“Location, location, location” is the famed adage in real estate, and for families with children (or who are planning for them), the best locations are often neighborhoods in great school districts. In fact, nearly three-quarters of homebuyers surveyed said living in a high-performing school district was an important factor for choosing a home. The “good school criteria” trumped other items on their wish lists, including big backyards and renovated kitchens.

o, what exactly makes a school district a great one? Criteria can include test scores, teacher-to-student ratios, diversity, advanced placement course availability and the breadth of after-school programs available for budding artists, athletes and even Harry Potter aficionados.

If school districts top your must-have list in a home search, here are five great ones in the Denver-metro area:

1. Littleton Public School District

This school district in the south metro Denver area has 13 elementary schools, four middle schools, and four high schools. An impressive statistic: Four-year graduation rates in this district are about 90 percent, which is higher than Colorado’s state-wide average of 79 percent, according to state education data. A few cool things that make this district stand out? A free lunch program for kids in the summer, and parenting workshops that touch on subjects like cyber security. Littleton Public Schools also hold district-wide campaigns to help lobby for more school funding from the state.

Bragging rights: Students from Heritage High School, one of the district’s schools, were recently honored by the #Digital4Good campaign run by a nonprofit that encourages students to improve the online environment. The students from Heritage created a challenge called “Offline October,” urging their peers to give up on social media for a month to focus on face-to-face interactions and strengthening friendships.

Average home price in the area: $426,500

2. Cherry Creek School District

A high-performing school district, Cherry Creek boasts a 90 percent graduation rate, significantly higher than the statewide average of 79 percent. The school district also announced that it will open an online high school in August 2019, enrolling about 200 to 250 students. These students include elite athletes who are training, students who have medical conditions and others who simply perform better in an online setting. This district is also among the highest-paying in the state when it comes to teacher salaries, and it has high teacher-to-student ratios.

Bragging rights: Cherry Creek High School boasts more than 100 student clubs. Some of the fun ones include a Harry Potter club, swing-dancing group and a yoga club.

Average home price in the area: $824,700

3. Denver School District

The Denver School District is among the most diverse school districts in the state. It’s also recognized as having great athletics programs for students. Graduation rates here are 65 percent, below the national state average of 79 percent. But, the school district is in the midst of a 5-year strategic plan that in part aims to increase graduation rates to 90 percent, and ensures quality schools are available in every neighborhood. The school district has 208 schools, including 44 high schools.

Bragging rights: Swigert, an International Baccalaureate school in Northeast Denver, is among five Colorado schools that were named National Blue Ribbon Schools. The school was recognized as high performing, measured by state exams and national tests.

Average home price in the area: $414,500

4. Douglas County School District

At 90 percent, four-year graduation rates in the Douglas County School District are also among the highest in state of Colorado. Niche.com also recognized Douglas County as one of the safest school districts in the state, not to mention one of the best for student-athletes. Douglas County serves more than 68,000 students, making it Colorado’s third-largest school district. In 2018, the school district hired a new superintendent, Thomas S. Tucker, who brings with him nearly three decades of experience in education.

Bragging rights: Thunder Ridge has a “lunch table” program where peer mentors welcome new students.

Average home price in the area: $477,000

5. Jefferson County School District

Jefferson County is a district with the best teachers, according to Niche.com rankings, and state statistics show the teacher-to-student ratio is high. About 84 percent of students graduate within four-years, which is higher than the state average graduation rate. Also, U.S. News & World Report ranks six Jeffco high schools in the top 50 schools in Colorado on their 2018 Best High Schools list.

Bragging rights: In 2018, graduates from Jefferson County high schools received approximately $96 million in scholarships.

Average home price in the area: $414,000

To learn more about neighborhoods in the Mile High City, check out Eave’s free Insider’s Guide to Denver, written by our experts!