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As the epicenter of the tech and entertainment industries in the United States, and with a GDP that dwarfs every other US state’s, it’s no surprise that California boasts some of the best public school districts around. Let’s take a look at The Golden State’s top five.

Topping the list is San Mateo County Office of Education of San Mateo County, comprised of several suburban counties along the San Francisco Bay, just north of Silicon Valley. Rather than being an individual school district, San Mateo County Office of Education presides over 23 school elementary, high school and unified districts in the county, as well as a community college district and numerous charter schools.

Nearby San Francisco County Office of Education, encompassing all of the public schools in  the city of San Francisco, ranks #2 on the list. Comprised of over 130 schools, students of the racially diverse district boast math and English test scores well above the state averages.

Coming in third is Santa Barbara County Office of Education, a terrific district presiding over schools in what is known as the “American Riviera”.

#4 L.A. Unified, the second largest public school district in the country with an enrollment of nearly 700,000, is an excellent example of a massive, yet well-run district. In all, ten languages are taught to the district’s diverse student populace.

Rounding out the top five is the San Diego County Office of Education, known for its many programs providing assistance with special needs or belong to families experiencing economic hardship.

Top School Districts in California, 2019

RankSchool DistrictCountyCityState
1San Mateo County Office of EducationSan Mateo CountyRedwood CityCalifornia
2San Francisco County Office of EducationSan Francisco CountySan FranciscoCalifornia
3Santa Barbara County Office of EducationSanta Barbara CountySanta BarbaraCalifornia
4Los Angeles UnifiedLos Angeles CountyLos AngelesCalifornia
5San Diego County Office of EducationSan Diego CountySan DiegoCalifornia
6Marin County Office of EducationMarin CountySan RafaelCalifornia
7Sonoma County Office of EducationSonoma CountySanta RosaCalifornia
8Imperial County Office of EducationImperial CountyEl CentroCalifornia
9Tehama County Department of EducationTehama CountyRed BluffCalifornia
10Kings County Office of EducationKings CountyHanfordCalifornia
11San Luis Obispo County Office of EducationSan Luis Obispo CountySan Luis ObispoCalifornia
12Placer County Office of EducationPlacer CountyAuburnCalifornia
13Sutter County Office of EducationSutter CountyYuba CityCalifornia
14Los Angeles County Office of EducationLos Angeles CountyDowneyCalifornia
15Solano County Office of EducationSolano CountyFairfieldCalifornia
16San Diego UnifiedSan Diego CountySan DiegoCalifornia
17Humboldt County Office of EducationHumboldt CountyEurekaCalifornia
18Stanislaus County Office of EducationStanislaus CountyModestoCalifornia
19San Bernardino County Office of EducationSan Bernardino CountySan BernardinoCalifornia
20Shasta County Office of EducationShasta CountyReddingCalifornia
21El Dorado County Office of EducationEl Dorado CountyPlacervilleCalifornia
22Merced County Office of EducationMerced CountyMercedCalifornia
23Butte County Office of EducationButte CountyOrovilleCalifornia
24Palo Alto UnifiedSanta Clara CountyPalo AltoCalifornia
25San Ramon Valley UnifiedContra Costa CountyDanvilleCalifornia


The following contributed to the ranking: number of students (K-12), graduation rate, teacher quality, school funding, student to teacher ratio, standardized test results (reading and math; the percentage of students scoring at or above state proficiency level). Data from a total of 10,728 school districts had sufficient values for the variables above.

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