Ask those who live there.
Interview the school professionals, coaches, etc.
Park in a neighborhood and see who notices you sitting there in your car.
Walk and talk.
Of course choosing a local real estate pro can help you save a lot of time.
(Not me, I'm on the Cape, but I can help you choose a local pro if you need help.)
(Please note: when you choose an answer as a Best Answer, or at least give a thumbs up, it helps those who answer questions here.)
Condos are generally less expensive than single family, so if you would consider a condo you will give yourself a larger selection. That said, some towns that come to mind are Westford, Littleton, and Chelmsford. More expensive housing but excellent schools: Acton and Boxborough. Further south and west and less expensive: Stow and Bolton.
Hope this helps.
What size home are you looking for? Single Family? Condo? Townhome? Would a 3bdrm+ 2ba townhouse in Newton for $389K be appealing?
If you're looking for a Realtor to help you work through these questions, I'd be happy to help. But I hope my pointers have helped.