Back to Schools

How to choose a South Sound school

Free resources to compare and contrast school districts

LAKEWOOD: Hudtloff Middle School just received a complete makeover. Photo courtesy of

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

When looking for a new home at the next duty station, evaluating area schools is always a top priority for military families. Luckily there are a number of free resources that can help parents contrast and compare districts and, even more specifically, schools, whether they are public, charter or private institutions, from pre-kindergarten all the way through higher secondary education or vocational schools.

The Great Schools site ( allows parents to look at preschools, elementary, middle and high schools. It holds profiles for more than 5,800 public and private schools across the state and includes information like school test scores, teacher-to-student ratios and other statistics.

The National Center for Education Statistics can aid parents researching the best public schools for their kids; its School District Demographics System ( allows families to see the demographics, social characteristics and the economic make-up of each district in the country, all according to prior census reports. Specifically, it lists everything from the gender breakdowns by age in each district or the number of librarians per district.

Furthermore, the NCES can keep parents up-to-date on national assessments of educational progress across the board for grade levels 4 and 8 by state (

For those contemplating private schools, the Private School Review can shed light on the more than 750 private institutions in Washington, from Montessori Schools that start with pre-k to all-girl or all-boy high schools. Tuitions, acceptance rates and additional student statistics are listed. (  

On School Digger ( parents can evaluate multiple schools and see where they rank within a city, the district and the state. For example, North Thurston Public Schools, which includes the city of Lacey, are ranked 69 out of 219 districts in Washington. Specific school rankings, from elementary to high school, are also available throughout the state.

Currently, the site maintains updated information on more than 120,000 elementary, middle and high schools across the country. They use test scores, rankings, school/district boundaries and student-to-teacher ratios to evaluate each school.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in Washington publishes a state report card ( after each school year. Reports include general information as well as additional teachers' notes, like how many instructors have a Master's degree. Searches can be done by school district too; for instance, a report card on the Clover Park School District, which includes the schools on Joint Base Lewis-McChord as well as those within the city of Lakewood, can be viewed.

On the OSPI site ( parents can also learn more about the state's education initiatives, budgets and what special programs are offered through the state's public school system, from special education to migrant education, which encompasses military children who are subjected to frequent moves.

U.S. News & World Report lists the best high schools in the state on their site ( using criteria like teacher-to-student ratios, college readiness and general proficiency in reading and writing.

Finally, Peterson's can help anyone make decisions about what college, graduate school or even culinary school will be the best fit in their new home state. The site ( allows for searches by state for colleges and universities and lists costs, financial aid opportunities, degree programs, entrance difficulty and application/transfer deadlines, among other things.

Read next close

Viva South Sound

Thursday, April 24: Throwback Thursdays

comments powered by Disqus