California is a huge state of over 39.5 million people and nearly 1000 school districts, many of which are among the largest school districts in the country. Therefore, to be named one of the top public school districts in the state is a significant honor. Let’s take a closer look at five school districts that truly distinguished themselves among the Golden State’s many hundreds of school systems. 

The top public school district in California is Acalanes Union High School District, consisting of four high schools in Contra Costa County. Acalanes’ four schools are all accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and boast a tradition of exceptional academic performance: each ranks in the top 6 percent of high schools in California on the Academic Performance Index.  

Laguna Beach Unified is California’s 2nd best public high school district. The district’s Laguna Beach High School has earned AP Honor Roll designation for increasing AP access, and its students excel in areas outside of academics as well, indicated by 100% participation in arts and athletics. 

Earning the #3 spot is Piedmont Unified School District. The district is made up of seven schools in the city of Piedmont, which is completely surrounded by Oakland. PUSD students achieve some of the highest scores in the state on standardized tests, and over 95 percent of graduates go on to enroll in higher education.  

Like California’s top school district, #4 Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District is comprised solely of high schools in the San Jose area. Both of the district’s two schools are exceptional, boasting a 97% graduation rate and student test scores well above state averages in math and language arts. 

San Marino Unified School District is California’s 5th best school district. A small district compared to others on the list, SMUSD comprises two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. The district’s schools have earned numerous honors and recognitions, and all are Blue Ribbon Award winners?.

Top School Districts in California, 2020

RankSchool DistrictCity
1Acalanes Union HighLafayette
2Laguna Beach UnifiedLaguna Beach
3Piedmont City UnifiedPiedmont
4Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union HighLos Gatos
5San Marino UnifiedSan Marino
6Mountain View-Los Altos Union HighMountain View
7Albany City UnifiedAlbany
8Beverly Hills UnifiedBeverly Hills
9Carmel UnifiedCarmel
10Tamalpais Union HighLarkspur
11Lammersville Joint UnifiedMountain House
12Tahoe-Truckee UnifiedTruckee
13Scotts Valley UnifiedScotts Valley
14Jefferson Union HighDaly City
15Tulare Joint Union HighTulare
16Shasta Union HighRedding
17Centinela Valley Union HighLawndale
18Templeton UnifiedTempleton
19Sierra Sands UnifiedRidgecrest
20Martinez UnifiedMartinez
21Cotati-Rohnert Park UnifiedRohnert Park
22Windsor UnifiedWindsor
23Cutler-Orosi Joint UnifiedOrosi
24Santa Ynez Valley Union HighSanta Ynez
25Duarte UnifiedDuarte
26Santa Paula UnifiedSanta Paula
27Selma UnifiedSelma
28Center Joint UnifiedAntelope
29West Sonoma County Union HighSebastopol
30Nevada Joint Union HighGrass Valley
31Fowler UnifiedFowler
32Patterson Joint UnifiedPatterson
33Central Union HighEl Centro
34Ukiah UnifiedUkiah
35Newman-Crows Landing UnifiedNewman
36Golden Valley UnifiedMadera
37Escalon UnifiedEscalon
38Silver Valley UnifiedYermo
39Carpinteria UnifiedCarpinteria
40Northern Humboldt Union HighMckinleyville
41Mendocino UnifiedMendocino
42Kingsburg Joint Union HighKingsburg
43Bret Harte Union HighAngels Camp
44Del Norte County UnifiedCrescent City
45Mammoth UnifiedMammoth Lakes
46Sierra UnifiedPrather
47Holtville UnifiedHoltville
48Galt Joint Union HighGalt
49Fillmore UnifiedFillmore
50Sonoma Valley UnifiedSonoma
51Healdsburg UnifiedHealdsburg
52Firebaugh-Las Deltas UnifiedFirebaugh
53Durham UnifiedDurham
54Calaveras UnifiedSan Andreas
55Live Oak UnifiedLive Oak
56Lake Tahoe UnifiedSouth Lake Tahoe
57Wasco Union HighWasco
58Middletown UnifiedMiddletown
59Eureka City SchoolsEureka
60Muroc Joint UnifiedNorth Edwards
61San Rafael City HighSan Rafael
62Calistoga Joint UnifiedCalistoga
63Riverbank UnifiedRiverbank
64Bear Valley UnifiedBig Bear Lake
65Pierce Joint UnifiedArbuckle
66Anderson Union HighAnderson
67Delhi UnifiedDelhi
68Mariposa County UnifiedMariposa
69Scott Valley UnifiedFort Jones
70Lemoore Union HighLemoore
71Yosemite UnifiedOakhurst
72Gateway UnifiedRedding
73Oroville Union HighOroville
74Fortuna Union HighFortuna
75River Delta Joint UnifiedRio Vista
76Julian Union HighJulian
77North Monterey County UnifiedMoss Landing
78Caruthers UnifiedCaruthers
79East Nicolaus Joint Union HighNicolaus
80Hilmar UnifiedHilmar
81Riverdale Joint UnifiedRiverdale
82Corcoran Joint UnifiedCorcoran
83Bishop UnifiedBishop
84Waterford UnifiedWaterford
85Plumas UnifiedQuincy
86Coast UnifiedCambria
87Fallbrook Union HighFallbrook
88Lone Pine UnifiedLone Pine
89Colusa UnifiedColusa
90Chawanakee UnifiedNorth Fork
91Woodlake UnifiedWoodlake
92Yreka Union HighYreka
93Gustine UnifiedGustine
94Esparto UnifiedEsparto
95Lakeport UnifiedLakeport
96Golden Plains UnifiedSan Joaquin
97Calipatria UnifiedCalipatria
98Gridley UnifiedGridley
99Red Bluff Joint Union HighRed Bluff
100Anderson Valley UnifiedBoonville


The following variables contributed to the ranking: number of students (K-12), graduation rate, school funding per student, student to teacher ratio, percent of students scoring above proficient in standardized state Math test, percent of students scoring above proficient in standardized state Reading and Language test. Data from a total of 10,247 public school districts were used to compute a score for each school district. The following states were omitted due to lack of sufficient data: Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah, and Virginia. Note that high schools in some states have their own independent districts.

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