With over 39 million residents, California is the most populated U.S. state by a wide margin. Unsurprisingly, it also has the largest public school system in the country, with over 6 million students enrolled in more than 10,000 schools statewide. These schools employ over 260,000 teachers, 60,000 more than the entire population of the nation of Samoa.

Considering its booming economy and leading in the entertainment and technology industries, it’s no surprise that California boasts a huge number of excellent public school districts. SoCal-based school districts dominate the top 10, with Los Angeles County districts comprising four on the list, along with one in nearby Orange County. The top 10 is filled out by four bay area districts and one based in Joaquin Valley.

Top ranked Palo Alto Unified School District’s twelve primary schools, three middle schools and two high schools are all located nearby Stanford University, and no doubt benefit from their proximity to one ot the nation’s most prestigious universities. Palo Alto Senior High has been recognized for its academic excellence by Newsweek and other national publications.

Second-ranked Liberty Elementary School District in Tulare County consists of just one school, but it’s a good one. Just behind it is Hermosa Beach City School District (#3), made up of two elementary schools and one middle school that have received the National Blue Ribbon School Award for academic achievement.

California’s top five is rounded out by two great districts. Fourth place Piedmont Unified benefits from a generous amount of funding supplied by a parcel tax paid by the city’s residents, while San Marino Unified was ranked #1 Unified School District in the state by the State of California in 2017.

Top School Districts in California, 2018

State RankSchool DistrictState
1Palo Alto UnifiedCalifornia
2Liberty ElementaryCalifornia
3Hermosa Beach City ElementaryCalifornia
4Piedmont City UnifiedCalifornia
5San Marino UnifiedCalifornia
6La Canada UnifiedCalifornia
7Manhattan Beach UnifiedCalifornia
8Arcadia UnifiedCalifornia
9San Ramon Valley UnifiedCalifornia
10Irvine UnifiedCalifornia
11Fremont UnifiedCalifornia
12Pleasanton UnifiedCalifornia
13Palos Verdes Peninsula UnifiedCalifornia
14Carmel UnifiedCalifornia
15South Pasadena UnifiedCalifornia
16Los Alamitos UnifiedCalifornia
17Oak Park UnifiedCalifornia
18Jefferson ElementaryCalifornia
19Laguna Beach UnifiedCalifornia
20Walnut Valley UnifiedCalifornia
21Albany City UnifiedCalifornia
22Poway UnifiedCalifornia
23Coronado UnifiedCalifornia
24Mesa Union ElementaryCalifornia
25Las Virgenes UnifiedCalifornia
26Davis Joint UnifiedCalifornia
27Carlsbad UnifiedCalifornia
28Temple City UnifiedCalifornia
29Scotts Valley UnifiedCalifornia
30Rocklin UnifiedCalifornia
31Redondo Beach UnifiedCalifornia
32Pacific Grove UnifiedCalifornia
33Menifee Union ElementaryCalifornia
34Conejo Valley UnifiedCalifornia
35Beverly Hills UnifiedCalifornia
36Santa Monica-Malibu UnifiedCalifornia
37Castro Valley UnifiedCalifornia
38Jamestown ElementaryCalifornia
39Brea-Olinda UnifiedCalifornia
40Capistrano UnifiedCalifornia
41Clovis UnifiedCalifornia
42San Marcos UnifiedCalifornia
43Borrego Springs UnifiedCalifornia
44Placentia-Yorba Linda UnifiedCalifornia
45Milpitas UnifiedCalifornia
46Alameda UnifiedCalifornia
47Saddleback Valley UnifiedCalifornia
48Burton ElementaryCalifornia
49Temecula Valley UnifiedCalifornia
50Berkeley UnifiedCalifornia
51Torrance UnifiedCalifornia
52Tustin UnifiedCalifornia
53Culver City UnifiedCalifornia
54Glendora UnifiedCalifornia
55Benicia UnifiedCalifornia
56Bonita UnifiedCalifornia
57Livermore Valley Joint UnifiedCalifornia
58Lawndale ElementaryCalifornia
59Moorpark UnifiedCalifornia
60Dublin UnifiedCalifornia
61Murrieta Valley UnifiedCalifornia
62Claremont UnifiedCalifornia
63Novato UnifiedCalifornia
64Simi Valley UnifiedCalifornia
65El Segundo UnifiedCalifornia
66San Luis Coastal UnifiedCalifornia
67Martinez UnifiedCalifornia
68Folsom-Cordova UnifiedCalifornia
69Santa Clara UnifiedCalifornia
70Saint Helena UnifiedCalifornia
71Chino Valley UnifiedCalifornia
72West Covina UnifiedCalifornia
73Glendale UnifiedCalifornia
74Abc UnifiedCalifornia
75Redding ElementaryCalifornia
76Golden Valley UnifiedCalifornia
77Tahoe-Truckee UnifiedCalifornia
78San Lorenzo Valley UnifiedCalifornia
79Burbank UnifiedCalifornia
80Newport-Mesa UnifiedCalifornia
81Ripon UnifiedCalifornia
83Silver Valley UnifiedCalifornia
84Live Oak ElementaryCalifornia
85Alhambra UnifiedCalifornia
86Templeton UnifiedCalifornia
87South San Francisco UnifiedCalifornia
88Princeton Joint UnifiedCalifornia
89Ventura UnifiedCalifornia
90San Jose UnifiedCalifornia
91Piner-Olivet Union ElementaryCalifornia
92Orange UnifiedCalifornia
93South Bay Union ElementaryCalifornia
94Corona-Norco UnifiedCalifornia
95Chawanakee UnifiedCalifornia
96Travis UnifiedCalifornia
97Cabrillo UnifiedCalifornia
98Lucia Mar UnifiedCalifornia
99Los Molinos UnifiedCalifornia
100Morgan Hill UnifiedCalifornia


The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding, and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

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