5 of the Best Schools in Phoenix: SchoolSparrow’s Hidden Gems

Phoenix, Arizona is the 5th largest city in the United States, with a population of nearly 1.6 million. It’s home to over 200 golf courses. More than 22 million people visit Phoenix every year. Phoenix is an affordable city, with an average home prices at $176/sf. Another thing about Phoenix that SchoolSparrow wants to bring to light is it is home to some great schools.

The Problem With School Selection Today

Most families today choose schools based on word of mouth and school rankings websites like GreatSchools.org. Both methods, however, will give you only a narrow view of your school options

Public school ranking websites like GreatSchools factor in test score results in their ranking formulas. In fact, test scores are the biggest influencer of the rankings on these sites, and word of mouth usually mirrors the highest rated schools on these websites.

But research has proven that the most influential factor in predicting test scores is not the school itself or quality of instruction. The most influential factor is parent income

The end result that people are selecting schools in the most expensive neighborhoods, often in suburbs with long commutes, sacrificing time with their family, and with very little diversity. All this in the name of chasing the “best” schools, when in reality, they are chasing schools with the highest parent income.

The SchoolSparrow Solution

SchoolSparrow understands that parent income is the biggest driver of test scores at any given public K-12 school in the US, and our ranking system reflects that. 

We calculate an “expected” test score for each school— that is, the score you’d expect solely based on average parent income at that school. Then, the school is graded based on how it’s actual score departs from this expected score. 

If the students perform better than expected on standardized tests, that means the school is clearly putting in extra work to make sure these kids succeed. In short, our ranking system elevates schools with socio-economic diversity to the forefront.

Below you’ll find the top 5 Hidden Gems in Phoenix: schools that most ranking websites (and most parents, too) overlook because of the biased metrics. Don’t make that mistake! The schools on this list don’t just exceed expectations on standardized tests: they’re diverse learning communities located in neighborhoods that won’t break your budget.

1. Cactus Wren Elementary – Phoenix, AZ (20 minute drive from Talking Stick Resort Arena)

Out of many great schools, Cactus Wren Elementary is one of the best schools in Phoenix. SchoolSparrow gives it an A grade overall, and an A grade for 4th and 6th grade. It is located in Newcastle Village, on the north side of Phoenix.

Cactus Wren is also one of the most diverse schools on the list, with a diversity score of 20 out of a possible 40.

Cactus Wren Elementary. Image: http://cactuswren.wesdschools.org/

Cactus Wren Elementary is in the Washington Elementary School District. It’s also located in an affordable zip code. The price per square foot of a home in 85051 is $139, which is lower than the Phoenix average of $176. This listing is an example of a 3 bedroom home you can buy in this school district.

This school’s test scores are why it finds itself on this list. When normalized based on the parent income profile of the school, the expected reading/language arts test scores for Cactus Wren students is 26. Students at this school actually score an incredible 60% better than this, with an average score of 42.

This test score is the highest on the entire list, and so is the 60% performance above expectation. Students at Cactus Wren are improving too, as test scores improved at every grade level from 2017 to 2018.

Many parents might look past Cactus Wren Elementary due to its 3/10 score on GreatSchools. Don’t let this scare you away, because SchoolSparrow believes that this school should have a score of 10/10. Cactus Wren is a school with high test scores that exceed expectations, and it’s both diverse and located in an affordable zip code. Any parent moving into or within the city of Phoenix should have Cactus Wren Elementary on their shortlist.

Address: 9650 N 39th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85051

Website: http://cactuswren.wesdschools.org/

2. Manzanita Elementary – Phoenix, AZ (19 minute drive from Talking Stick Resort Arena)

The second school on this list is another school on the northside of Phoenix. Manzanita Elementary is a school located in Stardust Skies next to Hoshoni Park, and it is a hidden gem in the city of Phoenix.

SchoolSparrow gives Manzanita Elementary an A grade overall, along with an A grade for 4th and 6th grade.

Manzanita Elementary. Image: http://manzanita.wesdschools.org/

Manzanita is also located in the affordable 85051 zip code, with a below Phoenix average price per square foot of a home of $139. This listing is an example of a 2 bedroom home you can buy within Manzanita boundaries.

Manzanita Elementary is located in the Washington Elementary School District, and has a diversity score of a 20 out of a possible 40.

