How to understand what a "good school" actually is

I'm a first time mom and my son is too young to start school, he's 11 months, but we are house hunting so one of our top considerations in choosing a neighborhood is if it has good schools. But I truly don't understand how to find out if a school is a good. In my research I've found that there is a large corporation between financial status and success in school, did they mean it doesn't matter if the school is "bad"? My son is biracial, and I know black boys across schools, those considered good or bad, have a tough time of it already, so how do I factor that in? We plan on being involved parents so does that outweigh the ranking on good schools? And since my son isn't entering school for at least 4 years, does what we see now hold steady for that time?

Tl;Dr: how do you choose a house near good schools where the definition of good schools feels so arbitrary? 

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If you have a very large budget, you can certainly buy a house in stronger school districts (Alameda, Piedmont, Berkeley, Albany, Lamorinda). If you're having to choose between a house that meets your needs / house you want or a good school district, my humble recommendation is to pick a house you like and not be terribly concerned about schools, especially in Oakland. In Oakland, there are a lot of options for public and charter schools. Catholic schools are also an option. In case the public school system doesn't work out, you want to have the ability to consider private schools. 

We thought we needed to buy with schools in mind. We ended up switching to private school in the end. We regret not buying in areas where we could have a bigger house -- a house that actually meets our family needs. We're stuffed in a tiny house with good schools which we ended up not using. You won't know whether your local school is the right fit for your child until the child is older. 

My two cents (if we could do it over) -- buy your dream house or one that's close to it regardless of the schools. 

"good" public / charter schools are ones where the parent/guardian community is active, engaged, and involved and is able to raise a large amount of money to fill the numerous gaps that our schools have due to budget issues; "good" schools have strong leadership with mostly dedicated and talented teachers (there are always some not so great teachers at any school); there should be a strong emphasis on social-emotional learning/anti-bullying as well as defined processes and protocols to address the issues when they arise (they ALWAYS arise). I don't think numerical scores and rankings don't always tell the whole story.