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New site marries New York real estate and school searches

A search for P.S. 321, an A-rated school in Brooklyn, shows market rate rents and home prices in the area and a link to the nearest Starbucks.
A search for P.S. 321, an A-rated school in Brooklyn, shows market rate rents and home prices in the area and a link to the nearest Starbucks.

A founding board member of two New York City charter schools has started his own website to help parents find good elementary schools in neighborhoods they can afford.

Called SchoolFisher, the site grades elementary schools according to its own criteria — mainly students’ scores on the state’s tests — and only includes the top 200. Of those, a group of 50 are highlighted in gold for posting the highest scores of all.

“Like Lake Wobegon’s children, all of the schools on this site are above average,” the site reads.

SchoolFisher’s creator is Eric Grannis, who sits on the board of the Public Prep charter school network and is married to Eva Moskowitz, founder of the Success Charter Network. A longtime charter school supporter, Grannis said he wanted to show parents that they didn’t have to live in the poshest neighborhoods to win entry to the best schools.

“This is important information because I think a system that works upon biases and prejudices — the assumption being, oh this school is in a poorer neighborhood, therefore it’s bad — is actually unhelpful,” he said.

Visitors to SchoolFisher can select whether they plan to buy or rent an apartment and approximately how much they’re looking to spend. The lowest rent a person can select is $800 for a 1-bedroom and the highest is $3,800 for a 3-bedroom. With that information, the site creates a map of top-scoring schools in neighborhoods that meet the visitor’s price point. But knowing the right neighborhoods isn’t enough, as the site notes, parents will have to do some research on their own to make sure they buy in the right districts.

Inevitably, the more a person is willing to pay, the more options she’ll have. Entering the lowest rent of $800 turns up 19 results, most of them in Brooklyn and the South Bronx. Of the 19, the majority are charter schools, which tend to open in low-income neighborhoods.

And some of them have yet to open. SchoolFisher assigns grades to charter schools that have yet to post any test scores based on how other charters in the same network have performed. So even though Icahn Charter School 4 doesn’t have test scores yet, the site gives it an A- because other schools in Icahn Charter network have high scores.

Along with telling parents where to buy or rent apartments in order to find a good school, the site offers another service: coffee scout. Enter the name of a school and it will tell you how much it costs to live nearby, but also where the nearest Starbucks is located.

Grannis said that in the course of reviewing schools’ scores and assigning grades — no school earns less than a B — he was surprised at how many district schools were among the city’s best.

“Of course I always knew there was a spectrum. But I’m amazed at how astonishingly good some of them are,” he said.

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