Evaluating Opportunities in Sunnyvale's Elementary Schools

For families interested in Sunnyvale schools, the numbers are 900 and 901.  Those were the API scores for Sunnyvale's Cherry Chase Elementary and Cumberland Elementary, the highest-rated schools in the Sunnyvale Elementary School District according to 2007's API growth report. Cumberland joined Silicon Valley's elite schools with 900 or above API scores this year with its 36 point increase.

As you might expect, homes in Sunnyvale that feed into Cumberland and Cherry Chase are more expensive than those that feed into Sunnyvale schools with lower test scores.

As you can see from the benchmark homes, Cherry Chase Elementary and its reputation have been built into real estate values.  Cumberland Elementary doesn't have that same premium because it has been on the rise, from 845 in 2003.

Another steadily improving school is Ellis Elementary, up from its 773 in 2005 (though slightly below last year's 822).  It could represent a good deal for young families who plan to upgrade after elementary or middle school.  And people not wanting to pay a premium for schools might consider the other representative homes.

But Sunnyvale Elementary isn't the only elementary school district in Sunnyvale.  Because of the complexity in the way school district border lines are drawn, students in a large part of Sunnyvale actually attend schools in the Cupertino Union School District.  How much opportunity is there in the overlap?

Sunnyvale Addresses with Cupertino Union and Santa Clara Unified Schools

It's important not to make assumptions about school locations and homes, particularly because school boundaries don't follow city lines.  Sunnyvale has three elementary school districts, and the following are 3 bedroom, 2 bath homes that don't use the namesake school system.  These homes were all closed in the past two months:

$952,000 - 1053 Gardenia Way 3br/2ba; 1631 sqft ($583 per) on 6200 sqft lot; 37 years old Santa Clara Unified School District Ponderosa (837) / Peterson (845) / Wilcox High (734)

$913,000 - 821 Duncardine Way 3br/2ba; 1328 sqft ($688 per) on 6534 sqft lot; 46 years old Cupertino Union School District Stocklmeir (945) / Cupertino Middle (899) / Fremont High (709)

$910,000 - 1679 Nightingale Ave. 3br/2ba; 1432 sqft ($635 per) on 6098 sqft lot; 49 years old Santa Clara Unified School District Laurelwood (883) / Peterson (845) / Wilcox High (734)

$902,500 - 532 Fern Ridge Ct. 3br/2ba; 1172 sqft ($770 per) on 5778 sqft lot; 39 years old Cupertino Union School District Nimitz (824) / Cupertino Middle (899) / Homestead High (838)

These homes are slightly newer than the ones in the first table and are comparables close enough for a rough comparison by square foot price.

Nightingale, with Santa Clara Unified's Laurelwood Elementary as its representative school, comes in at an 18% lower per square foot price than the home on Fern Ridge, in the elite Cupertino Union School District.  Test scores aren't the full picture of any school, but if the API number is important in your search, this difference is something to consider.

Very near the border of Cupertino and Sunnyvale is Duncardine, which feeds into Stocklmeir Elementary.  Stocklmeir's test scores are the highest of any elementary school Sunnyvale residents can currently attend, and this particular home is less expensive ($62,000 by absolute measurement and 10% per square foot) than Cherry Chase's Lynn in the first table --- even though it also has an arguably better middle school.

While the simple comparisons here based mostly on elementary schools and not other tangible or intangible factors that may give value to a home, being able to break out one axis of measurement is often helpful to my clients, especially given so many factors to consider when buying a home.