We all know that local schools can play a big role when both looking to buy and selling a home. While they are just one piece of puzzle when it comes to determining the value of a home, the quality of public education in your neighborhood is definitely something you can take a look at.

There are many resources out there to help you evaluate local schools. These include: (1) API Reports from the California Department of Education, which are available for most elementary, middle, and high schools in the state, and usually come out with new scores each fall; (2) Newsweek’s annual “Top Public High Schools.” which typically is published every June, ranking 1,000-plus U.S. high schools based on a ratio of “the number of Advanced Placement, Intl. Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school…divided by the number of graduating seniors;” and (3) US News’ “America’s Best High Schools”, which is compiled every December using the “three-step America’s Best High Schools ranking analysis.” Today, let’s talk a bit about US News’ “America’s Best High Schools” in 2010 (as published in December 2009).

Per their website, US News first looks at math and reading scores from state standardized tests for over 21,000 public high schools in the United States, factoring in the percentage of economically-disadvantaged students at each high school. Schools that advanced past this first step were then analyzed by seeing if the least-advantaged students (black, Hispanic, and low income) at each school were performing better than average for similar students in the state. For schools that made it past this second step, the third step examined both the participation rate of 12th-graders in either the Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses and how well the students did in the AP or IB tests. The criteria used in this third step are collectively referred to by US News as the “college readiness index,” which is how they ranked the high schools. You can view the list of “Gold Medal Schools” (i.e. the top 100 public high schools) by clicking here.

Looking at California as a whole, the state was ranked #3 in comparison to the other states (with Connecticut and Massachusetts claiming the #1 and #2 spots, respectively). Now, let’s take a look at how some of our local Silicon Valley and Bay Area public high schools fared…

  • #7: Pacific Collegiate Charter School (Santa Cruz)
  • #28: Lowell High School (San Francisco)
  • #36: Mission San Jose High School (Fremont)
  • #67: Henry M. Gunn High School (Palo Alto)
  • #70: Monta Vista High School (Cupertino)
  • #83: Palo Alto High School (Palo Alto)
  • #93: Saratoga High School (Saratoga)
  • #98: Lynbrook High School (San Jose)

Now, here comes my disclaimer about these sort of ratings. I believe they can be a useful tool in assessing the quality of local schools, but I cannot stress how important it is to look at a variety of resources and factors when evaluating schools. And, of course, there is a multitude of other things to look at when buying or selling a home. If you would like to check out more resources on schools, check out the Community & School Profiles section of my website by clicking here.

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