Best School Districts for Your Buck in Dallas-Fort Worth

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Best School Districts for Your Buck in Dallas-Fort Worth

The largest metropolitan area in Texas — Dallas–Fort Worth, population 6.5 million — has many attractive qualities: jobs, short commutes and clusters of family friendly suburbs. But what keeps families rooted here are the schools.

The numbers tell the story

Last year, school districts in Dallas-Fort Worth averaged a graduation rate of 93%, with 60% of students testing as “college ready” — compared with the state average of 51%, according to the Texas Education Agency. Of the 25 national blue ribbons awarded for educational excellence in Texas, seven were to schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Last year, 21.3% of residents in the metro area held bachelor’s degrees, ranking second only to Austin.

But similar to other places in the U.S., top-quality public schools often come with high housing costs. Districts such as Carroll Independent are known for educational excellence, but also come with housing values of $490,600, which is triple the state median.

Housing prices in the metroplex will likely continue to rise, since nine of the area’s 13 counties rank in the state’s top 50 fastest-growing counties. Home values in Dallas-Fort Worth can range from $73,900 to $490,600. By balancing housing costs with school quality, NerdWallet found the best school districts for your buck in the metroplex.

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NerdWallet’s analysis

Here’s how we found the best school districts in Dallas-Fort Worth:

  • Standardized test scores. This was a combination of the percentage of students scoring “advanced” on the STAAR standardized achievement test and SAT averages for the class of 2013.
    SAT data from the Texas Education Agency is self-reported by school districts, which may lead to some inconsistencies in highest possible scores. To find out more, contact the TEA’s division of performance reporting.
  • College readiness. We combined equally weighted scores for the graduation rate with exit exams by the Texas Education Agency used to gauge college readiness in high school graduates.
  • Class size. We factored in student-to-teacher ratio.

We evaluated 105 unified and secondary school districts in Dallas-Fort Worth. All data are from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Texas Education Agency. To see the full data set, click here.

1. Allen Independent School District

Serving the city of Allen, as well as parts of McKinney, Plano and Parker, the Allen Independent School District ranks first on our list for its graduation rate of 98.5% and the 30% of students who scored “advanced” on the 2013 STAAR tests. The $198,100 home values here are higher than the median in Dallas-Fort Worth, but the school district’s quality indicators, such as SAT and STAAR scores, are much higher than more expensive communities. In addition to academics, the district offers top sports and music programs. Last year, Allen High School won its sixth consecutive university interscholastic tournament in men’s wrestling and was also one of 13 U.S. schools named a GRAMMY Signature School for “outstanding commitment to music education during an academic school year.”

2. Bland Independent School District

Don’t let the name fool you: The only unexciting thing about this school district is its name. Ranking in our 25 most-affordable school districts, while simultaneously showing up in the top 25 for school-quality indicators, Bland schools are the epitome of the most “bang for your buck.” With an average class size of 13 students and a graduation rate of 97%, students in this district get personal attention that sets them on the path for success. Of particular note: Bland High School received a 9 out of 10 at the school-rating site GreatSchools.org.

3. Plano Independent School District

Covering 100 square miles and with a student population from 11 communities, the Plano Independent School District is vast and academically strong. The district includes six high schools for students in the ninth and tenth grades, as well as three schools for grades 11 and 12. The schools offer over 30 AP courses, and the SAT district average of 1689 is the second-highest score in the metroplex.

4. Lovejoy Independent School District

With the fourth-highest SAT average and graduation rate out of 105 districts in the metroplex, Lovejoy’s scores are strong across the board. In 2013, 36% of students tested as “advanced” on the STAAR test, compared with the state median of 12%. Lovejoy was the only school district in our top 20 to score a perfect 10 at GreatSchools.org. Last year, 14 students at Lovejoy High School were awarded the National AP Scholar Award for having scored 4 or higher on all AP tests. Despite the quality, Lovejoy’s housing might be out of reach for some, with a home value of $342,900, one of the highest on our list.

5. Caddo Mills Independent School District

With a median home value of $121,900, and a graduation rate of 98%, Caddo Mills is truly a hidden gem. Additionally, students averaged an SAT score of 1530, one of the top 20 averages in Dallas-Fort Worth. Caddo Mills High School also offers a range of clubs including robotics, meditation, bass fishing and a state champion accounting team. Serving residents of southwestern Hunt County, Caddo Mills is one of our most rural school districts, located 41 miles northeast of Dallas.

