Finding an acceptable public school can be daunting for parents who are moving to or within the Boston Metro Area. Everyone wants to find the best schools in Boston, but there are so many schools, it is not possible to visit them all to find those that seem like good matches for your family. If you are like most people, you develop a list of possible schools through word of mouth, and you find some highly rated schools on school ranking websites.
But watch out.
Those school ranking websites are not factoring in parent income, which has the largest impact on student test performance at a school. So, a school that is scored a 9 or 10 on other school ranking sites actually doesn’t tell you a lot about the school itself. What it does tell you is that the school is most likely located in a privileged area, often located in the suburbs. These areas have long commutes, the most expensive real estate in the metropolitan area, and very little diversity.
And word of mouth often mirrors the school rankings site, not to mention your circle of friends all know of the same 4 or 5 “good” schools. Word of mouth is not a good way to get an unbiased view of all your options.
Read more about the inherent biases that plague the most popular school ranking systems.
There are without a doubt outstanding schools in Boston proper. And SchoolSparrow has uncovered 5 of the best schools in Boston that are often overlooked by traditional school ranking systems.
February 2021 UPDATE: Subsequent to this post, we published Boston’s Top 10 OutPerforming Elementary Schools. Our ranking algorithm has evolved to include adjustments for children with disabilities and english language learners. The 5 schools in this list were rated before these adjustments were incorporated into our algorithm.
For reference, the median price per square foot of a home listing in Boston is $758 psf. Not exactly affordable, which makes the school selection process more challenging.
But Boston has a unique school placement system: there are no neighborhood schools with attendance boundaries. Parents enter a lottery where they list their top choice schools (out of 6 schools provided by BPS based on the parents address), and school placement is the luck of the draw.
As a result, school placement and home affordability is a balancing act for families moving to the area. But using the ratings that are published on all the real estate search portals will not uncover all the amazing schools in Boston that have stellar leadership and an inclusive environment where any child will get a great education. Some of these schools are located in more affordable neighborhoods.
1. Joseph J. Hurley – Boston, MA (11 min drive time to Boston City Hall)
The Hurley K-8 school, located in the South End of Boston, is a top ranking K-8 school on SchoolSparrow. Out of over 1,000 schools, including suburban schools, Hurley stands out as a school that far exceeds expectations when parent income is factored into the reported test scores at this school. Many people may write this school off, as it only ranks a 5 out of 10 on GreatSchools.
However, when you look deeper into the Hurley School, there are so many things to love about it. When adjusted for parent income, the expected test score is 40.5 on the reading/language arts section of the standardized test. Hurley students actually score an average of 57.0 in this category, an impressive 41% above expectations, making this school one of the best schools in the Boston area.
Hurley is a Tier 1 school in the Boston School District.
The median list price per square foot for a home in this zip code is $1,044, with a median sale price of $936,700. This listing is an example of a 2 bedroom apartment you can purchase within close proximity to Hurley School.
Hurley is an absolute gem in the city Boston that should not be overlooked.
Address: 70 Worcester Street, Boston, MA 02118
2. Manassah E Bradley – Boston, MA (12 min drive time from Boston City Hall)
Bradley Elementary, a school in Orient Heights, rates at a 6 out of 10 on GreatSchools, but it should be rated more like a 9/10.
SchoolSparrow rates Bradley Elementary at an A- or above for grades 3-5, making it a top 3 PK-5 in the Boston Metro area.
Not only is Bradley a diverse school (20 out of 40), but they also exceed test score expectations by a longshot. Based on parent income, students are expected to score a 42.94 on the reading/language arts section of the standardized tests. Students at Bradley actually score an average of 57.0 on this section, about 33% higher than expected based on parent incomes.
The median list price per square foot for a home in this zip code is $625, with a median sale price of $575,700, one of the lowest median sale prices in the top 5 of this list.. These prices are well below average for Boston, making Bradley Elementary an affordable option. This listing is an example of a 3BD home you can buy in close proximity to the school, currently listed at $475,000.
Manassah E. Bradley is one of the best schools in Boston, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at other school ranking websites. Bradley is a Tier 1 School.
