Home Buying in Los Altos>Question Details

Douglass Mcn…, Home Buyer in Palo Alto, CA

Impact on home values: quality of the elementary, middle, or high school? Or some holistic view of the school district overall?

Asked by Douglass Mcneil, Palo Alto, CA Tue Jul 16, 2013

I know schools/API scores have big impact on home values. Was curious: all else being equal, what has more of an influence on home values: elementary school, middle school, or high school?

- Overall, Palo Alto may have better schools than Los Altos. However, if one focuses just on elementary/middle schools, Los Altos scores better. Perhaps Palo Alto trumps because folks put a focus on the high school?
- In Mountain View (west of El Camino), there is a premium for homes that map to Los Altos School District. But Huff and Bubb score very well...and the high schools are the same. So is it really just the difference in middle schools?

I assume middle school would rank relatively lower since kids only spend 2-3 years there. Elementary schools are more defined by specific neighborhoods, since the school boundaries are more tightly defined. But high school might have the huge impact on preparing kids for life :)


Help the community by answering this question:


I know API scores are very important to a lot of parents when it comes to purchasing a home and placing their child in a specific school or school district, but be very careful about jumping to conclusions based on a school's API alone. Before making any overall judgments about a school's quality, be sure to look at its API improvement as well as other key factors, including student-teacher ratio, teacher experience, parent involvement and special programs.
According to Academic Performance Index (API) Report for Santa Clara County Public Schools in 2012, published by California Department of Education, the Palo Alto Unified and Los Altos School districts API scores were as follows:
Palo Alto K-8 average API score was 933
Los Altos K-8 average API score was 968
Palo Alto High API score was 905 and Gunn was 918
Los Altos High API score was 888 and M.V. was 865
But here is some food for thought; According to Newsweek’s “America’s Best High Schools”, published May 2013, where they published a list of the top 2000 public high schools out of approx. 27,460 public high schools in the United States, our schools raking were as follows:
Los Altos High # 132
Palo Alto High # 161
Mtn View High # 229
Gunn High # 583
Other local high schools ranked in the top 2000 were: Saratoga #81, Monta Vista #103, Lynbrook #122, Cupertino #681 and Homestead #764.
Here is how they ranked the schools:
“Newsweek ranking highlights the best 2,000 public high schools in the nation—those that have proven to be the most effective in turning out college-ready grads. The list is based on six components: graduation rate (25 percent), college acceptance rate (25 percent), AP/IB/AICE tests taken per student (25 percent), average SAT/ACT scores (10 percent), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10 percent), and percent of students enrolled in at least one AP/IB/AICE course (5 percent).”

Here are the links to the Newsweek high school rankings and the Santa Clara County schools API. Feel free to navigate through the school scores and rankings, before you make your decision on where to purchase your next home.

High School Rankings: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/05/06/america-s-b…

School APIs in SCC: http://api.cde.ca.gov/Acnt2012/2012GrthAPICo.aspx?cYear=2011…

Vahe Baronian
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 17, 2013
This is very good information to discuss with buyers. How do you see the home values in this scenario?
Flag Wed Jul 17, 2013
API scores does not necessarily only mean a school is good at "teaching", but it also has parents living in that neighborhood who care about academic education (API scores don't measure anything else). It probably also indicates the school caters to more involved parents who will not hesitate to step in and pay/donate to the school for any shortcomings rather than send their kids off to private.
My personal experience on this is that I lived in a neighborhood in San Jose which was zoned to a good high school (Evergreen Valley high , API: 865), great middle school (Chaboya, API: 943) and an "up and coming" elementary school (Laurelwood, API: 886). My home value did not grow nearly as fast as the areas that had a good elementary school (JFS, API:961) and middle school but a so-so high school (Silver Creek HS, API: 782). Reason? Most people buying homes had young children and bet on idea that they will be a position to buy into a better high school (public or private in a decade).

I also absolutely agree that high school API is the average of all the feeder schools, so there is bound to be some drop when a high school caters to a few areas which may have some socially disadvantaged kids (absentee parents, non english speakers etc). That does not mean the school itself is lacking on any level and it could be good for kids to have a diverse peer group. Also there are so many other things to consider in a high school such as AP classes, AP participation, class overcrowding, drug activity etc. Lets face it - EVERY school has some drug activity (incl. Paly, Gunn, Mission, LHS, Harker etc) - the lower end has pot, the higher end have pill parties with a whole range in between - but how pervasive it is in Jr.'s school, does Jr. pick good friends etc.?

To sum up - unless Jr. is ready for high school in the next couple of years, elementary school quality will likely get higher consideration. I am guessing more people buy homes when their kids are young simply because because of what happened to us. I suppose the agents in this forum can enlighten us better on this.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 5, 2013
Answer: High Schools

First, the High School score is an average of all the feeder schools. A high score most likely means the elementary and middle schools are also high. Second, home buyers strongly prefer to establish themselves and their kids in a neighborhood where they build and retain friendships until they leave home for college. There is clearly a premium for homes with high API scores for K-12. Unfortunately, this usually means homes sell for over $1M.

