HOW WE SELECTED THE TOWNS
Knowing the importance of schools to parents, we first narrowed districts to those with minimum SAT scores of 520 each for reading, math and writing. Next, since kids thrive among other kids, we selected towns with populations of at least 2,000 and where, in most cases, at least 25 percent of residents are under 18. Towns also had to have low crime rates (fewer than two violent crimes per 1,000 residents, and fewer than 30 nonviolent per 1,000). Finally, we assigned reporters to uncover intangibles such as community involvement, arts and active sports amenities, green space and diversity, so we could determine the best of the best that remained.