In a great Dallas Observer story today, Eric Nicholson crunches the real estate, demographic and achievement rating data on Dallas ISD elementary schools. No huge surprise — East Dallas’ Lakewood, Stonewall Jackson and Hexter elementary schools are identified as popular schools with the city’s middle-class parents.

Both Stonewall and Lakewood had the highest academic ratings possible this past year and also are the “only two elementary campuses in the entire district [with] student populations that are less than half economically disadvantaged.” Real estate values reflect this, with agents noting that “you can have a shithole for sale in Lakewood Elementary, and it will sell because it’s Lakewood Elementary.”

Hexter is one of two elementary schools whose student population is less than two-thirds economically disadvantaged. It received almost as high ratings this past year, and real estate values reflect this. “Slowly, the neighborhood began to invest in the school and it’s become a desirable campus for middle-class families,” Nicholson writes. “Which means the average parent is quickly being priced out of the Hexter neighborhood as well. Houses that a dozen years ago were selling for under $200,000 are now going for $350,000.”

The point of the piece, however, is less to laud these neighborhood schools and more to point out what happens to Dallas real estate when the middle class decides an elementary school is desirable. It’s the chicken-egg debate — does a good school raise real estate values or does a neighborhood’s investment create a good school?

With that in mind, consider Nicholson’s evaluation of three great Dallas ISD elementary schools that the middle class seems to be ignoring: North Dallas’ Caillet, Addision’s George H.W. Bush and Oak Cliff’s Arcadia Park all received the highest possible state academic ratings last year — just as high as Lakewood and Stonewall, and higher than Hexter. The median home values for those three schools are $164,000, $210,000 and $61,000, respectively, compared to Lakewood and Stonewall’s median values of $483,000 and $337,000.

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