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Differences between local high schools

Original post made by Los Altos Mom, Cuesta Park, on Jul 26, 2007

Can someone please explain the differences between Mountain View and Los Altos High Schools? Can Los Altos students decide which one to attend, or are you required to attend the one closest to you. Why would a student prefer one over the other? I have heard rumors that parents prefer Mountain View over Los Altos, but have never heard a good explanation.

Comments (7)

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Posted by Alexa
a resident of another community
on Jul 27, 2007 at 11:24 am

There are definite boundaries in place for the two high schools, but quite a few intra-district transfers are accepted each year as well. A majority of the transfers are LAHS students wanting to transfer to MVHS. This year was the first year that the district had to deny LAHS students the transfers, as MVHS is close to becoming over-crowded. No one can really put their finger on the trend. In terms of curriculum, faculty, programs, etc., the two schools are virtually identical, with the exception of MVHS having Freestyle Academy on its campus, but LAHS students have an equal opportunity to attent there as well. District staff told me that one of the differences between the high schools comes down to the students themselves. LAHS has a large group of high-achieving students and also a large group of low-achieving. There's a noticeable disparity there, I was told. The majority of students at MVHS seem to fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. This district official said she thought some families believed LAHS to be a less stable, safe environment. She said that wasn't true, but didn't know how to clear up people's misconceptions.

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Posted by Tina
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jul 27, 2007 at 12:06 pm

My son is an incoming freshman for MVHS & the difference I saw going into this "decision year" was that MVHS has a strong band program and LAHS has a strong choir program. The electives are also different. I have no input as to the quality of the teaching, we're newbies, but we know kids who go to each school & they seem equally fine :-) I think it comes down to what interest your child has & which school has the stronger program. I don't know anything about the sports situation, except that LAHS offers wrestling & MVHS doesn't. Good luck!!!

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Posted by Marie
a resident of another community
on Jul 27, 2007 at 5:03 pm

I believe that some people choose MVHS because LAHS has a somewhat larger percentage of low-income, English-language learners. I have had parents comment to me that they like the "demographics" better at MVHS. Both schools are excellent. In fact, the district has pointed out that, while MVHS has a slightly higher API score, LAHS has had higher SAT scores. Both schools are safe, have excellent teachers, excellent electives & high academic standards. Some kids who go to Blach or Graham live in the LAHS attendance area; since most students at those schools live in the MVHS attendance area, the LAHS-area kids often will transfer to MVHS so they can stay with their friends. That is part of the issue; that's because the elementary & high school districts draw their boundaries independently--which can't really be helped, as the elementaries have to balance enrollment between two schools each (4 total), and those boundaries won't match the boundaries that the HS district draws, also to balance between their two schools.

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Posted by another los altos mom
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 30, 2007 at 3:45 pm

Can someone tell me if the high schools are really better in Palo Alto, or if this is just a story perpetrated by Palo Alto real estate agents. It does not make sense to me that the Los Altos elementary and middle schools are considered so strong, and then the high school's do not get the same praise.

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Posted by Marie
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2007 at 5:44 pm

The API scores are higher in Palo Alto, so if this is the definitive measure of a "good" school, I guess you have to say yes. (That's what realtors & many others generally use to measure a school district's quality.) However, if you look at all the factors--the fact that the Palo Alto (and Los Altos elementary/middle) schools have much higher percentages of parents with graduate degrees than in Mountain View on average, differences in income (which do matter--kids with disabilities or who just need extra help get a lot more outside help in affluent families than in poor families, who have to rely on whatever the overburdened public school can provide), etc., that will explain virtually all of the test score difference. Both MVHS and LAHS draw from both Mountain View and Los Altos, so both schools are drawing not only the affluent children, but also children who qualify fro free lunch and have parents who may not have graduated from High School.

The questions I think you should ask are: Is the curriculum challenging? Is the staff highly qualified? How do kids like my kid do at this school? When you break it down, I think kids of highly-educated, affluent parents perform about the same everywhere, if there's a strong program in place. It's just that many of the kids with fewer advantages don't do so well on test scores, so the schools with a moderate to large population of low-income kids will have lower overall test scores. I encourage you to go to MVHS and LAHS. Talk to the parents of students, talk to the teachers, talk to the administrators. I have heard nothing but glowing praise from many people I know and highly respect, and who I know have very high expectations for their kids. I plan to send my kids there, and we're all looking forward to the experience.

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Posted by Amanda
a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 1, 2007 at 7:31 pm

Then you have to wonder about the "teaching to the test" method. Are they learning? Or are they learning in a way that lends to a "better school".

My soon-to-be-second grader asked me about this yesterday... about the STAR testing. I told her that it was the SCHOOL, not HER, that was being graded by STAR testing. I told her not to worry about it - but obviously, even in first grade, when they're not tested, this issue comes up.

I'd rather they learn to learn, not learn to the test.

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Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2007 at 3:19 pm

although Palo Alto usually has the higher rated schools, the schools in Mountain View and Los Altos are more than adequate for the majority of students.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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