How's My Child's School Doing?
It is hard to find easy-to-understand information about school quality. That’s why we’re developing this website as a resource for parents and the public. We will be rolling out a fully interactive schools database in early 2016 in partnership with GreatSchools, which is a good resource for finding school data and comparing schools.
What kind of school is best?
There are both excellent and low-performing schools across all different school types – district and charter public schools and private schools. You have to look at each school individually both in overall performance, how well it is doing for different groups of students and, on a personal level, whether the school is the best fit for your child. For instance, a school that has strong test scores on average may have a huge gap between how well it is serving its white students vs. Latino students. Or your neighborhood school may post incredible academic results, but if you are interested in a bilingual or arts-focused program, you may seek out other options further from home.
See your individual school’s performance on GreatSchools.org.
If I want my child to be prepared to go to a good college after high school, what should I focus on now?
Information on how your school is performing can be confusing, but there are a few key things to know.
The path to college and career starts early. Many studies have found that third grade math and reading scores predict academic success. This grade is a critical transition point, because students must move from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Instead of reading primers, they’re expected to understand more complex science and history texts. Third graders whose reading and math skills are below grade level are four times more likely to become high school dropouts.
The transition grades are important. Each school year is important, but it is crucial to take a close look at the middle and terminal grades (e.g., fifth grade at the end of elementary school and eighth grade at the end of middle school). Sixth graders who fail mathematics or reading courses, attend school less than 80 percent of the time, or received an unsatisfactory grade in a core course have just a 10 percent to 20 percent chance of graduating high school on time. The trends are similar for ninth graders. The transitions from elementary to middle school and middle to high school can be difficult. Students may be tracked into a path that will limit their high school choices and thus their option to attend and complete college.
More education means better job opportunities. In our 21st century economy, high school dropouts tend to work for minimum wage, if they work at all. Even high school graduates struggle to earn enough to support a family. Especially in Silicon Valley, where housing costs are high, young people will need postsecondary job training or higher education to make a living. The connection between years of education and earnings is clear—with higher levels of education come significantly higher incomes.
My children are in high school. How do I know if they are taking the courses they need to be eligible to enter a state university?
To be eligible to enter a California state university, students must pass 15 specific high school courses, often called the “A-G” courses. Many high schools, without parents and students knowing, offer courses that do not count toward A-G requirements. Make sure your child is taking the right classes and that your child’s school does a good job at making sure all their students take these and pass these courses in the four years they’re in high school.
Check out these resources:
- A Parent’s Guide to A-G requirements
- Check Which Classes at Your School Count Toward the A-G Requirements
Why are there so many school districts in Silicon Valley?
Silicon Valley is home to more than 50 school districts that drastically vary in the number of schools and students they support.
When the first public elementary schools opened in the Silicon Valley in the 1850s, this was an agricultural community where few students continued their education beyond the eighth grade. Many small districts with just one or two elementary schools were created across the region and in the 1890s, union high school districts were formed to serve students from multiple elementary schools.
In the 1930s, the California legislature began encouraging small school districts to merge into unified districts serving students from kindergarten through high school. By 1950, the number of California school districts had dropped from 3,500 to 2,091. As of 2011, there are about 1,000 school districts in California, a third of which are unified.
There have been many efforts by different civic organizations to consolidate districts in Santa Clara and San Mateo over the years, but most have been rejected by voters. Learn more in this report about school district consolidation by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
You can find detailed information about your school and other schools nearby at www.greatschools.org.