a very disparaging story. On average, African American kids only make up 3.23% of the student body of each school. So, if you are poor, you only have a shot at a great public education if you are incredibly smart, talented, Asian or White.
Yes, Newsweek shows that New Jersey continues to have the top high schools in the country. And if you can afford a house in a relatively affluent community, you will provide your kids with an opportunity to receive a stellar education.