Going by test scores
Where are the best schools in Austin? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for.
Generally speaking, if you are going by test scores then you should look to the west of the city, and in the suburbs to the Northwest and Southwest. That means parts of Austin that are near Mo-Pac (Loop 1) and west. Then for suburbs to the north, look into Northwest Austin, Cedar Park, and Round Rock. To the southwest, look into areas around Circle C and all along HWY 290 towards Dripping Springs. If you look at the above map, red pins mean the highest scoring schools, followed by green, then blue, then yellow.
These areas are also are most suburban, conservative and ethnically homogenous areas. Not your style? How about…
Going by test scores, but hate the suburbs
Let’s say you don’t want to live in the suburbs, but are still looking for high-ish test scores. That’s where central Austin schools come into play. These can be our most desirable neighborhoods, like 78704, so it may be hard for some families to afford. Again, the closer to Mo-Pac you get, the better the test scores get, but the ethnic diversity starts to dwindle. Luckily I was able to buy in Brentwood in 2008, right before the neighborhood became too hot. The last two or three years this area has gotten more and more unaffordable, leading me to my next category…
Hate the suburbs AND need affordability
Perhaps you don’t want to live in the suburbs but need to find a neighborhood you can afford, say $300k and under. You might have to look into areas where the schools don’t score that high. I have to admit, this seems to be the case for a lot of people in my crowd, who are liberal, creative and/or hippie. The big trend I see for these people is to buy in East Austin, especially in the University Hills/Windsor Park neighborhood. Mark my words, this is the next up-and-coming neighborhood.
The schools though…ehhhhh. Not the greatest yet. I’ll bet in 15 years it’ll be a different story. But for now, everyone that I know who lives in this area with school-aged kids has gotten their kid into another school. Some send their kids to a charter school, especially Austin Discovery School (admission by lottery), others have transferred to central Austin schools, and still others are sending their kids to a private school down south. I’m about to do a post on alternative schools, so look for that soon.
Putting it all together
You may have noticed that there’s no perfect place which many of you are looking for: An affordable house in a great central neighborhood with excellent schools. I know y’all are looking for this because I get asked a billion times a year for help in finding you this wonderful unicorn.
It doesn’t exist. It’s a fantasy. IT’S A PONY WITH RAINBOW PAINT AND A HORN STUCK ON IT.
Here’s the reality of the situation. You get to pick TWO and ONLY TWO from the following menu:
- Centrally located
- Great Schools
Oh yeah, about those test scores
I’ve put all of the area schools on a google map and listed their test scores so you can see a relationship between schools and neighborhoods.