Address: 110 Beachview Road, East Boston, MA 02128
3. Warren Prescott – Charlestown, MA (10 min drive time from Boston City Hall)
The Warren-Prescott School is another fantastic K-8 school in Boston. This is another school that only ranks 5 out of 10 on GreatSchools, but it actually performs much better.
SchoolSparrow has this school ranked as a B+, and the 2nd best K-8 school in all of Boston.
Warren Prescott students test well above expectations when adjusted for parent income. The expected test score in reading/language arts is 42.99 when adjusted for parent income, but students test at an average score of 57.0.
This school also scores a 20 out of a possible 40 in diversity, showing that this school also has a good amount of diversity.
The median list price per square foot for a home in this zip code is $725, a below average price for Boston. The median sale price of a home in this zip code is $707,6000. This listing is an example of a home you can buy in close proximity to Warren-Prescott. If you decide to purchase in a more affordable neighborhood such as Rosindale, then your drive time to school is about 15 minutes, and the school is on the way to downtown Boston.
This is a school that any family looking for a school in Boston should absolutely consider, and it is a Tier 1 School.
Address: 50 School St., Charlestown, MA 02129
4. Eliot Elementary – Boston, MA (7 min drive time from Boston City Hall)
The next school on the list is Eliot Elementary. This is a tier 1 PK-8 school. Eliot has a B grade on SchoolSparrow, with especially high marks for 3rd and 4th grade, A+ and A, respectively.
Despite its tier 1 standing and B grade, Eliot Elementary only scores a 4/10 on GreatSchools.
This is a school with a diversity score of 20 out of 40, and test scores that exceed expectations. The reading/language arts test score for Eliot students is 54.2. These students exceed these expectations by over 15%, scoring an average score of 64.0.
On top of that, Eliot Elementary is the closest school on this list to the Boston central business district, but as a result the home prices are very expensive. The drive time from a more affordable neighborhood like Rosindale is approximately 30 minutes, and if you work downtown, the school will be in close proximity to your office.
The median rent price in this zip code is $2,625, lower than the average of $2,950 in Boston.
Although it might be overlooked at first glance because of its score on GreatSchools, Eliot School is one of the very best schools in Boston.
Lower School (K-1st Grade): 16 Charter St, Boston, MA 02113, Intermediate School (2-4th Grade): 173 Salem Street, Boston, MA 02109, Upper School (5-8th Grade): 585 Commercial Street, Boston, MA 02109
5. Joseph P. Manning Elementary – Jamaica Plain, MA (24 min drive time from Boston City Hall)
The final Tier 1 Out-Performer is Joseph P. Manning Elementary in Jamaica Plain. Joseph P. Manning is one of the most diverse schools in Boston, scoring a 40 out of 40 on the diversity formula.
Manning Elementary has a B+ grade on SchoolSparrow, with 3rd and 5th grade both scoring an A grade.
When adjusted for parent income, Manning Elementary students are expected to score a 50.75 on standardized tests. However, Manning students actually achieve the highest score on this list, with an average score of 67.0.
This PK-5 school finds itself on this list due to its 4/10 rating on GreatSchools. This might scare parents away from this school, but it shouldn’t.
The median list price per square foot for a home in this zip code is $565, the lowest price of these top 5 schools. The median sale price of $607,100. These prices are well below average for Boston, making Manning Elementary a more affordable option. This listing is an example of a home you can by near Manning Elementary.
Any parent looking for a school for their child should consider Manning Elementary.
Address: 130 Louders Ln, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
1. Grew Elementary – Hyde Park, MA (25 min drive time from Boston City Hall)
Grew Elementary, located in Hyde Park, is another school that only scores a 3 out of 10 on GreatSchools, and the Boston School District has Grew listed as a Tier 4 school. This low score may simply be a reflection of the socio-economic diversity of the school. Grew scores a 20 out of 40 on SchoolSparrow’s diversity formula.
Grew students exceed expectations based on parent income. The expected score for students is 28.71, but students actually score an average of 37.0, which is about 29% above expectations.
Grew Elementary is a K-5 School that is overlooked in Boston, but it should not be, as grades 3-5 all rank at a B or higher on SchoolSparrow.
The median list price per square foot for a home in this zip code is $355, with a median sale price of $457,450. This makes Grew Elementary a great option for families who want value. This listing is an example of one of the affordable homes you can buy in close proximity to Grew.