Buyers looking for homes under $1M then shop for elementary schools with high scores. Lots of neighborhoods, but it takes some effort to find them. Many of the "second-tier" high schools provide great programs and AP classes for motivated students. I suspect most stay in the neighborhood so they don't disrupt their kids life.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 30, 2013
Bryan - I agree with you for the most. Although per my earlier posts, there are a number of areas that are highly-valued, but have mediocre high schools (from a pure API-perspective: San Carlos (part that maps to Sequoia HS), Menlo Park, Emerald Hills. Mountain View-Los Altos Union School District is also a bit odd as the feeder schools include a broad range of high-scoring and mediocre-scoring elementary and middle schools.
Flag Mon Sep 30, 2013
Terri - Thanks for re-stating/clarifying my question. API scores vs. school quality is an entirely different question.

I have chatted with a handful of colleagues at work on this topic...

At the extreme, there are folks (with HS-aged kids) who will only consider homes that map to Gunn, Monta Vista, or Mission San Jose...to a point where they consider schools like Paly or Homestead as substandard. Yikes! Their focus is clearly on the HS, but it just so happens that the Elementary and Middle Schools are also pretty solid.

A few others (who have younger kids) focus on K-8 and assume they may eventually move or will send their kids to private school for HS. Because high-school boundary cover a broader, more diverse set of neighborhoods, it's common for many neighborhoods to have K-8 schools that score well but then map to HSs that don't score as well. Examples: San Carlos White Oaks: San Carlos SD vs. Sequoia HS, West Menlo Park: Las Lomitas SD vs. Menlo-Atherton HS, Emerald Hills: Roy Cloud vs. Woodside HS.

Likely no clear cut answer, but was curious what others think.

Thanks for all the great perspectives.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jul 20, 2013
Stephanie - You realize you made (2) comments that could easily be interpreted as racists:

" Your friends above are clearly Asian or Indian...from a social, athletic standpoint they would much prefer Pali or Menlo-Atherton High.." - So schools with high percentage of Asian and Indian are not strong socially or athletically?

"...M-A only have lower average scores since the bus so many kids in from East PA and East MP..." So these scores are lower because of the demographics of these areas???
Flag Sat Oct 19, 2013
There are so many more factors to consider beyond API scores. Each school (elementary through high school) has its own distinct personality and demographics. Your friends above are clearly Asian or Indian since those are the majority of people at Gunn and the schools further south. My Caucasian clients (highly educated and intelligent) will not consider those schools-- from a social, athletic standpoint they would much prefer Pali or Menlo-Atherton High. Schools like M-A only have lower average scores since the bus so many kids in from East PA and East MP. The half of the students in the AP classes score extremely high. People need to understand the different neighborhoods and nuances of the schools to make any kind of informed decision.
Flag Wed Aug 21, 2013
I agree that focusing on API alone should not be the only criteria for school selection. What Douglass is wondering, and which I found a thought provoking question is this;

"...all else being equal, what has more of an influence on home values: elementary school, middle school, or high school?..."

As people are deciding how much they are willing to spend on a property in a given school district, which school level are your buyers placing more weight in the API?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jul 19, 2013
I think that people who are O.C. about the schools, are missing the point that most of credit/blame belongs on the Parents.
I think that all three cities are fantastic places to live, thanks entirely to the fantastic people who live there.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jul 19, 2013
Parents are so wrong about looking at the test scores in predicting the academic success of their children. In modern-days' admission, numerical scores count as only a minor (5%) fraction of the entire application reviewed criteria. We do have a very specific guideline and well-designed systematic methods to consider someone for interview or admission. Each considered category will receive specific points. If the points were added and if met the established threshold, then he/she gets a green light. We are more interested to see if the students develop other interests besides academic ones. Are they leaders in schools and organizations? Can they think critically and independently? Do they have special talents? Do they have family adversity or hardship? Do they come from disadvantage background or low economical social status? Is one first in the family attending college? Just to name a few here. Asian and Indian parents think that kids must have perfect scores to get accepted in colleges, professional schools. The reality is that it isn't the case. People don't look just for the top scores students. That would be too easy for the admission staff and reviewing faculty. Instead, they look for a well developed individual with broad interests.

In general, students absolutely don't need to attend the top API schools to be successful in life. However, students can attend just any GOOD, DECENT school (i.e. if one buys homes in the range of $800k to $1 million neighborhoods, most schools tend to be decently good), but they must take deep interests in academic performances and other extra curricular activities at schools or in communities, and BE LEADERS, BE A CRITICAL THINKERS, etc, they will do well in life. There are just too many students with perfect grades out there, and do nothing else or minimum activities, or being passive followers; these people don't tend to do that well.

Now having said all that, actually the most important criteria for any child to be successful in school or life is the PARENTS, not the top API schools. The parents need to provide absolute support, attention, participation and encouragement while the child's in school and engaged in community activities. Just stop paying the overpriced homes just because those homes are in the schools with top API scores.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jul 19, 2013
Tony - Thank you for the thoughtful response. But the actual quality of a school is an entirely different topic. My question was re: home valuation.
Flag Fri Jul 19, 2013

I really like this thought provoking question, and one I actually intend to follow.

One would think that the trickle up effect of school scores would affect the middle then the high school scores. In my opinion, schools scores change just like everything else. The economy, demographics, laws, management, teachers, and especially the parents involvement.

I tend to agree with you that the middle school is short term, and the students are going through a lot of physical changes which affect their learning. It is also a foundation for higher education. With that said, in my opinion, high school is very important, because it is now the time for students to get their "act" together. It is also what colleges will be looking at when evaluating their future applicants.

I believe educated parents who focus on their children going on to higher education are aware of this and may be more inclined to purchase in a higher rating high school.

As for home values that would be an interesting statical analysis.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 16, 2013
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