School Information

Cambrian, Almaden, and Los GatosIf a strong public high school is at the top of your priority list, you may find yourself looking at Los Gatos, Cambrian (area of San Jose), and Almaden (also in San Jose) – scenic areas along the southwest side of Silicon Valley, all of them featuring good to excellent high schools.   I would caution against only judging an area, or a school, by its scores, though – often the culture at the campus, the offerings, and many other things can vary from one school to the next.  Nothing beats visiting in person and talking with students, parents, faculty and staff.

2013 Growth API Scores

Disclaimers aside, scores do matter as an important part of the overall package.  How do the high schools in these areas stack up?  API scores are no longer used, so the numbers below are from the 2013 Growth API scores, the most current year available.

Ranked in order of API score:

Leland High – 889 (Almaden, southern area)

Los Gatos High – 883 (Los Gatos, central + small area in Almaden)

Leigh High – 833 (Los Gatos, east & Cambrian plus little of Almaden)

Pioneer High – 822 (Almaden, northern area & Cambrian)

Branham High – 810 (Cambrian & Blossom Valley)

Westmont High – 796 (Los Gatos, western area plus parts of Campbell and Saratoga)

What is the cost of homes in these areas?

To narrow it, let’s consider the same set of criteria: houses sold in the last 180 days within 1 mile of each high school named, with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and 1500 – 2000 SF. (I’m leaving lot sizes out because it’s already a very small pool of homes.) To make it super simple, I’ll just include the price per SF and the average sale price of these houses.

Ranked in order of affordability – average sale price:

Pioneer High – 822 API – average price per sf  $549.17  average sale price  $919,057  (9 houses)

Branham High – 810 API – average price per sf   $588.92 average sale price $969,295   (17 houses)

Leland High – 889 API – average price per sf   $616.04  average sale price  $1,071,250  (4 houses)

Leigh High – 833 API – average price per sf     $686.00  average sale price $1,144,100  (20 houses)

Westmont High – 796 API – average price per sf   $844.00  average sale price  $1,329,500 (8 houses)

Los Gatos High – 883 API – average price per sf   $917.95  average sale price $1,593,556 (9 houses)

Clearly, the market dictates that there are more than high school scores impacting home values (but you already knew that!).

Homes in the Leland High School area are a very good value, if you can find one (there were only 4, so too easy to have an impossibly small pool of choices).

Market drivers – beyond school scores

San Benito Way home in Los GatosDowntown Los Gatos is charming and historic (with loads of beautiful older homes and buildings), it enjoys a vibrant night life and restaurant scene. It’s interesting! It’s “walkable”!  People want to live in a part of Silicon Valley that isn’t just suburban sprawl – hence downtown LG has the biggest draw of all these areas.  It’s not too far from Highway 85 (think Apple) but it’s not boring, like most of San Jose can be.   Many are willing to pay much more to be part of Los Gatos and Los Gatos High School.  A nice townhouse in LG, or a house in Cambrian?  That may be the choice.

Commute times to places like Apple matter a lot, so homes on the west end of Los Gatos, in Campbell and parts of Saratoga in the Westmont HS area see a very high average sale price, even though the API score was less than 800.  Schools matter but they aren’t the only thing that matter. Many home owners believe that the most important part of the education is the parents’ involvement (at home and at school).  Many also have their kids at a private high school. Continue reading

How close is too close?  For people house hunting in Silicon Valley, the quality of local public schools is often a huge priority – in fact, it’s something that most home buyers insist upon even if they intend to enroll their kids in a parochial or other private school.  Similarly, most home buyers do not want to purchase a house, townhome or condo that’s too close to high voltage power lines. Sometimes it’s just a “resale issue” to them, but other times they have health concerns and not just real estate home value concerns.

But what about the relationship between public schools and these high voltage power lines?  If your child will be at school 35 hours a week for 9 months of the year, should that be a concern, too?  So far, only two of my buyers have made that a criteria – and when they did, it became apparent that most of the schools in the border areas of Los Gatos, Cambrian and Almaden were going to be eliminated.

A couple of years back, I mapped out the high voltage power lines using Google Maps (click on link to view it).  This morning I added a few public schools to it in a “layer”.  This is not comprehensive, as I only mapped a few in these three areas mentioned already in this article.  For the named schools, many are directly adjacent to the lines (Alta Vista, Union, Leigh, Noddin) usually on the far side of the playing field) and the furthest is about 1/5 of a mile from them (Carlton).

 

High Voltage Power lines in LG Cambrian Almaden

 

 

 

Niche Report: Best High SchoolsThe K12Niche.com website created a list of important factors in grading the success of a high school, and evaluating secondary schools in that light, ranked them from best to worst.  Elements graded for the Niche Report included academics, health & safety, surveys of parents and students on the overall experience, student culture & diversity, teachers, resources & facilities, extracurriculars & activities, and sports & fitness.  (My two cents: I think it’s wonderful that they are counting much more than test scores!)

In the San Jose Metro Area (click on link to see full list), the top ranked schools are:

  1. Saratoga High School in Saratoga  (ranked # 3 in California)
  2. Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto (ranked #4 in California)
  3. Lynbrook High School in San Jose (serves parts of Saratoga and Cupertino also) (# 12 in California)
  4. Los Altos High School in Los Altos (# 19 in California)
  5. Palo Alto High School in Palo Alto (# 27 in California)
  6. Mountain View High School (serves parts of Los Altos too)
  7. Monta Vista High School in Cupertino
  8. Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos
  9. Homestead High School in Cupertino
  10. Cupertino High School in Cupertino
  11. Leland High School in San Jose (southern Almaden Valley)

Please click on the link above to see the ranking of the next 30 in the San Jose area.