This school is doing something right, and it deserves a second look.
Address: 40 Gordon Avenue, Hyde Park, MA 02136
2. Perkins Elementary – Boston, MA (8 min drive time from Boston City Hall)
Perkins Elementary is an Out-Performer in South Boston. This school is the first PK-5 school on the list, and one of the highest ranking PK-5 schools in Boston on SchoolSparrow.
Perkins Elementary scores a B+ on SchoolSparrow, with grades 3-5 all ranking at a B or higher. The expected reading/language arts test score for Perkins is 27.75 based on parent income, but students at Perkins Elementary are outperforming at an average score of 37.0, or 33% above expectations. This school exceeds expectations, which is why it finds itself on this list.
The median list price per square foot for a home in this zip code is $785, with a median sale price of $726,700. This listing is an example of a 2 bedroom condo you can buy near Perkins Elementary.
This is another school that ranks a 20 out of 40 when it comes to diversity. Perkins is a school that is overlooked, because it only ranks a 3 out of 10 on GreatSchools, and the Boston School District has Perkins on its list of Tier 4 schools. However, Perkins Elementary is another potential Out-Performer in Boston proper.
Address: 50 Rev. Burke St., Boston, MA 02127
3. Trotter Elementary – Dorchester, MA (15 minute drive from Boston City Hall)
The William Monroe Trotter School in Dorchester is another K-8 school in the city of Boston. Trotter ranks a pedestrian 4 out of 10 on GreatSchools, and the Boston School District has Trotter Elementary marked a Tier 3 school, making it a true Out-Performer.
SchoolSparrow ranks the Trotter School a B+ overall, with a B- or higher score for every grade 3-8. Trotter is a diverse school, with a diversity school of 20.0. Based on parent income, their expected test score is 22.88. What makes Trotter such a great school is that their students average a 34.0 on the reading language/arts section of the standardized tests, which is almost 50% above expectations.
The median home value in this zip code is $435,082. This listing is an example of a 3 bedroom apartment you can buy near Trotter School.
Address: 135 Humboldt Avenue, Dorchester, MA 02121
4. Holmes Elementary – Boston, MA (17 minute drive from Boston City Hall)
The final school on our list of best schools in Boston, that SchoolSparrow considers Out-Performers, is Holmes Elementary. Holmes Elementary is probably the most overlooked school on the entire list.
There are a few reasons for this, Holmes Elementary is a tier 4 school in Boston, and it scores a 1/10 on GreatSchools. A lot of people would look at this, and not even give the school a chance.
The test scores tell a different story about Holmes Elementary. When adjusted for parent income, students are expected to score a 30.29 on the reading/language arts section of MAP testing. However, students at this school exceed this expectation, averaging a score of 37.0.
A school that exceeds expected test scores should not be ranked as a 1/10. SchoolSparrow grades Holmes Elementary at a B level, with an A- at the 4th grade level.
Holmes is a full inclusion school, meaning that special ed students or students with disabilities are included in mainstream classrooms with typical functioning peers. Holmes also has smaller class sizes in these inclusion classrooms.
With a 20/40 score for diversity, and test scores that exceed expectations, Holmes Elementary is a school for which parents should look past the GreatSchools rating.
The median list price per square foot for a home in this zip code is $422, with a median sale price of $484,200. This listing is an example of a 4 bedroom home you can buy near Holmes Elementary.
Give Holmes Elementary a chance, because it is an Out-Performer in Boston.
Address: 40 School St, Boston, MA 02124
Just to clarify, the assignment system is a bit more complicated than you describe. It’s not exactly correct that you can live anywhere in Boston and attend any school. There is an enrollment system that provides each family a list of schools to rank based on their home address, and that list contains at least six schools. You can’t rank schools that aren’t on the list, and then an algorithm/lottery determines where you match. There are a handful of K-8 schools that are open to anyone in the city. But in the example above, it’s very unlikely you could live in Roslindale and attend Hurley. The likeliest way that would happen is if you lived near Hurley when you enrolled and then moved to Roslindale, in which case BPS would allow you to remain enrolled, although you’d have to arrange your own transportation.
We’ve updated the post with this clarification. Thank you so much for the comment.