Finding a School

Finding a School
July 1, 2000

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)



Looking up a school in the phone book has always been a frustrating task. The school could be listed in the white pages under its actual name, or under the name of the school district, the city, or the county, or under "Government Agencies." Or it could be in the yellow pages under "Schools."

And don’t even think about getting a listing of all public and private schools in a particular community or Zip code--a nearly impossible task.

Until now.

Thanks to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, such school searches now can be completed in a few seconds.



Private School Locator

The National Center for Education Statistics now offers a "Private School Locator," a powerful search engine that in seconds can list one or more schools that match specific search criteria, including city, zip code, telephone area code, and number of students, either individually or in combination. Parents, students, teachers, researchers, city officials compiling community resources--all now have ready access to NCES's detailed database of 29,000 private schools, which can be searched by state, city, grade level, affiliation, and a host of other fields, including zip code and telephone area code.

For example, to find all the Lutheran single-sex secondary schools in Seattle, just enter the appropriate criteria and the search engine generates the list in short order. Clicking on the individual school records in that list leads to the display of standard contact information for the school: address, telephone number, enrollment, teacher-pupil ratios, and racial/ethnic features.

The NCES database represents 29,000 private schools that participated in the group’s 1997-98 Private School Universe Survey (PSS), which NCES used to produce its latest biennial report on American private education, "Private School Universe Survey, 1997-98" (NCES 98-220). The Private School Locator gives the general public an opportunity to search the PSS database with research-level sophistication.

"Researchers will find the data set to be a rich and ready resource," notes Joe McTighe of the Council for American Private Education. "A couple of keystrokes can yield information that heretofore would have taken hours of meticulous research to uncover." For example, by completing a few fields, a user can find out how many Montessori schools there are in Maryland, or the number of private schools nationally that offer pre-school programs. The set of schools produced by the search can be downloaded as a text file and imported into a spreadsheet program, and the entire directory also may be downloaded (2.3 MB).

If a particular school is not included in the directory, a request should be sent to NCES to include the school in future Private School Surveys.

The Private School Locator is available at http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pss/locator/index.html.



Public School Locator

The National Center for Education Statistics also has a "National Public School and School District Locator." Like NCES's locator for private schools, the public school locator is a powerful search engine that in seconds can list one or more schools or school districts that match specific search criteria either singly or in combination, such as city, zip code, telephone area code, partial or full name description, and number of students. The School/District Locator provides the correct name, address, telephone number, NCES ID number, urbanicity (rural, large city, etc.), and other student and teacher information for the selected public schools or school districts.

The data in the Locator are for the school year 1997-98 as reported to NCES by state education officials in each state. The detailed database contains information on some 87,631 public schools and more than 15,000 school districts. A list of newly reported schools and school districts for the 1998-99 school year is available from NCES. That list is updated as new data are received.



The national Public School and School District Locator is available at http://nces.ed.gov/ccdweb/school/index.asp.



Great City Schools

While the school district information from NCES's Public School Locator Database does not provide a breakdown of students by ethnicity or poverty, those data are provided in the NCES Great City Schools database, a listing of the characteristics of the 100 largest school districts in the U.S. Those 100 school districts represent some 10.8 million students, almost a quarter of the nation's 46.1 million public school students in 1997-98.

The Great City Schools database is available at http://www.cgcs.org/reports/data/100_LARGEST_SCHOOLS.htm.



Moving House and Finding a New School

School quality and performance long have been recognized as among the main factors in making a home purchase decision, and research indicates school quality affects property values.

A new Internet service called SchoolMatch on Demand provides real estate professionals with access to credible comparative school information on demand, which they can, in turn, pass on to home buyers. The service is the result of a partnership between VISTAinfo, a leader in providing technology and Internet solutions for the real estate industry, and SchoolMatch®, a leading educational research and database service firm that specializes in rating K-12 schools.

SchoolMatch On Demand, launched on May 17, delivers reports on every U.S. public school system from a subscription service Web site that provides unlimited access to the national SchoolMatch database. Reports include a brief "snapshot" report that provides a school's national percentile ratings for competitive test scores, such as the SAT test, per-pupil instructional expenditures, school system size, and educational level of residents. A more detailed report includes information on school class size, school system curricula, pupil academic performance, home property values, and special education programs.

"The town we moved into was a very close match to what we were looking for," said David Penniman, a relocated AT&T employee, adding that SchoolMatch "fits a school to a family's lifestyle."

SchoolMatch is the primary public school data source for leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Business Week, Parent, and Good Housekeeping, as well as leading real estate publications. With data collected by court and university-certified school experts, SchoolMatch's auditable and verified database contains current information on more than 15,900 school districts across the United States.

Real estate professionals can subscribe to and access SchoolMatch reports at http://www.schoolmatchondemand.com or at http://www.cyberhomes.com for a registration fee of $19.95 and a monthly access fee of $8.95. The subscription allows a real estate professional to customize and deliver free school information to clients.


George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News.

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)