Best School Districts for Your Buck in Connecticut

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best school districts connecticut

It’s the question on the mind of every parent: Will my kids get a good education in this city?

Yet for many families this concern quickly turns into a question of whether they can afford to live in an area with good schools. In a state like Connecticut, with the eighth-highest median home value in nation, the best schools are often found in the most expensive communities, such as Darien, Greenwich or Weston.

However, this isn’t always the case. There are in fact many affordable cities with good schools, and many towns where school quality offsets the premium of living there.

We set out to help families find these hidden gems. Using school quality and cost-of-living measures, NerdWallet has discovered the Connecticut school districts that best represent the most bang for your buck.

Here’s how we found the most affordable school districts in Connecticut:

  • Standardized test scores. We combined 10th grade CAPT scores and SAT scores in 2012.
  • College readiness. We factored in equally weighted scores for the graduation rate and the percent of high school graduates seeking higher education in 2012.
  • Class size. We also considered the student-to-teacher ratio in select school districts.

We evaluated 121 unified and secondary school districts in Connecticut. All data are from the U.S. Census Bureau or the Connecticut State Department of Education. To see the full data set, click here.

1. East Granby School District

East Granby School District made our list as the shining example of most bang for your buck, with a median home value of $274,000 and a high graduation rate of 94%. Students in this small community north of Hartford scored an average of 1641 on their SATs, well above the state average, and CAPT scores are in the top third for the state.

2. Litchfield School District

Litchfield is home to a number of good schools, from Litchfield Intermediate and Litchfield High to Wamogo Regional High School. The district’s four-year graduation rate of 97% is one of the highest in the state, and its 10th grade CAPT scores are top-notch, too. The school district’s across-the-board quality gave it the No. 2 spot on our list, despite a relatively high median home value of $337,000.

3. Stafford School District

Stafford School District prides itself on a diversity of options, including world language programs for students as early as third grade and its award-winning high school music program. The district also prioritizes technology integration and parent outreach at all levels. Stafford School District is an ideal setting for parents who want more individualized attention for their kids, with one of the lowest student-teacher ratios in the state at 14.2:1.

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4. Canton School District

In Canton, success is found across the board. Schools here can boast of having the state’s seventh-highest SAT average of 1734, and the district’s students are in the top 20 for both graduation rate and CAPT scores. The Canton School District was also one of a few select districts to see its high school and an elementary school place on Connecticut’s list of “Highest Overall Performance.”

5. Farmington School District

Farmington residents are accustomed to receiving accolades for their great schools. In addition to academic accomplishments at the high school, both the boys’ and girls’ teams also have won several state championships in soccer. While students in the district excel in traditional academic metrics, such as the SAT and CAPT, they also have a chance to explore their creativity in courses such as animation, photo design, advanced studio and 3-D design.

6. Bolton School District

The mission of the Bolton School District is to offer an academically rigorous atmosphere while also fostering critical thinking through real world experience. The district realizes this goal through strategic initiatives such as the Bolton 2020 Vision — which helped to extend the inclusion of special education students — as well as other activities including a student trip to South Africa last year. A testament to the district’s success is that just over 95% of Bolton High School graduates, the third-highest percentage in the state, went on to pursue higher education.

7. Regional School District 19

Regional School District 19, which includes Edwin O. Smith High School in Storrs, is an affordable school district to live in, and one that doesn’t also have to sacrifice quality. Housing in the district is the most affordable in our top 20, with a median value of $250,000, and students in the district also maintain one of the highest SAT averages in the state. The district counts a diverse range of achievements, including an east division championship for the boys’ cross country team, a gold medalist in the International Chemistry Olympiad and several eastern regional FFA winners.

8. East Lyme School District

Students in the East Lyme School District are accomplished on many levels. Not only do students here score high when it comes to their 10th grade CAPT scores and the four-year graduation rate, but they also were recently recognized for having the “largest clean energy-powered building in Connecticut.” The installation of over 2,800 solar cells helps students think globally and it also saves $33,000 annually.

9. Regional School District 08

Regional School District 08, which serves Hebron, Andover and Marlborough, is packed with activity. High school students can participate in activities from DECA — an international organization focusing on marketing and entrepreneurship — to the equestrian club, Model UN and the video production club. There’s also a large applied technology department and a variety of school courses including aerospace engineering, architectural design, and jewelry and enameling. When it comes to academic quality, there’s no slacking in this district, which has consistently made the College Board’s AP honor roll, and where 95% of graduates go on to higher education.

10. Regional School District 04­

Regional School District 04, which serves Chester, Deep River, Essex and Region 4 made our top 10, though the district’s rank was hurt by its relatively high median home value of $344,000. But the school system makes up for the higher housing costs with its academic metrics, including some of the highest 10th grade CAPT scores in the state, and a graduation rate of 90%. Many parents will also be pleased to learn that the school district has one of the lowest student-teacher ratios, at 15:1.

