FAQ: School Attendance Zones


At Onboard Informatics we’ve been working hard to bring you the most comprehensive, accurate, and detailed school data. Here are some common questions on using School Attendance Zones. Q: What is the difference between a school district and a school attendance zone?

A: A school district refers to the geographical area of a local school administration while a school attendance zone showcases which areas "belong" to which schools. For instance, while shopping for a home you may know that your son will attend Centerville School District but without attendance zone info, you may not know which elementary school he will attend. Especially in densely populated areas, a school district can contain multiple schools of the same grade level and the attendance area is rarely cut and dry.

Q: Why is Onboard offering school attendance zones now?

A: With school quality impacting nearly half of real estate purchase decisions today, enabling our clients to provide expertise to their potential buyers is paramount. We've provided advanced school profiles, ratings, and reviews, for years. We've even possessed school district data but have advised clients using it on its own since it's often misleading as a standalone (in terms of attendance). This data requires a lot of processing and maintenance which we were not prepared to do until we prioritized attendance zones and can now complete our school offering. Our clients can now connect the complete educational picture of an area to all of the other content they receive from us - from community information and market trending to listings.

Q: What is the source of the data?

A: The School Attendance Zone data is derived from three levels. The base level is produced from publicly available data, including the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the United States Census Bureau. On top of this publicly available data, the next layer of data is acquired from individual each district and/or school. This ongoing and constant exercise includes capturing boundary and address list information in various forms, then translating that into a comprehensive and usable database. In addition to these sources, school and district information is also collected through various private companies and non-profit sources to try to create the most accurate picture available today.

Q: What is the accuracy of the data?

A: The accuracy of the data is measured in three ways:

  • How accurate the boundaries are in terms of positioning: Each boundary is lined up using street maps, parcel maps, and imagery (satellite and / or aerial photography) to create highly accurate positioning and alignment.
  • How accurate the boundaries are in terms of timeliness: Attendance zone boundaries change over time due to population growth / decline, budgetary stress forcing closures and consolidation, new housing development, and a variety of other reasons. There are at least two updates per year containing new boundaries that were not available previously, updated boundaries based on changes from the schools, and fixes based on feedback from clients, schools, or others.
  • How accurate the information associated with the boundaries is: Information about schools and districts is available from the public sources typically lags a year in terms of its true accuracy. Because of this, Onboard uses private sources who conduct direct surveys with schools and districts constantly. This way we can provide details that are many times different and more accurate than what the public data describes. This data is updated and delivered quarterly. Further, ratings, reviews and other “crowd-sourced” content is updated even more frequently with bi-monthly updates.

Q: What is the coverage of the data?

A: The attendance zone data and all related details is available with full, national coverage. However, there are areas for which attendance zones are not yet available due to a variety of reasons including that those areas do not have accurate data to date. Some areas also offer “school of choice” or a “lottery” system whereby specific school attendance zones become less relevant. The current boundary data covers 70% of the U.S. student population. Over half of the U.S. population is covered with all boundaries K-12.

Q: What’s the best way to display School Attendance Zones on a map?

A: Our clients receive an in-depth guide to help them trough implementation, including our suggestions for best practices with the data. We’ve worked hard to help our clients determine the single “best” school district for an address or parcel, best practices for displaying multiple boundaries, etc. If you’re not yet a client, get in touch with us or watch our free School Attendance Zones webinar below to learn more