The San Francisco Metro Area seems to include a huge area, some of which may more properly be said to be a part of the San Jose area, such as Fremont.   Given that some of the SF “area” covers several counties and part is really within Silicon Valley, these good schools should be mentioned also.  I’m not going to list all of them, only those close to or in Silicon Valley. Also, because a far greater area is covered, the lower rankings should be understood as within the context of a much greater pool of competition.

See the whole SF area by clicking on the link.

  • Ranking 5th in the SF list is Amador High School in Pleasanton
  • Ranking 6th in the SF list is Burlingame High School in Burlingame
  • Ranking 10th in the SF list is Mission San Jose High School in Fremont
  • Ranking 11th in the SF list is San Mateo High in San Mateo
  • Ranking 12th is Foothill High in Pleasanton
  • Ranking 15th is Hillside High in San Mateo
  • Ranking 17th is Aragon High in San Mateo
  • and many more: Carlmont, Menlo-Atherton, Mills, Irvington, Sequoia all are in the top 25%

What about private high schools?

Yes, there’s a Niche ranking for private high schools too. However, a closer look at the details and it’s apparent that far fewer criteria were used with these grades.  Not sure why there’s less that went into the private school rankings.   There are 15 private high schools in the San Jose Metro Area, and the top five are Harker (San Jose), Oakwood Country School (Morgan Hill), Bellarmine College Prep (San Jose), Notre Dame High (San Jose) and St. Francis High (Mountain View).   To see the broader SF area, click on this link, which appears to cover San Mateo, San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin Counties.

 

 

 

Newcomers to the Los Gatos and Monte Sereno areas often have trouble sorting out the local school districts, and whether or not one area has better performing students than another.  (In many areas, the school district is firmly tied to the city or zip code. Not here!) My advice is to visit the schools in person, talk with people there if possible, and do a lot of research since school scores do not tell the entire story. That said, they do tell part of it – and they are a simple way to compare side by side.

Today I took a few minutes to compile a list of the public schools which serve the residents of Monte Sereno and Los Gatos (town, not the county areas in the mountains – the Los Gatos Mountain schools score very very well overall) and to note their API Scores for 2013, the most recent year for which we have data.   As you can see below, the scores for the elementary and middle schools are really excellent across the board and in all districts, and in many cases the elementary schools in the LG Union School District are not as high as those outside of it.    The real difference shakes out at the high school level.   (It should be noted, too, that Saratoga High has a score of 938 and residents within the Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District can apply to go there, or at least have been able to do so in the past.)  *Please click on the image below to see a larger version of it.

 

Schools serving Los Gatos and Monte Sereno

 

Home values are influenced by many factors, one of them often being school scores.  Twenty years ago, many Los Gatos residents felt that they had to be “in the schools” to give their children a quality education.  Many do still prefer the Los Gatos Union School District, but it’s not as uniformly thought before since the scores in the Union School District have been rising quite a lot in recent years.  The part of San Jose (Cambrian) which falls within the Union School District is extremely popular now due to the more affordable price tag with really great schools.   Many of them are expecting the scores at Leigh High School to rise in time since all of the “feeder schools” are scoring in the 900s.

 

 

 

One of the many reasons the Almaden Valley of San Jose is so popular is the wonderful public schools.  Almaden, like the rest of the county, does not have “easy” school district boundaries.  Instead, it’s complicated – Almaden is served by several different public school districts and various schools within one of them. It can be very confusing for home buyers to figure out which areas belong to which elementary, middle and high schools. Today we’ll address this broad topic, looking at both the districts and the individual schools, providing links to both. We’ll include API scores and maps of district and school boundaries too.

Disclaimers about schools of attendance:

First, schools – especially the most popular ones – are sometimes impacted, or full.  If you move into an area it is likely that you can have your students attend the neighborhood school but it is NOT GUARANTEED. For example, if your nearest or assigned school is Williams but it’s full, your child may be assigned to Simonds or some other elementary school. You will remain in the same district but may not have the nearest school. This is particularly a problem when moves happen in the middle of the school year.

Second, sometimes boundaries change between schools in the same district. This usually only happens after a lot of public debate and discussion, but it can happen. (This is also true for some designated natural hazard zones such as flood plains – those maps can and do sometimes change!)

Third, the San Jose Unified Schools in the Almaden Valley did have court-ordered busing from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s to help with desegregation. This practice ended in 1996 and the court order was lifted in 2003. You can read about the history of the San Jose Unified School District online. Although it appears unlikely that busing will happen again, I cannot guarantee that it won’t.

These are the three broad regions and their schools: Continue reading

Ever wonder which school a property is assigned to for the students that live here?  The boundaries, especially in larger districts such as San Jose Unified, can be hard to figure out.   In the Almaden Valley area of San Jose, for instance, some parents really want to make sure that their kids attend Leland High School rather than Pioneer (or Leigh or Branham or Los Gatos High – there are so many schools represented in Almaden!), for instance.

Until recently, you had to go to the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s website to see which high school and elementary/middle school district you would be in.  I will post many of those below. From there you had to enter your address to see the specific schools. After that, you had to go to another site entirely to get the API scores.

Now, however, some smart people have done a mashup of addresses, school scores and API scores.  I like this site so well that I’m advertising in a couple of zip codes (that’s my disclaimer).  Check it out:

www.SchoolAndHousing.com

Or you can do it the slower way – visit the school district sites below! Continue reading

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Mary Pope-Handy
Realtor
ABR, CIPS, CRS, SRES
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at) PopeHandy.com
License# 01153805


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