How to Decide on Schools, Programs and Home Location

When deciding where to live, school can be the biggest factor. Here is what you need to know...

The quality of the public schools zoned for a property has an impact on real estate value, in any region.

Homes zoned for strong public schools notoriously hold greater value then those zoned for weak schools. For parents of non-adult children schools can be the single most important factor in deciding where to live.

  • When a public school (free education) option is important, you will be restricting your search to areas zoned for the schools you want.
  • When a public school option is not important, there will be no restriction to areas where you can live, keeping in mind that tuition for private school is approximately $10k-$30k per child per year depending on the program.

Regardless of this decision it is important to visit the schools of interest, which may take some time and planning. Following is important reference information that will be useful in understanding some of these considerations.

K-12: Chart comparing Education Options

Option Type Governed
Zoned Focused
Entry Test
private school self no yes yes availability
public ("zoned") school board of ed yes no no no
public gifted
program ("zoned")
program * board of ed yes yes yes ** no
public magnate
program *** board of ed no yes no lottery
public charter
school self +
board of ed
no yes based on
based on
  • * a program that runs within an existing pre-determined school that draws children from affiliated zoned schools
  • ** a psychologist will administer a test to the child, and recommendations must follow from the psychologist and the child’s current teacher
  • *** a program with a focus that runs within a school that may or may not encompass the entire school. Multiple programs may be running in a single school.

Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K)

  • VPK (“Voluntary Pre-kindergarten“)
  • WHAT IS IT: A Florida legislatively mandated and publicly subsidized program designed to help better prepare Florida children for kindergarten.
  • BENEFIT: A Portion of the cost of participating pre-k school or pre-k summer programs are subsidized, so you pay less.
    • Participating schools, programs and children must follow certain guidelines (teach certain things, limited number of days absent, etc.)
    • Applications must be formally submitted and children must be registered with the Florida Board of Education
    • Currently pays for 540 hours for Fall or 300 hours for Summer, but check their websites for changes and details
    • Can apply VPK to Fall or Summer (either/or)
  • References you will need to use:

GIFTED PROGRAMS (public school):

  • WHAT ARE THEY: A more rigorous public school program that your child must be formally recommended for
  • BENEFIT: Provides an accelerated public alternative to children where an intense curriculum better suits the needs of the child
  • THE CATCH: Your child will have to be tested and interviewed, and may be sent to a school outside your zone due to capacity issues Testing has 3 parts
    1. A math and reading test - where the child must score 90% in either. The “Woodcock-Johnson III Achievement test? is currently used.
    2. An IQ test - the child must score 130 and above. The most common test used is the WPPSI (Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence). Other tests can be used but are not as preferable by schools or psychologists
    3. A gifted recommendation checklist - completed by the child’s current teacher at current school. A specific % of qualifiers must indicate "gifted"
  • Results are processed by the default public school in which your child is currently zoned, and received by the "Gifted Office" at the Palm Beach School district.
  • If you cannot drive them, your child may be bussed for as long as 2 hours as it picks up kids scattered across a larger region

CHOICE SCHOOLS (zone independent Click here):

  • Magnate Programs: You must speak with the specific schools to understand the program's focus. You will be asked to submit a prioritized list of "choice" (non-zoned) schools that you would like your child to attend. If you include more than one single choice you may get placed into your next choice, which can be challenging to reverse or alter.
  • Charter Schools: You must speak with the specific schools to understand the program's focus, entry requirements and availability. They are exempt from many rules and curriculum requirements governing district-run schools so have more flexibility in educational approaches. Some are specialized schools much like magnet schools, for example in the arts and in STEM. But more commonly, charters focus on both innovative and traditional approaches proven to contribute to academic success

EXCEPTION TO ZONING: If the school that a child is zoned for is classified as "underperforming" (meets the criteria of "Differentiated Accountability") after annual evaluation, parents may elect for their child to be sent to one of 2 alternative public schools nearby. However, ability to transfer depends on available space at each alternative school with preference toward financially challenged children and families. The child must still register with zoned school, and will receive a letter in the mail indicating this alternative. This exception is mandated by law.

Important public school lingo when researching problematic schools

  • AYP = Adequate Yearly Progress
  • SINI = Schools In Need Of Improvement
  • Group 1 = A or B Schools with 80% of AYP met
  • Group 2 = C Schools with 70% AYP met
  • Group 3 = Inconsistencies with AYP and Grades
  • Group 4 = D or F Schools regardless of AYP


  • Which schools or programs better address your specific child’s needs and learning style?
  • What are the different emphases or programs offered?


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2424 N Federal Highway Boca Raton, FL 33431
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