Every year at this time, you see why real estate agents love Los Altos so much: It's the schools.
The state released the Academic Performance Index (API) scores of each district and school in California Wednesday, one of the most commonly cited measures to which parents refer when looking for a place to live.
, comprising seven elementary and two junior high schools, came out on top with an API score of 969 out of 1,000. It tied with Hillsborough City School District, its Peninsula neighbor 25 miles to the north, which comprises three elementary schools and one middle school.
"Our performance as a school district is a testament to the value our entire community places on the education of its children," said LASD board president Bill Cooper via a news release. "Congratulations on a job well done!”
Cupertino Union School District (CUSD) scored 955. Los Altos students attend , go to Cupertino Middle School and on to Homestead High School. CUSD, which gained four points over last year, is considerably larger than the top-scoring districts, with 21 elementary schools and seven middle schools.
"I don't like all the emphasis to be put on API scores, but I am proud," said Phyllis Vogel, vice president of CUSD.
"I think giving kids multiple-choice questions is an easy way to measure the core academics but I don't think there is an easy way to measure the other things. I wish there were."
The county Office of Education trumpeted in a news release that four of the five top-scoring schools in the state were from Santa Clara County, including CUSD's and Murdock-Portal elementary schools, which scored 998 out of 1,000. Santa Clara's Millikin Elementary (in the Santa Clara School District) was second, with a 997 score, and (Palo Alto Union School District) had an API score of 995.
"We were able to pass Measure E, because this community recognizes how excellent Los Altos schools are and how valuable it is to maintain that excellence," said Jay Gill, who co-chairs the "Yes on E" campaign.
"The new scores just underscore that point and make clear that we do have a great asset."
California uses the API as a measure of student academic progress as part of the Public Schools Accountability Act passed by the state Legislature in 1999. The measure includes student assessments in mathematics, English, science and social studies. The API is calculated by converting a student’s performance across multiple areas into points on the API scale. The points are then averaged across all students and all tests, resulting in the API.
LASD's strength, said Superintendent Jeff Baier, was that there was very little difference between schools. "The schools are very similar; there are not a great deal of variance between our schools," he said. They tend to perform in tight bands, he added.
"All of these things that LAEF pays for—a lot of districts just don’t get those things," acknowledged Joe Seither, co-president of the . "It’s hard to track those back directly to an API score."
Elizabeth Maciag, PTA president at Blach Jr. High, says everyone pitches in, which is key. "I think we have continued dedication of our teachers, administration and families, who are very generous with their time and money in donating to their school," she said.
The state benchmark score is 800.
Thirteen of the top 25 elementary schools in the state hail from Santa Clara County; half of the top 10 middle schools; and two of the top 10 high schools.
Los Altos High School scored 873, an increase of 16 points year-to-year. remained flat at 861.
“We have a lot of reason to be proud of our schools and students,” said Dr. Charles Weis, Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools. “Our top schools are the envy of California. Everyone associated with those schools should be proud, because it takes an entire community–students, parents, teachers, administrators, everyone–for this kind of achievement.”
See the searchable state Department of Education website, to see scores for any district, or any school in the state, going back to 2005. The Santa Clara County Office of Education also released an analysis that readers may find useful for context.
School or District
2011 API Score
2010 API Score
Los Altos School District
Cupertino Union School District
Palo Alto Unified School District
Almond Elementary – LASD
Covington Elementary - LASD
Gardner Bullis Elem. – LASD
Loyola Elementary - LASD
Oak Elementary - LASD
Santa Rita Elementary - LASD
Springer Elementary - LASD
Blach Jr. High - LASD
Egan Jr. High - LASD
Bullis Charter – S.C. County
Montclaire Elementary - CUSD
Cupertino Jr. High - CUSD
Nixon Elementary - PAUSD
Terman Jr. High - PAUSD