Five sites for tracking school data, crime rates

Parents can get the scoop on school data, crime rates, and even the location of worrisome sites such as former drug labs, by using websites and mobile apps geared toward homebuyers.

The sites recognize that buyers – parents or not – want to be armed with data before making such a big purchase. A study released in 2014 shows that 52 percent of millennials won’t buy a home in a school district they don’t like.

Here are five sites that Atlanta buyers and real estate agents suggest: Houston transplants Tom and Brooke Martin used GreatSchools (which also has a mobile app) to view student-parent ratio, test scores and its 1-10 rating of public elementary, middle and high schools before buying in Kennesaw. "We found some of our dream homes in other places, but we weren't going to compromise and put our children in schools that weren't rated well," Brooke Martin said. Test scores, student-teacher ratios, and school and district boundaries and rankings are provided for more than 120,000 public elementary, middle and high schools. The site lists the best, worst and most improved schools. The subscription website provides information about crime rates, public school performance, expenditures, class sizes and demographics, by neighborhood. The site and app allow people to search by public schools and school districts, and includes GreatSchools data (student-teacher ratio, test scores and a Great Schools rating). The site and app offer data including school ratings and enrollment, registered sex offenders (including address, physical characteristics and specific offense), crime ratings and index, earthquake and tornado history and risk levels, former drug lab locations and environmental hazards, including spills. Homefacts is a subsidiary of RealtyTrac.

Even though there’s an array of data available, it’s worthwhile for parents to ask specific school questions pertaining to your kids’ interests. For example, what sports are offered by the middle and high schools? If the activities your children are interested in aren’t available, what do other schools, recreation leagues and other teams offer?

Another basic aspect of school life to consider is transportation, which can be a factor in how parents get to know each other. Do most kids walk or ride their bikes to school, do they ride buses, or are they dropped off and picked up in a “car riders” line?

“For any family coming in, they just need to do their research as far as whatever their children are involved in,” Brooke Martin said.