In Marin County, unlike in San Francisco, where you buy a home does have an impact on where your children will attend school — if you choose to send them to public schools. If you choose to go the private/independent route, your choices expand to include the county’s 27 private K-8 schools and six high schools (plus an equal number of schools in San Francisco, if you are not averse to academic commuting), including such stellar choices as The Branson School, Marin Academy and Marin Country Day School.
Parents interested in public schools also have many excellent options, as many of the county’s public schools are considered among the state’s best. However it is true that even in Marin, where almost all schools are well-regarded, some schools’ reputations outshine others’.
For example, homebuyers in San Rafael often target homes in neighborhoods within the boundaries of the 1,800-student Dixie Elementary School District over the much larger San Rafael City District, which has 4,100 students in nine schools. Even in Kentfield, where the two-school local district is among the county’s most highly-rated, homes in Kentfield but located within the boundaries for the prestigious Ross School District fetch just a little bit more on the open market.
In Central Marin County (for purposes of this post, that includes San Rafael, Corte Madera, Kentfield, San Anselmo, Fairfax, Ross and Larkspur) there are six major elementary school districts — Larkspur-Corte Madera, Kentfield, Ross, Ross Valley (San Anselmo and Fairfax), San Rafael City and Dixie (San Rafael) — and two high school districts, San Rafael, which includes San Rafael and Terra Linda High Schools, and Tamalpais, which includes Redwood (Larkspur) and Drake (San Anselmo) High Schools, plus Tamalpais High School, in Mill Valley. (Small coastal districts Lagunitas and Bolinas-Stinson Union are also geographically in central Marin.)
Among these districts, both high school districts and the Dixie elementary district are open enrollment districts, meaning residents have the option of attending any campus within the district. All others determine school choice by address, though a few — Kentfield, Larkspur-Corte Madera and Ross — have only a single elementary school and middle school from which to choose.
With all of these options, it can be difficult to determine which school is a fit for your child — and correspondingly, which city/neighborhood to target when shopping for your Marin County home. Fortunately, there are resources which can offer a more complete picture of each school. Great schools.net is invaluable in offering comprehensive campus and district information, ratings and parent feedback. Though Great Schools we can see that five Central Marin districts (Ross, Ross Valley, Kentfield, Larkspur-Corte Madera and Tamalpais) have perfect 10/10 ratings, and another, Dixie, has a 9/10.
Another helpful tool is the state API (Academic Performance Index) report, which measures, on a scale of 1000, “the academic performance and growth of schools on a variety of academic measures.” Districts with the highest API scores in Central Marin include Ross (932), Kentfield (920) and Dixie (905). Individual schools with the highest API scores are Dixie Elementary (942), Kent Middle School (939), Brookside and Wade Thomas in the Ross Valley District (938), Sun Valley Elementary in the San Rafael District (919) and Redwood High School (904).
In today’s media- and technology-saturated age, finding information about a schools enrollment, history, demographics, teacher-to-student ratio and reputation requires little more than a Google search. Despite the ease with which we can get information, there is still no substitute for actually visiting a school, speaking with parents, teachers and administrators. The good news is that it’s hard to go wrong, school-wise, in Marin County. The region offers so many good options that your chances of finding a school in which your child can thrive is great, no matter where you find your dream house in whichever Marin County city and neighborhood.