Mountain View Whisman School District Tour – Looking Deeper than API Scores

At the end of October, four of our real estate agents from Rainmaker Properties went on the Mountain View Whisman School District “Get on the bus tour” to learn more about what the local schools offer besides strong API (Academic Performance Index) scores. Homebuyers, along with real estate agents, tend to put a strong bias on high API scores, especially since good schools can translate into better priced homes. But in cities like Mountain View, where the majority of the school district is either at the state API goal of 800 or above, we can start to consider other factors in the makeup of a school to see if it is the best fit for a child.

Read on to find out what our agents discovered on the tour and some of their insights. At the end we have tables showing all the API scores from elementary to high school in Mountain View, including school ranking and subgroup scores.

Christine Ko on the tour and the Mountain View Education Foundation (MVEF)

The real estate agent tour was held by the MVEF, hosted by the new Superintendent, Craig Goldman, along with a tour of Crittenden Middle School by Principal Karen Robinson. Following a walk around Crittenden, the agents took a bus tour of all the elementary and middle schools in Mountain View.

A notable aspect of the MVEF is that they work with parents and the community to raise money for school programs that are no longer funded by the state. This includes funding in the arts, music, and sciences at the elementary level, and electives and after-school sports for middle school.

Christine mentioned that a highlight of the tour was finding out what unique programs each school had. We have a handout (the images below) that shows enrollment boundaries for the elementary schools, a quick description of special programs, and each school's 2010 API scores. Included are Benjamin Bubb, Mariano Castro, Edith Landels, Frank L. Huff, Stevenson, Monta Loma, and Theuerkauf elementary schools, and Graham and Crittenden middle schools.

Edmund Yue and James Yang on looking past API scores

The biggest point James took from the tour was that API scores should never be the only determining factor parents consider when choosing a school for their child.

API scores are restricted to academic performance, and does not do a complete job of comparing overall school quality. Some areas that parents should also look at are the school’s administration, community involvement, and existing programs that encourage both struggling and promising students.

Edmund added that Superintendent Craig Goldman mentioned one way parents could pull additional information about a school’s API score is to look at the subgroup scores and demographic information. (We have more about this in the API graphs below.) If you combine that information along with staff involvement with students and take into account unique schools programs, such as at Mariano Castro Elementary School, where the students go through a Spanish-English dual immersion program, parents can really get a good idea of what a school is about.

Kristine Suh, a parent, on deciding which school was right for her children

As a parent, Kristine experienced the process of deciding what school would be right for her children 10 years ago, and now has advice for parents in the same situation.

Her family had the opportunity to choose between Los Altos, Palo Alto, and Mountain View school districts, ultimately ending up in Los Altos.

She said that API scores were an important part of her initial search, but she has found that scores play only a small role in the child’s day-to-day education. On top of school research, if the parent has time, is why not meet with the potential school’s teachers and sit in a class. You may find that scores are not as important as what is the actual children’s relationship is with the teacher.

At the high school level, she said it is important to also consider the number of advanced placement classes available. One school might have a high API score but few options for AP classes. But, on the other hand, a school might have a medium API score, perhaps because of a large demographic and socioeconomic spread, but a breadth of AP classes.

Lastly, a good resource online to look at an endless stream of information on school, find parent reviews, and more is available at greatschools.org. If you are interested in talking with a representative in the Mountain View Whisman School District that can put you in contact with involved teachers and parents, feel free to contact us.