 

nerdwallet

School district Median home value in 2012 4-year cohort graduation rate Percent of graduates in higher education  SAT average in 2012 10th- grader CAPT scale score Average high school class size Bang for Your Buck weighted score
1 East Granby 274000 95.08 88.00 1641 1104 17 83.32
2 Litchfield 337700 97.09 85.29 1635 1119 16 83.28
3 Stafford 206600 88.03 80.88 1578 1036 14 82.20
4 Canton 322300 97.48 93.10 1734 1130 20 82.12
5 Farmington 338400 94.08 95.61 1648 1141 20 81.83
6 Bolton 287300 90.41 95.65 1608 1116 18 81.01
7 Regional 19 250100 87.25 78.10 1659 1072 16 80.76
8 East Lyme 325500 94.39 85.71 1629 1113 18 80.68
9 Regional 08 316000 90.54 95.00 1654 1112 19 80.40
10 Regional 04 344200 91.88 74.83 1635 1128 15 80.32
11 Simsbury 342400 95.58 89.95 1723 1155 20 80.20
12 Glastonbury 347200 95.90 93.32 1701 1116 19 79.73
13 Avon 390900 96.14 91.76 1729 1147 19 79.64
14 South Windsor 276300 93.78 89.30 1611 1124 20 79.45
15 Westbrook 345200 91.46 84.00 1539 1079 15 79.16
16 Granby 295300 97.35 89.95 1654 1114 21 79.12
17 Somers 325000 95.77 83.82 1584 1074 17 78.87
18 Waterford 280100 91.70 80.91 1540 1098 17 78.85
19 Regional 18 443000 97.12 86.14 1647 1142 19 78.57
20 Regional 15 345900 93.62 88.99 1637 1110 18 78.15
21 Regional 07 278500 93.17 72.19 1580 1123 19 78.03
22 Cromwell 248100 91.45 83.33 1547 1054 17 78.00
23 Cheshire 349800 95.86 91.40 1652 1111 20 77.94
24 Guilford 399100 97.56 85.56 1616 1159 19 77.52
25 West Hartford 305600 92.70 90.34 1609 1098 20 77.45
26 North Stonington 300900 87.04 72.55 1548 1048 14 77.38
27 East Hampton 273900 94.55 73.89 1559 1102 18 77.30
28 Plainville 209500 92.75 80.71 1467 1043 18 77.24
29 Wolcott 251200 93.61 85.78 1501 1070 19 77.22
30 Old Saybrook 401800 95.83 91.30 1595 1086 18 77.20
31 Tolland 285300 96.52 84.96 1608 1078 20 77.20
32 Berlin 297100 94.68 83.27 1525 1096 19 77.01
33 North Branford 310300 91.36 82.67 1512 1055 16 76.90
34 Thomaston 230300 91.30 73.81 1432 1049 16 76.85
35 Southington 270400 91.57 83.97 1548 1084 20 76.73
36 Ellington 274000 90.15 85.33 1559 1056 18 76.63
37 Portland 298900 91.30 82.14 1634 1071 20 76.54
38 Newington 235300 89.05 83.39 1540 1079 21 76.50
39 Ledyard 260500 91.51 84.34 1531 1069 19 76.29
40 Coventry 262400 86.27 74.63 1544 1078 18 76.29
41 Lebanon 265900 87.88 83.62 1506 1051 18 76.05
42 Thompson 217700 85.15 70.79 1487 988 16 75.75
43 Regional 13 332800 97.18 84.78 1567 1064 18 75.44
44 Regional 05 425700 96.31 91.49 1638 1162 20 75.29
45 Rocky Hill 273600 91.83 86.53 1479 1054 19 75.13
46 Oxford 377500 91.78 87.59 1544 1094 18 74.95
47 Suffield 326300 90.82 82.38 1578 1102 20 74.86
48 Wethersfield 266200 90.41 90.18 1551 1053 22 74.75
49 Madison 474300 96.72 92.66 1661 1161 21 74.74
50 Regional 01 364600 94.29 68.38 1484 1071 15 74.72
51 Colchester 277900 94.72 84.58 1516 1068 21 74.40
52 Plymouth 216700 84.17 72.57 1487 1026 18 73.39
53 North Haven 311600 92.47 88.89 1534 1092 22 73.29
54 Wallingford 274100 92.36 77.08 1520 1057 21 73.22
55 Groton 255200 81.74 72.50 1506 999 16 73.22
56 Clinton 291000 92.68 68.91 1552 1071 20 73.21
57 Bethel 353600 92.80 87.88 1531 1080 19 73.20
58 New Milford 324800 90.26 86.78 1560 1069 20 73.19
59 Regional 10 318000 96.09 80.26 1547 1097 21 73.12
60 Regional 17 355500 93.68 86.96 1546 1088 20 73.04
61 Regional 16 291400 91.88 81.28 1474 1043 19 72.99
62 Brookfield 403400 97.24 88.98 1605 1140 23 72.98
63 Monroe 412700 98.53 89.64 1582 1093 20 72.71
64 New Fairfield 367600 97.84 90.64 1620 1088 24 72.60
65 Branford 307500 93.02 79.27 1523 1054 21 72.48
66 East Haddam 303000 92.16 77.80 1518 1018 19 72.47
67 Regional 11 247400 95.24 76.19 1421 996 18 72.38
68 Torrington 183200 79.73 71.54 1489 979 18 72.33
69 Newtown 446700 94.83 86.47 1628 1140 20 72.16
70 Watertown 268500 90.95 84.40 1450 1023 20 72.11
71 Regional 14 369600 96.92 78.24 1543 1079 20 72.06
72 Montville 231000 86.55 73.00 1453 1023 19 71.44
