Find the Best Public Schools in Seattle

Updated August 10, 2106.  The quality of your child’s education is an important part of choosing where to live. Because your home address will determine where your child attends school, it’s important to evaluate schools before you decide where to buy. This is a 4 step guide that will give you the tools you need to find the best Seattle public school, including the best Seattle elementary school.

Rear view of class raising hands --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

You can find boundaries for all elementary, middle and high schools on the Seattle Schools Directory.  Elementary school boundaries often change, so it’s never a bad idea to call the schools in your area to hear from their administration about any potential boundary changes.

Secrets to Evaluating Seattle Public Schools

math-600-300x240Seattle schools are on the upswing, and enrollment is surging with many people moving into the city.  School quality still varies across the district, however, so here are some tips to finding the right school for your child.

Step 1: Test Results & School Reports

Seattle School District publishes comprehensive school reports (see link below) that are available to the public. You can view a snapshot of any given school.  Relying on a school’s test results is a controversial topic, and test scores are considered by some to be of limited use in predicting your child’s performance in school.  These School Reports include much more than just test scores, including a school’s Mission Statement, demographic data, and a brief summary of the School Climate Survey that I’ll show you in Step 2.

In a glance, it’s easy to see which schools are performing above or below average throughout the district.

Here’s how you use it:

  1. Open the Seattle School District School Directory.
  2. Click on Data Summary in the right hand column for your chosen school.
  3. Now you’ll be on a school-specific page. Find the School Reports section and choose the most recent school year. Here’s a screen shot to help you find the right report. click-here2


Step 2: Dig Deeper into School Data

I learned this little-known tip from a friend and client who teaches at Ballard High School. By accessing what’s known as the Seattle Schools Climate Survey, you can find a wealth of helpful information about individual schools that goes well beyond test results. The survey reveals things like how safe students feel in the school, how challenged they are academically and what kind of interactions they experience with teachers. Additionally, the survey provides similar types of feedback from parents and staff, and it compares the school’s scores in each category with that of the district averages.

  1. Open the Seattle Schools Climate Survey.
  2. Scroll down to choose your school.

Chalkboard with words "back to school"

Step 3: Review School Rankings

If you’re interested in a simpler, more basic ranking tool, check out The site provides rankings for schools all over the country and you can quickly determine how schools stack up against each other, as well as where the boundaries are. (Keep in mind, this tool may not be as up-to-date, especially for boundaries and maps.)

Trulia’s school map tool sources its information from GreatSchools, and some find it convenient and easy to use.

Step 4: Talk to Other Parents

One of the best things you can do to get beyond the survey data is talk to parents who have children in a school, or even better, in the grade your child will be going into. Don’t be shy; people love to share their school experience. If you don’t know someone with kids in the school, I recommend attending a PTSA meeting or going to the school parking lot just before class is out and talking to the parents waiting for their children. You’ll find most of them are friendly and happy to share their experiences with you.

The Future is Closer than you Think

I know I’m not the first, and won’t be the last, to say this but kids grow up fast. When you’re thinking about moving into a bigger place that offers more room for your toddler to run around, keep in mind how quickly he or she will be entering elementary school. You may just finally be getting those last few boxes unpacked when you discover that you’re really not comfortable with the school your child will attend.

Worse yet is finding the perfect house in which to raise your family, only to realize later that the middle school or high school (which wasn’t even on your radar at the time) is not going to meet your child’s educational needs.

Though there’s no way to predict the future of a particular school’s quality level and no way to ensure permanent school boundaries, what you can do is make the best decision with the information you have now. The tools provided here will give you the ability to choose the right school.