6. Peaster Independent School District

Another rural entry, Peaster Independent School District is 30 miles west of Fort Worth and serves Parker County. The district’s mission is to “provide every student the opportunity to develop his or her maximum potential intellectually, physically, socially and morally.” With a top 20 SAT average and high graduation rate, the district appears to be succeeding, and also at an affordable cost, with homes valued at $161,000.

7. Frisco Independent School District

Serving the community of Frisco, as well as portions of Little Elm, McKinney and Plano, Frisco Independent School District is one of the fastest-growing systems in the country — and has added no less than two schools every year since 1995. The growth is unsurprising given the district’s proximity to Dallas, as well as its academic quality: last year, students averaged a SAT score of 1587, with 31% of students scoring “advanced” on the STAAR tests. However, growth is causing home values to rise, and Frisco — with an average home value of $233,900 — is now one of the more expensive districts on our list.

8. Tolar Independent School District

Serving the communities of Tolar and Paluxy, Tolar Independent School District is a small district southwest of Fort Worth. The district makes the top 10 because of its high graduation rate of 98.2% and low home value of $133,600.

9. Alvord Independent School District

Located in Wise County, Alvord school district is just one elementary, middle and high school. The district has shown consistent quality by making the Texas Education Agency’s list of recognized schools, and recently it scored a “met standard” rating, which means the district is in the top quartile for student progress and achievement. In 2013, 12% of Alvord students scored “advanced” on the STAAR tests, and the high school had a graduation rate of 97.3%.

10. Lone Oak Independent School District

Serving Hunt County and parts of Rains County, Lone Oak Independent School District is an affordable option when it comes to educational quality. Homes are valued at $127,100, and 18% of students scored “advanced” on the STAAR tests. Parents looking for personalized attention will find an average class size of 10 students, and 94.8% of students from this district go on to graduate from high school.

Best school districts in Dallas-Fort Worth (full rankings)

