Schools in Austin

Where are the best schools in Austin?  Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. In the map above, you can see that all our highest scoring schools (7-10 out of 10) are mostly to the west of town, with the rare exception of a magnet high school in East Austin (LASA).

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.  

These areas are also are our most expensive, suburban, and/or conservative. Not your style?  How about…

Higher test scores but not in the suburbs

Let’s say you don’t want to live in the suburbs, but are still looking for high-ish test scores (like those in 5-7 out of 10 in the above map).  That’s where central Austin schools come into play.  These schools tend to be in our most desirable central neighborhoods, like or North Central or South Central Austin, so it may be hard for some families to afford. Again, the closer to Mo-Pac you get, the better the test scores and higher the home prices get.

Affordable but not in the suburbs

Perhaps you don’t want to live in the suburbs but need to find a neighborhood you can afford, say $500k and under. You might have to look into areas where the schools don’t score that high. The big trend I see for people is to buy in East Austin, especially in the University Hills/Windsor Park neighborhood.

The schools don’t have the greatest scores on the state tests, but with the growth Austin’s seeing, I’ll bet in 15 years it’ll be a different story. Don’t get me wrong, there are great schools with dedicated teachers here, but they may not score the highest on state tests. There are also a lot of magnet and charter schools in this area, if that’s your thing. You’ll also find schools that offer dual language programs in these areas.

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-scoring 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.

Here’s the reality of the situation.  You get to pick TWO from the following menu:

  • Centrally located
  • Affordable housing
  • High scores on state tests

Ok, maybe that’s not totally true. You might be able to get your kid into a magnet program, a charter school, or transferred into a higher-ranking school.

Magnet middle schools

Applications are generally accepted in December, with auditions/interviews in January and decisions in late February.

  • Kealing – (East Austin) The Kealing Magnet Program has a well-deserved reputation for excellence in academics. The program offers students a rigorous and relevant curriculum: core classes at a more advanced level than the Pre-AP honors classes at other middle schools and elective classes that extend and unify core class concepts and skills.
  • Lively – (South Central Austin) The Lively Humanities and Law Magnet for International Studies offers advanced academic programming that provides engaging coursework and that both challenges and supports students. The three strands of humanities, law and international studies provide the basis for a wide array of unique academic and award-winning fine arts electives.
  • Lamar – (North Central Austin) Lamar provides a robust program for students across Austin in visual arts, dance, band, orchestra, choral music, drama, classical guitar, piano, digital arts and media.
  • Ann Richards School – (South Central Austin) The all-girls school prepares sixth- through 12th-graders to make it to and through college with a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle. In addition to providing rigorous academics, ARS encourages all students to develop real-world service projects, which challenge them to lead with courage and compassion, while solving problems creatively and ethically.

Magnet high schools

Applications are generally accepted in December, with auditions/interviews in January and decisions in late February.

  • LASA – (East Austin) LASA remains among the country’s top-ranked schools for educating the brightest minds, while fostering the next generation of citizens and leaders—thinkers and doers who are prepared to help strengthen their communities and build a better world.
  • Ann Richards School – see above, all girls school for grades 6-12
  • McCallum – (North Central Austin) Established in 1993 as Austin ISD’s districtwide fine arts intensive high school program, the Fine Arts Academy at McCallum High School provides an exemplary arts education program for ninth- through 12th-grade students to pursue an accelerated arts curriculum as fine arts majors.

More info about Austin ISD

Austin ISD offers even more programs, such as:

  • Dual Language
  • IB
  • Montessori
  • STEM
  • Early College Prep

Find out more on their website.