Whatever your reasons are for moving, ideally the move will sit well with all of the members of your family -- including your children (present or future). Schools and school districts are a vital piece of information that you should keep in mind when considering different locations for a move. Where do you start, though, when you might not have firsthand information because the schools in question aren't exactly around the corner?
There are many ways to learn about schools and their desirability, or lack of. The simplest and most common method used to learn more about local schools is to ask your Realtor. Go online and look at parenting forums and social media groups, where you might find parents from the region and start asking questions and opinions; you might be getting a biased response, but remember that each student and his/her parents are different and may have very different responses to each educational experience. Look for online newspapers and find any articles involving the local schools, this might tell you about school board issues, crimes and often accolades; some school districts have online newsletters that may be helpful as well. Finally, look for hardline statistical data where you can see location (often by neighborhood), student body size, personal reviews and ratings, comparisons between public and private schools and educational ranking.
The National Center for Education Statistics is the primary federal body for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations. NCES is overseen by the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES collects and analyzes statistics on all American public and private schools, district comparisons and post-secondary education data. This site provides district phone numbers, student/teacher ratios, and offers publications on a variety of pertinent education topics; go to http://nces.ed.gov.
Three other very well-known online data resources are http://www.greatschools.org/find-schools, http://www.publicschoolreview.com and http://www.city-data.com.
If at all possible, depending on distance and timing, make an appointment with the local school district for an in-person visit. If you can get to see the school in action, it can help to assure you of student behavior, teacher supervision, safety and the overall school atmosphere, but if in-person is impossible, make a phone call to the district offices and ask for a telephone appointment.
Prepare a list of questions before you meet/speak with school representatives. Is registration assigned by neighborhood or do parents have a choice which school their children can attend? If parents can choose, is there a wait list and how long is the wait for each school? Are there different programs or disciplines to choose from when applying? Ask to see a student or school policy guide and familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations regarding registration, student attendance, discipline policies, safety guidelines and academic strategies.
And if you make a mistake...
Many school districts do not allow for open enrollment and school choice except for special circumstances; students are often required to attend their neighborhood school. One of the more common complaints parents have when inquiring about changing the child's school is bullying. Check the school's anti-bullying policy and safety guidelines to see if changing schools is listed as an option. Another concern is whether the school resources are meeting the child's educational needs. Speak to the school administration and ask for their assistance in placing your child in an environment that is better suited for him/her.
Some school districts permit changes within the same district as long as space permits; this is very common with (but not limited to) magnet schools -- public schools which offer specialized interest-based programs such as art or science instruction. Contact your local school district to get your child on the list, there may be required admission tests and/or wait lists, but you need to get the necessary forms filled out first. If you have one student in one school, you may receive preferred placement for a sibling. Check your school district for enrollment dates and required documents. A few regions permit inter-district transfers, find out the policies and admission rules and get those applications in on schedule.