Rank School district 2013 median home value STAAR “advanced” scores SAT average Graduation rate  College-ready students Class size Bang for Your
Buck score
1 Allen Independent School District $198,100 30% 1618 98.50% 75% 20.43 71.75
2 Bland Independent School District $96,000 12% 1521 97.00% 69% 13.30 71.46
3 Plano Independent School District $227,400 29% 1689 95.30% 76% 19.63 70.05
4 Lovejoy Independent School District $342,900 36% 1649 99.30% 88% 19.10 69.59
5 Caddo Mills Independent School District $121,900 15% 1530 98.00% 69% 17.30 68.81
6 Peaster Independent School District $161,000 9% 1558 98.60% 74% 12.73 68.77
7 Frisco Independent School District $233,900 31% 1587 97.60% 76% 20.77 68.41
8 Tolar Independent School District $133,600 10% 1457 98.20% 75% 14.00 68.32
9 Alvord Independent School District $122,900 12% 1465 97.30% 56% 10.43 67.61
10 Lone Oak Independent School District $127,100 18% 1393 94.80% 63% 10.40 66.98
11 Glen Rose Independent School District $139,900 13% 1453 98.50% 63% 14.00 66.84
12 Coppell Independent School District $289,500 28% 1684 98.50% 81% 22.53 66.76
13 Mabank Independent School District $89,400 12% 1493 91.60% 76% 16.10 66.65
14 Ponder Independent School District $132,000 13% 1527 97.90% 60% 15.70 66.10
15 Mckinney Independent School District $191,000 23% 1591 96.00% 69% 19.53 66.06
16 Brock Independent School District $207,900 18% 1515 96.90% 73% 15.57 65.90
17 Paradise Independent School District $144,100 10% 1499 95.50% 73% 15.97 65.65
18 Palmer Independent School District $144,800 12% 1412 96.00% 70% 12.43 65.47
19 Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District $257,400 24% 1628 96.90% 82% 21.80 65.43
20 Grandview Independent School District $156,300 16% 1462 96.80% 55% 13.60 65.14
21 Millsap Independent School District $159,600 8% 1511 96.20% 67% 13.10 65.13
22 Blue Ridge Independent School District $124,700 7% 1368 98.00% 72% 14.23 64.43
23 Pilot Point Independent School District $155,400 12% 1417 99.00% 69% 16.43 64.43
24 Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District $144,700 18% 1465 95.20% 72% 19.50 64.34
25 Joshua Independent School District $133,700 12% 1471 95.10% 71% 16.83 64.28
26 Aledo Independent School District $231,000 23% 1580 97.40% 75% 21.33 64.25
27 Slidell Independent School District $133,800 7% 1304 100.00% 55% 7.93 64.24
28 Prosper Independent School District $263,000 26% 1576 98.90% 77% 22.57 64.04
29 Chico Independent School District $108,700 10% 1403 97.70% 54% 13.27 63.67
30 Farmersville Independent School District $112,700 12% 1443 95.80% 64% 16.70 63.64
31 Crandall Independent School District $136,300 13% 1442 99.00% 68% 19.60 63.51
32 Lake Dallas Independent School District $158,800 15% 1488 99.60% 71% 22.47 63.21
33 Princeton Independent School District $111,500 11% 1472 95.80% 58% 17.93 63.18
34 Weatherford Independent School District $141,400 14% 1504 97.10% 62% 20.50 62.83
35 Lewisville Independent School District $206,100 20% 1612 94.20% 72% 21.93 62.40
36 Sunnyvale Independent School District $289,600 24% 1465 98.80% 89% 17.20 62.38
37 Decatur Independent School District $140,600 11% 1468 96.30% 63% 17.57 62.25
38 Aubrey Independent School District $166,900 18% 1466 99.10% 55% 19.03 62.20
39 Commerce Independent School District $87,100 9% 1480 94.90% 59% 20.50 62.10
40 Celina Independent School District $192,600 21% 1482 96.10% 66% 17.60 61.99
41 Italy Independent School District $89,700 10% 1367 93.90% 53% 12.37 61.97
42 Anna Independent School District $130,500 11% 1445 95.40% 62% 16.57 61.26
43 Granbury Independent School District $153,700 15% 1482 91.70% 69% 18.37 61.21
44 Melissa Independent School District $193,300 16% 1551 91.90% 80% 19.73 60.61
45 Argyle Independent School District $337,200 21% 1569 100.00% 74% 16.73 60.49
46 Keller Independent School District $181,600 20% 1545 94.40% 71% 24.23 60.34
47 Rockwall Independent School District $202,100 20% 1545 94.50% 71% 22.57 60.32
48 Maypearl Independent School District $163,600 11% 1405 97.40% 54% 15.60 60.29
49 Midlothian Independent School District $168,600 18% 1470 94.90% 74% 23.87 60.01
50 Boyd Independent School District $87,000 6% 1384 98.80% 39% 14.97 59.93
51 Carroll Independent School District $490,600 40% 1719 98.80% 89% 23.60 59.53
52 Northwest Independent School District $169,200 19% 1495 92.80% 69% 22.10 59.50
53 Krum Independent School District $145,400 13% 1391 92.30% 61% 13.83 59.26
54 Forney Independent School District $162,000 16% 1425 96.00% 68% 22.60 58.49
55 Godley Independent School District $106,600 9% 1401 93.20% 46% 14.70 58.32
56 Kennedale Independent School District $141,500 13% 1438 94.40% 60% 20.83 57.73
57 Poolville Independent School District $124,400 7% 1459 94.30% 30% 11.23 57.63
58 Quinlan Independent School District $82,900 8% 1398 95.90% 35% 17.10 57.06
59 Denton Independent School District $159,800 14% 1476 94.20% 55% 20.13 56.93
60 Ennis Independent School District $108,900 9% 1459 92.60% 51% 19.83 56.88
61 Bridgeport Independent School District $124,200 8% 1470 91.80% 49% 16.60 56.75
62 Venus Independent School District $76,900 8% 1358 94.80% 35% 15.23 56.72
