For Paul and Leigh Tischler, the biggest drawing card in their Chevy Chase neighorhood was not the quiet street with sidewalks and landscaped front lawns. Nor the large yard where their children play on swings. Nor the bus stop within walking distance - an easy ride for Paul Tischler to his job downtown. Nor the spacious rooms in the house.
It was a classroom in a renovated brick building called Lafayette Elementary School, which they believe is the best school for their 6-year-old son Eric to learn reading, writing and arithmetic.
The Tischlers are like thousands of families throughout the Washington area who buy homes in specific neighborhoods because of the schools located in them.
"The first question that prospective home buyers ask is where will my children go to school." said Joann Sumner, a real estate agent in Fairfax County. "Then they want to know how does that school compare with other schools in the county."
From neighborhoods served by Bunker Hill Elementary School and Woodrow Wilson High in the District, to Langley High and McLean High in Fairfax, to Burning Tree Elementary, Thomas Pyle Junjor High and Walt Whitemen High in Montgomery County to High Point High in Prince George's County, parents buy homes so their children can attend schools they believe to be the best.
Sought after schools, however, are not limited to small handful of institutions commonly named as the area's top academic schools. Some parents buy homes near Annandale High School so their sons go to a good school as well as play on what they consider to be the best football team in the area. Or move to neighborhoods served by W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax so their children can argue on the "best" debate team.
Many parents of handicapped children move to Arlington because they think the county's schools have especially strong programs for their handicapped sons and daughters.
School officials officially discourage the rating of one school above another. "We take the position that any one of our schools is just as good," said George F. Hamel, Fairfax school spokesman.
How families go about choosing certain schools varies.
Jacqueline and Jesse Wallace moved from Northwest Washington to the Brookland area in northeast Washington so their 6-year-old daughter Jacqueline could attend Bunker Hill Elementary School.
"A couple of years ago I said whenever we moved (from Northwest), I wanted to live in an area where my children could go to Bunker Hill," Mrs. Wallace said.
When the family first looked at the Michigan Avenue house where they moved a year ago, Jacqueline Wallace said, her husband kept insisting they could not afford the house, which was appraised at $74,000.
But about a block from the house sits Bunker Hill Elementary School, a 38-year-old sturdy brick, building with steeps steps leading from the Michigan side-the doorway.
"The principal is really good, Jacquelin said. They have some dynamite teachers. You always heard good things about the school."
It was similiar good things that Lt. Col. Jim Hatch heard about the football team at Annandale High School while he was stationed in London that led him to move his family to Annandale.
His son, Jimmy, played on the school football team in London before his family was transferred to this area last July. Hatch said he was looking for "a school that had a track record of producing some good athletic teams. Annandale was my first choice."
The high school football team has been a consistent winner of local and state titles for the past 10 years.
When looking for a house, we always have considered our children's education first," said Hatch, whose son earned a letter in football as a sophomore last fall.
Like the Hatches, Jim and Margot Herzog, heard from friends about the high school to which they plan to send the first of their three sons next year.
The Herzogs, who live in Northwest Washington, are buying a house in Montgomery County so their sons - who are not yet high school-age & can attend Walt Whitman High School.
"A number of people have remarked on what a good reputation Walt Whitman has," said Margot Herzog. "Of the area schools, it certainly appears superior."
She said she was impressed with the quality of the academic program at the school and the number of National Merit Scholars the school produces. Whitman had 32 semifinalists in the 1977 National Merit Scholarship competition, the third highest number of semifinalists of any school in the nation. In 1976, the schhol was sixth in the nation with 29 semifinalists.
She said the family's move to Bethesda "does pose problems. My husband and I work downtown so we will have to commute that distance. We've got to buy a second car." Despite the problems, she said, "It seems worth it."
[TEXT OMMITED FROM SOURCE] house in Prince George's County near High Point High School, because they want their daughter, Lisa, to go there next year.
The family currently lives in an apartment within walking distance of the school, and wants to invest in a house. But Mrs. Perez said the family will stay put if it can not find a house in the neighborhood served by High Point.
"Everything is very positive about High Point," she said. "It's a very good school. A lot of graduates of the school go to college. They seem to have more course offerings than the other county high schools," she said.
Course offerings are important to many parents who are looking for the best schools for their children.
Bruce Herbert selected McLean High School for his son after a thorough study of area schools, which led him to believe that the school was the best in physical science.
Herbert, who moved his family from New York to McLean last August, said, "I looked at the economics of the community. I noticed that there was generally a strong correlation between education (in the schools). The higher education level (of the parents) the more they demand from the public schools."
Using maps of the school districts in Northern Virginia and census tract data, Herbert said he marked in red those tract data, Herbert said he marked in red those school districts where the incomes were $10,000 or below and marked in blue those that were over $20,000.
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His list of select schools included six in Fairfax County.He said further research showed Langley and McLean high schools "to be academically oriented toward sending kids to college."
After talking with the school officials, studying test scores and programs of studies, the family chose McLean High School.
Helen Hedges said her family moved to Arlington when her husband was transferred from California to the area 10 years ago because the county had the best handicapped programs for her two sons who have visual and speaking problems.
"I've been very happy with what my sons have gotten," said Hedges, who learned about the programs from a relative who lived in the area.
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Charles Robinson, sponsor of the debate team at W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, said two students enrolled in the schools a couple of years ago solely so they could be on the debating team.
Team was rated third in the nation last year.