73 Windsor 240800 85.05 82.35 1394 962 16 71.39
74 Seymour 277900 87.01 83.22 1425 990 17 71.35
75 Bristol 211700 85.10 68.01 1495 1024 20 71.23
76 Griswold 223900 87.50 70.48 1445 988 18 71.13
77 Putnam 206500 81.54 64.52 1410 927 14 71.11
78 Windsor Locks 209800 91.22 72.79 1437 970 20 70.60
79 Enfield 199900 85.16 74.89 1478 1003 21 70.46
80 Vernon 215400 81.95 78.17 1448 989 20 70.26
81 Trumbull 429100 97.24 92.83 1605 1117 23 70.24
82 Plainfield 195300 85.22 58.24 1434 964 17 69.92
83 Shelton 360700 91.36 74.56 1480 1075 19 69.56
84 Naugatuck 211100 84.24 78.93 1418 1012 21 69.39
85 East Windsor 232000 86.52 78.75 1399 983 19 69.33
86 Manchester 206700 73.17 86.26 1398 980 20 68.24
87 Killingly 203900 76.96 73.03 1405 966 19 68.21
88 Regional 06 372000 96.55 73.81 1519 1040 22 68.08
89 Middletown 237600 76.08 85.06 1418 1002 21 67.97
90 Stonington 352800 92.31 76.02 1528 1067 24 67.92
91 Hamden 248400 84.32 73.84 1398 972 18 67.75
92 Milford 321500 86.02 79.48 1475 1049 21 67.66
93 Windham 173500 70.17 79.08 1353 869 16 67.14
94 Regional 09 656500 97.06 91.85 1695 1174 20 66.64
95 Wilton 824600 98.08 95.53 1801 1173 20 66.53
96 Ridgefield 699900 98.19 95.43 1721 1178 22 66.44
97 Bloomfield 222700 78.06 87.35 1238 939 17 66.27
98 Fairfield 599300 94.20 88.89 1644 1123 22 65.77
99 East Haven 233100 72.17 80.77 1381 968 20 65.65
100 Stratford 276200 86.50 84.59 1399 1008 23 65.54
101 Weston 906900 99.48 93.65 1794 1172 20 64.95
102 East Hartford 184200 76.65 75.37 1321 899 18 64.47
103 Darien 1000000 96.46 97.36 1776 1149 18 63.59
104 Derby 232200 75.47 71.11 1387 930 20 62.56
105 New Canaan 1000000 96.96 94.72 1795 1184 21 62.18
106 West Haven 222400 72.12 87.12 1338 938 22 61.73
107 Westport 1000000 97.90 97.14 1785 1179 22 61.66
108 Meriden 198200 69.54 65.55 1362 921 21 60.90
109 Ansonia 253200 76.10 66.86 1327 931 19 60.35
110 Greenwich 1000000 92.26 92.22 1717 1135 18 60.25
111 Regional 12 589600 85.14 79.69 1544 1044 23 59.93
112 New Haven 219000 70.87 83.63 1209 901 19 59.72
113 Waterbury 158300 62.62 76.74 1246 875 20 59.34
114 Norwalk 440700 84.88 82.66 1416 975 21 59.33
115 Stamford 537300 85.24 86.02 1468 974 21 58.56
116 New Britain 169900 60.54 76.99 1349 847 22 57.78
117 Danbury 317200 76.75 75.49 1434 941 25 57.57
118 Hartford 178300 64.75 76.23 1130 891 21 55.84
119 New London 196400 61.92 53.25 1296 922 22 55.26
120 Bridgeport 206300 66.30 58.45 1166 831 19 50.81
121 Norwich 198000 22.39 7.14 779 14 37.83

 

Methodology

The score for each district was derived 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 for the school district. The more affordable the area, the better the score. Data are from the 2012 DP04 from the U.S. Census FactFinder.

2. Standardized testing score was 30% of the total score. District scores from 2011-12 were calculated by equally weighting state indexes of the 10th grader scale score for the CAPT and the districts’ SAT scores. Data were provided by the Connecticut State Department of Education.

3. College readiness for the class of 2012 was 30% of the total score. College readiness was a combination of a school district’s four-year cohort graduation rate, and the percent of students going on to colleges and universities, both two- and four-year institutions. The Connecticut State Department of Education supplied the data.

4. Student-to-teacher ratio data was 10% of the score. Data were provided by Connecticut State Department of Education.

We evaluated 121 unified and secondary school districts in Connecticut for this study. Charter schools, private schools and school districts with only primary schools were excluded. This study didn’t include Winchester, and Norwich data doesn’t include SAT scores. Data for 2012 on the percentage of students enrolled in higher education wasn’t available for East Granby, Groton and East Haddam. Instead, 2011 percentages were used in this study.


 High school students image via Shutterstock.