It's Got to Be the Schools

By Dave Fratello | August 31st, 2011
School starts today, which got us thinking about the intersection of schools and local real estate.

Living in the LA area, if you don't happen to live in a neighborhood with great schools, here are some of your options: private school, transferring to another "good" school nearby on a year-by-year permit basis, fudging your residence address, home schooling. Or sucking it up and hoping for the best.

And then there's Manhattan Beach.

Forbes magazine earlier this year called MB one of the towns in the US with the "best schools for your real estate buck." Among cities with median home prices of $800k and above, MB ranked #1, while MB was 6th overall nationwide.

Partnering with Forbes, provided the additional data on MB's ranking: a score of 97.69 (out of 100) for the "education quality score."

For you type-A, lifelong overachievers, this is a very, very good score, even though it's short of 100. Next on the list, New Canaan, CT, was down 6.12 points behind MB. Only those 2 were over 90 in the $800k+ category.

All of the other California cities on the various Top 10 lists (by median price) are in Northern California. So MB's pretty much your option.

The State of California has a pretty high opinion of MB schools as well.

The annual Academic Performance Index (API) report ranks schools against others in the state. Each school gets a rating between 1-10 statewide, with an equal number of schools getting ratings of 1, 2, 3 and so on. On this scale, 10 is best.

Every school in MB – that's 5 elementaries, a middle school and the high school – got a 10 for 2010. This means every MB school is in the top 10%.

There's a similar measure comparing "similar schools" – those with similar demographics – which uses the same 10-point rating system. Two elementaries also hit 10 in the "similar schools" ranking (Robinson, Pacific) while 2 more scored a 9 (Grand View, Pennekamp). The high school and middle school both hit 8 on the scale.

Finally, each school also gets a ranking on a 1000-point scale for academic performance, with Robinson scoring highest among the elementaries (965), ranging down to Meadows at a still-smashing 937. The middle school was at 935, and the high school at 899. (Here's a link to the state's report, and a separate website [] that uses the same data but presents it differently.)

We were talking with clients recently looking to come into MB before the kids start school. They wanted a recommendation as to the "best" school. Our answer: You simply cannot go wrong.

All of this is a great credit to the school district management and our dedicated teachers, first and foremost.

No doubt, a ton of credit also goes to the nonprofit in the wings, the MB Education Foundation, which raised a record $4.4 million last year. (Here's how the money was spent.) And parental and community involvement goes far beyond money toward improving student achievement.

MB has pulled off all of this achievement and support – so far – without a parcel tax dedicated to education funding. (A $108-per-parcel, 5-year tax with a senior citizens' exemption got 58% of the vote in June 2003, but needed 66.7%.)

So, yes, we love the beach, the climate, the small town, the views, the parks and a host of other things. But for families, the MB schools, teachers and community seal the deal.


UPDATE: Wouldn't you know it, right after this first-day-of-school post went up, new API scores for each school and for the district overall were released for 2011. Here's the rundown:

MBUSD overall: API score 932 overall (+5 over 2010)

Mira Costa HS: 911

MB Middle School: 945

Robinson: 962

Pacific: 960

Grand View: 957

Pennekamp: 948

Meadows: 946 

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