A list of the nation’s top 10 cities with top-performing public schools challenges the idea that the best schools can only be found in the most expensive housing markets, announced a report from school ratings site GreatSchools and business magazine Forbes.com.

"The two biggest life stage decisions a family makes are finding a great place to live and excellent schools for their kids," said Bill Jackson, CEO and president of GreatSchools, in a statement.

"Great schools exist within every housing budget. This is good news to Realtors who want to help their clients when relocating to a new area," the report added. 

The Northeast, the West and the South each accounted for three cities in the top 10 list. The Midwest accounted for one. That city, Pella, Iowa, had the lowest median home value among the ten: $148,200. Manhattan Beach, Calif. had the highest: $1,278,980.

Cities with home values between $200,000 and $399,999 accounted for the biggest share: three out of ten cities.

GreatSchools analyzed various data points for the report, including public school test scores, median home prices, population, and unemployment rates. The site considered 17,589 towns and cities in 49 states and Washington, D.C.

Cities in Nebraska were not considered because the state lacks a single statewide standardized test.

Towns with populations under 10,000, fewer than five K-12 public schools, or unemployment rates higher than the state average were also not considered. 

Small cities prevailed in the report. The city with the largest population was Manhattan Beach, with a population of 37,745. Five of the top 10 cities had the minimum number of schools — five — required for consideration.

"Cities with sprawling, unified school districts like Houston and Los Angeles might harbor extremely high-scoring schools whose results are cancelled out by under-performing ones," Forbes said in its article about the report.

City # schools Pop.
Median home
value (Q3 2010)
(Nov. 2010)
1. Falmouth, Maine 5 10,669 $351,550 5.0% 100.00
2. Mercer Island, Wash. 5 24,351 $708,740 8.7% 99.12
3. Pella, Iowa 5 10,475 $148,200 5.3% 98.25
4. Barrington, R.I. 6 16,284 $296,010 9.7% 97.96
5. Bedford, N.H. 6 21,504 $293,730 5.5% 97.96
6. Moraga, Calif. 5 16,465 $722,010 11.5% 97.69
7. Manhattan Beach, Calif. 7 37,745 $1,278,980 4.5% 97.69
8. Parkland, Fla. 5 25,106 $426,390 9.7% 95.98
9. St. Johns, Fla. 9 18,063 $181,700 10.3% 95.98
10. Southlake, Texas 12 26,297 $476,880 8.2% 95.74

Source: GreatSchools/Forbes.

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