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What's the difference between MVHS, LAHS, Gunn, Paly?

Original post made by Parent, another community, on Dec 26, 2009

We have narrowed down our choices of high schools and plan to move to Los Altos or Palo Alto. What are the differences? I heard that Los Altos schools are more balanced so the kids don't need to have their heads in the books all the time. I heard Gunn is particularly "too academic". But I have heard there are gangs at LAHS and MVHS. And I've heard that more students attend Ivy League and well-known universities from PAUSD because of the district's reputation. Hard to know if it's the students working harder in PAUSD or is it the reputation? I would like my children to have a "normal, teenager's life" if there is such a thing. They only grow up once. I want them to have time to hang out with friends too. Anyone?

Comments (3)

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Posted by Liz
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 27, 2009 at 8:17 am

Send them to either Gunn or Paly. MV schools do have gangs as you state. I went to Gunn and the intense academic environment is driven more by the parents upon their children.


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Posted by Parent at MVHS
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 2, 2010 at 10:42 am

Mountain View and Los Altos are both excellent high schools. My daughter is a junior at MVHS and I can tell you that their teaching staff is outstanding, I have been consistently impressed with their qualifications, caring and dedication to the students. She is taking a very challenging course load of Honors and AP classes. She scored very well on her two AP tests last year (got 5's on both), which pleased her because both classes were so challenging that maintaining B's took a bit of work -- no easy A's there!

There are plenty of kids and parents at both MVHS and LAHS who will obsess on their grades, but the academic pressure is not part of the culture as much as I hear it is at Gunn, whether it's imposed by students, parents or administration, I don't know. So for kids who want to work hard and do well, but not get ulcers if they aren't getting a 4.5 GPA, I think MVHS fits the bill to a tee. This gives kids the freedom to enjoy their high school experience, participate in activities (of which there are many great ones at MVHS: the marching band is a fantastic group for any kid who wants to join; wonderful performing arts; they have a top-notch speech and debate group, open to serious debaters and those who just want to help improve their public-speaking skills; acting and stagecraft classes; dance; sports; and dozens of clubs that meet a lunchtime.

In 2009's graduating class, there were quite a few kids who were accepted to the most prestigious universities (Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Cornell, the other ivies, UCLA, Berkely, etc.), so a kid who is truly aiming for that can get there from MVHS. Both MVHS and LAHS are more socioeconomically diverse than Gunn, but less diverse than Mountain View Whisman's elementary district (because half of the population of the high schools comes from Los Altos). But I think that over 90% of the students from both of those schools go on to 4-year colleges every year, with most of the rest going to community college; and considering the diversity, I think that's a fantastic success rate.

I am very happy with MVHS, and I know many people from LAHS, who live in both Mountain View and Los Altos, who feel the same way about their high school.


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Posted by MVHS Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 2, 2010 at 10:53 am

Forgot to address the gangs issue. This is a complete red herring. My daughter has never seen, heard of, or otherwise been aware of any sort of gang activity at MVHS. I don't think it's a huge problem at LAHS either. I'm sure there are some students at both schools who probably are affiliated with gangs (I think every high school that has a range of socioeconomic diversity does), but my guess it that it's a small number, and I know that the schools do an excellent job of keeping that activity off campus. The principals and the superintendent work with the Challenge Team (a local consortium of schools, police, and social agencies) that meet monthly to address the youth/teen issues in MV and LA, and I have not heard of any gang-related issues on campus in my time associated with the schools.

The myth of rampant gang activities on-campus at both the middle schools and high schools persists, and posters to this site will tell you that it happens all the time. Not true. I've been a parent at Graham and MVHS for 6 years, and my kids have had zero experience with gang issues at school.

Besides, if there was as much gang activity as people claim, you can bet that all of the wealthy and upper-middle-class parents of kids at LAHS and MVHS (and they are the majority of the population at both schools) would have pulled their kids out to private school by now.


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