This school is so impressive due to how much students exceed test score expectations. When adjusted for parent income, the expected test score from Manzanita Students is 26. The actual test scores that Manzanita students achieve is an average of 39, an outstanding 50% better than expected!

GreatSchools gives Manzanita a 4/10, but the score should be a 10/10. Manzanita Elementary is one of the best schools in Phoenix. Parents, give Manzanita Elementary a serious look for your child.

Address: 8430 N 39th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85051

Website: http://manzanita.wesdschools.org/

3. Moon Mountain School – Phoenix, AZ (20 minute drive from Talking Stick Resort Arena)

Moon Mountain School is another school located in the Washington School district. Located in north Phoenix in Moon Valley Gardens, Moon Valley Elementary is one of the best schools in Phoenix.

Moon Mountain Elementary. Image: http://moonmountain.wesdschools.org/

Moon Mountain School is located in the 85029 zip code, with a price per square foot of a home of $147. The average sale price of a home in this zip code is $238,500. The average price per square foot in Phoenix is $176, so this is an affordable zip code. This listing is an example of a 3 bedroom home you can buy within these school boundaries.

Moon Mountain is also one of the most diverse schools on the list, with a diversity score of 20 out of a possible 40.

This school gets an A grade on SchoolSparrow, with an A for 4th and 6th grade.

These high marks are based on the data, and front and center in that data are the adjusted test scores. When test scores are normalized for parent income, Moon Mountain students score 45% better than expectations. The expected test score is 26, but the actual test scores that these students achieve is an average of 38.

This is a very impressive accomplishment from Moon Mountain School, and one of the reasons it finds itself on this list.

Moon Mountain is a school that may often be overlooked due to its 4/10 score on GreatSchools. This score is not indicative of the data, and Moon Mountain should have a 10/10 score. Take a close look at Moon Mountain School, as it’s one of the best.

Address: 13425 N 19th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85029

Website: http://moonmountain.wesdschools.org/

4. Desert View ElementaryPhoenix, AZ (21 minute drive from Talking Stick Resort Arena)

Another school in North Phoenix that is a true hidden gem is Desert View Elementary. Located in the Washington School District, Desert View Elementary gets an A- grade on SchoolSparrow.

Desert View Elementary has a diversity score of 15 out of a possible 40.

Desert View Elementary. Image: http://desertview.wesdschools.org/

The price per square foot of a home in this zip code is $200, with an average home sale price of $219,100. This listing is an example of a 3 bedroom home you can buy in this zip code.

Students at Desert View Elementary exceed expectations on the reading/language arts portion of standardized MAP testing. The parent income adjusted expected test score is 27.26, but students actually achieve an average score of 32. This is 17% better than expected!

The test scores are impressive, making Desert View Elementary a hidden gem. GreatSchools gives Desert View a 3/10 score, which is far too low for a school that exceeds expectations. Look past this GreatSchools core, and start looking at Desert View Elementary for what it is, one of the best schools in Phoenix.

Address: 8621 N 3rd St, Phoenix, AZ 85020

Website: http://desertview.wesdschools.org/

5. Palm Lane Elementary School – Phoenix, AZ (16 minute drive from Talking Stick Resort Arena)

The first and only school on this list from the West side of Phoenix is Palm Lane Elementary. This is a school located in the Cartwright Elementary School District.

To go along with that, Palm Lane Elementary is the closest school on the list to the Phoenix central business district.

Palm Lane Elementary. Image: http://cartwrightpalmlane.ss12.sharpschool.com/our_school

It is also the most affordable zip code on the list, with a price per square foot of $136, and an average home sale price of $218,200. This listing is an example of a home you can buy within Palm Lane boundaries.

Palm Lane Elementary has a SchoolSparrow grade of B+ overall, and A- at the 3rd grade level.

Palm Lane students exceed test score expectations based on parent income by 9%. The expected score is 27.26, but the students actually achieve an average score of 30.

This school is a true hidden gem, because it has a GreatSchools score of 2/10. No school that is exceeding test score expectations should be rated that low.

Any parent moving to or within Phoenix should give Palm Lane Elementary serious consideration.

Address: 2043 N 64th Dr, Phoenix, AZ 85035Website: http://cartwrightpalmlane.ss12.sharpschool.com/

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