63 Boles Independent School District $84,200 9% 1378 91.70% 34% 11.23 56.51
64 Richardson Independent School District $197,300 19% 1531 89.10% 65% 20.73 56.50
65 Community Independent School District $159,600 8% 1473 95.30% 51% 16.97 56.25
66 Red Oak Independent School District $140,700 11% 1401 96.90% 55% 21.27 56.20
67 Avalon Independent School District $85,000 14% 1360 94.40% 14% 12.33 56.08
68 Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District $133,300 13% 1452 94.20% 55% 23.43 55.98
69 Burleson Independent School District $129,100 14% 1435 92.10% 59% 22.93 55.95
70 Royse City Independent School District $145,200 13% 1376 93.10% 66% 20.77 55.94
71 Keene Independent School District $104,300 10% 1300 91.70% 48% 12.47 55.92
72 Scurry-Rosser Independent School District $114,200 9% 1420 92.30% 45% 16.00 55.75
73 Sanger Independent School District $130,700 11% 1455 92.20% 50% 19.33 55.68
74 Wolfe City Independent School District $85,600 10% 1300 86.50% 58% 14.03 55.65
75 Birdville Independent School District $118,100 14% 1458 87.90% 60% 20.83 55.60
76 Springtown Independent School District $119,900 7% 1463 89.10% 53% 17.27 55.23
77 Waxahachie Independent School District $137,300 13% 1436 90.20% 57% 20.17 55.09
78 Garland Independent School District $127,000 13% 1426 89.10% 52% 17.93 54.60
79 Ferris Independent School District $97,300 6% 1340 93.70% 52% 19.50 54.27
80 Azle Independent School District $122,900 11% 1415 90.90% 58% 21.80 54.02
81 Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District $164,100 13% 1460 92.80% 57% 22.20 54.01
82 Mansfield Independent School District $163,400 15% 1440 91.30% 63% 22.63 53.89
83 Kaufman Independent School District $109,900 7% 1373 90.00% 59% 17.93 53.86
84 Greenville Independent School District $89,600 10% 1381 86.80% 47% 15.63 53.81
85 Kemp Independent School District $73,900 5% 1412 87.60% 48% 17.37 53.37
86 White Settlement Independent School District $102,600 10% 1371 91.30% 49% 20.47 53.21
87 Grand Prairie Independent School District $113,400 9% 1344 88.60% 56% 18.20 51.87
88 Castleberry Independent School District $79,100 8% 1330 87.20% 57% 21.40 51.70
89 Cleburne Independent School District $100,000 9% 1410 87.60% 51% 22.17 51.15
90 Everman Independent School District $83,900 7% 1217 91.30% 39% 14.60 50.78
91 Mesquite Independent School District $106,600 10% 1338 90.50% 51% 22.57 50.36
92 Arlington Independent School District $128,000 12% 1435 84.30% 51% 20.33 49.62
93 Crowley Independent School District $133,200 7% 1349 92.30% 51% 21.17 49.54
94 Rio Vista Independent School District $138,600 6% 1291 90.00% 34% 13.73 49.18
95 Cedar Hill Independent School District $129,200 10% 1325 90.20% 49% 21.23 48.27
96 Little Elm Independent School District $151,900 10% 1387 90.30% 47% 22.80 47.59
97 Alvarado Independent School District $90,400 7% 1347 87.30% 43% 22.13 47.50
98 Dallas Independent School District $110,800 7% 1260 84.80% 46% 16.47 45.21
99 Irving Independent School District $117,000 6% 1238 86.90% 53% 19.30 45.14
100 Lake Worth Independent School District $90,300 6% 1245 86.30% 31% 15.17 45.13
101 Terrell Independent School District $94,700 6% 1309 81.40% 44% 18.00 44.06
102 Fort Worth Independent School District $95,600 8% 1316 79.00% 50% 19.47 43.45
103 Duncanville Independent School District $119,100 6% 1368 80.40% 49% 23.03 40.71
104 Lancaster Independent School District $103,700 5% 1168 91.20% 35% 23.50 39.87
105 Desoto Independent School District $135,600 5% 1261 80.60% 49% 20.00 37.59

 

We evaluated 105 unified and secondary school districts in Dallas-Fort Worth for this study. Campbell, Celeste, Lipan, Milford and Garner school districts weren’t included because of insufficient data. School district data were compiled from the Texas Education Directory.

Methodology

The score for each district was calculated from these measures:

  1. Housing cost for each school district was 30% of the total score. Housing cost was calculated by averaging the district index score for median home value and selected monthly homeowner costs (which includes property tax) for the school district. The more affordable the area, the higher the cost score. Data came from American Community Survey, a division of the U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. Standardized testing scores were 30% of the total score. District scores from 2012-13 were calculated by equally weighting SAT averages with the percent of students who scored “advanced” on the STAAR tests. All subjects were averaged for students in grades 3 to 11. Data was provided by the Texas Education Agency.
  3. College readiness for the class of 2013 was 30% of the total score. College readiness was a combination of a school district’s high school graduation rate, which is the percentage of students who graduate in the standard four years, and the percentage of students who were considered “college-ready” in both math and English language arts, according to the Texas Education Agency.
  4. Student-to-teacher ratio was the final 10% of the score. Data was provided by Texas Education agency.

Allen, Texas, image via iStock.