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If your house hunt is on, whether you’re a parent or someone who sees having kids in your future, you need to add an important item to your must-have list: The best schools. Including school districts and rankings in the mix helps ensure your kids have every advantage to achieve their goals. Also, from a strictly investment point of view, buying a home in a strong school district or even a neighbourhood with a highly ranked school can stabilize pricing in that area even when the market is feeling a little, shall we say, volatile. The trick is to shop the best school districts first, figure out the highest ranked area you can afford, and then check out the other desirables on your checklist to see how the area measures up. This ensures your kids are in the best schools in Toronto without sacrificing any of your other lifestyle musts. Here we offer six simple steps that lead to the best schools in Toronto.   

Step 1: Toronto Life’s Ultimate Rankings

We love, love, love this tool because it allows you to prioritize your preferred neighbourhood perks. They have a selection of “weightings” used to rank each neighbourhood on a scale from 0 to 100%. To narrow down your search to education, just crank the education ranking up to 100% and dial down all the other scales to 0. Voila! Instant education ranking. 

The education ranking is based on the number of schools and daycare services per child, as well as the number of people in the area with a post-secondary education. Best of all, the results will rank based on best education, yet still show rankings for all the other categories, including:

  • Housing
  • Transit
  • Health
  • Community
  • Safety
  • Shopping
  • Entertainment
  • Diversity 
  • Employment

You can explore the areas suited to your budget and see how the other categories most important to you measure up. Easy. Peasy. 

Step 2: Check Out the Neighbourhood’s Schools

Once you narrow down your area search, you can then use the Neighbourhood Guide tool to view all the schools in the area. Use the map to click Toronto, choose the area and then the neighborhood you wish to search. Then select schools on the navigation bar. The map will show you the schools in the area, which you can then filter based on schoolboard or private schools. This will provide a list of schools for you to research. 

Curious about Toronto’s neighbourhoods? Read our neighbourhood guides here.

Looking to get specific school information? Check out these posts next:

Step 3: Review the Individual School Rankings

With your school list in hand, you can use the Compare School Rankings search engine that allows you to search by location or choose a specific school to see how it ranks. The detailed Fraser Institute reports tell you how well each school performs and whether the school’s performance has remained the same, declined, or improved over the past five years.   

A few caveats about Fraser Institute “report cards”:

  • Report cards measure a school’s performance against the performance of other schools, which means it’s not really what most experts would consider a “literal representation.”
  • There might seem to be a significant difference in a school’s ability if you focus on sites listing schools from “best to worst” when there really are just a few points between schools due to the volume of overall schools. 
  • Teaching quality can also appear off-kilter when looking at best-to-worst rankings, again because of the number of schools in Ontario.
  • When Fraser Institute uses EQAO scores for their “report card” ratings, they overlook important factors such as the school’s sense of community, values and beliefs, the types of extracurricular opportunities offered, or the types of specialized programs available.
  • The scores don’t consider different levels of learning abilities, such as how many students might be taking advanced levels, the number of English as a second language students and how many neurodivergent students participated. This is important as higher numbers of these student groups can contribute to above or below average performance. 
  • School size also impacts scores but is not part of the measurement, so perfectly acceptable smaller schools often get the shorter end of the stick.
  • Diverse socioeconomic backgrounds also make a difference as noted private schools in wealthier areas have access to better resources, which impacts student performance. 

Step 4: EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office)

EQAO Testing is used to measure school performance in Grades 3, 6, 9 and 10. The testing also measures contextual, attitudinal, and behavioural information. It helps schools and boards find opportunities to improve programming and their approach to classroom instruction. It’s all about accountability at the classroom level. By comparing EQAO results, you can understand the effectiveness of the teachers at the school. If your children are older, it’s also an excellent tool to explore the high schools with the best acceptance rates for post-secondary schools. 

A few caveats about EQAO:

  • Some schools take time away from the regular curriculum to “prep” students before testing to improve the school’s scores. This can impact the level of education a child receives and possibly interfere with the relevant skills they’re expected to learn. It’s also an unfair advantage over schools sticking to the curriculum. 

Are you planning to buy a home soon? Learn more about the process of buying a home right here.

Step 5: Inside Scoop at Scholarhood

Rounding it all up, Scholarhood tells you not only where you’ll find the best school in Toronto, but even how much it costs to buy a home in that school district. It has it all, including the Fraser Institute rankings and EQAO results. Use it to firm up your list of schools before you start making some calls.

Just remember our caveat regarding rankings from best to worst – they’re misleading when viewed on their own, so make sure you follow up with our final step before
judging a school.

Step 6: Call the Schools

Now you’re ready to start calling the schools on your list and ask some basic questions, including:

  • How does your school identify either gifted students or those with learning challenges?
  • How is technology used at this school?
  • What extracurricular activities are offered at the school? 
  • What is the school policy for parents regarding questions and concerns?
  • Do you offer any specialized education in things such as music, art, STEM?
  • How does religion factor into the education system here?
  • Do your teachers “prep” students for EQAO?

Ask to visit the school and if possible, speak to parents at the school. They’re sure to have some interesting insights about the teachers, environment, kids, and sense of community at the school. 

Bonus Tips

Private Schools 

If you’re thinking about sending your child to a private school, Our Kids offers several tools to assist in your search, including private school comparisons. 

Special Programs

Ontario public and Catholic schools also offer three specialty programs:

  1. French Immersion: French Immersion schools flip the language ratio with the entire curriculum in French, and some English language courses available.  
  2. International Baccalaureate (IB) Program: This internationally recognized program focuses on in-depth studies, critical thinking, and practical experience, making it ideal if you envision your child attending an international university.
  3. Alternative Schools: These schools appeal to kids with specific interests or who might respond to a less structured learning style. 

Keep in mind these schools usually have waiting lists and different requirements for admission, so look into enrollment well before your child’s entry into the school system. 

Understanding Catchment Areas

Although it might seem a school just a block away from your preferred street would logically be the school your child would attend, you might be surprised to find your home is on the other side of the school’s boundaries. The school your child attends is based on “catchment areas” that set geographical boundaries determined by the school board. Although it’s possible you can apply to schools outside the boundary, it can be tricky because it’s based on the school’s capacity. You can speak to the school board to see if a transfer is possible. 

The Toronto District School Board provides a handy tool to search a specific house address to find the school catchment area. You can search by school to find out what streets it serves. Check it out here. You can also use the Catholic school search tool here.

Although you might find the ideal school is in an area out of your price range, these tips will help you narrow down your choices to find a school that provides the education your child deserves. 

If you’re looking for the best Toronto real estate team to guide you on finding a home in area with excellent schools, call The Christine Cowern team at 416.291.7372 or email us at hello@christinecowern.com. We’d love to work with you!