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Gunn High Hits #42 on Newsweek ‘Best High Schools’ List

Original post made by gunns ok, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2011

Interesting article:

Gunn High School vaulted to the forty-second spot on Newsweek's "America's Best High Schools 2011" list yesterday, edging out Walnut Hills in Cincinnati and representing the only high school in Palo Alto in the rankings.

A low student-to-teacher ratio, high number of advanced tests per pupil, high graduation rates and SAT scores and a large percentage of college-goers cemented Gunn's position.

The school was judged with 1,100 other schools using a new methodology that placed the most value on a school's percentage of college-bound students and the number of AP/IB/AICE tests per graduate.

"This demonstrates our community's commitment to education," said Gunn High School Principal Katya Villalobos. "We are pleased with our students' achievement in all areas, this being one measure. Gunn students achieve in many areas from the arts to music to engineering/math and athletics."

Newsweek reached out to administrators, principals, guidance counselors, and Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate coordinators from 10,000 public high schools to solicit the data they culled from to produce these results.

"As a colleague states," said Villalobos, "we value achievement in the 4 As: academics, the Arts, athletics, and activities. This is a community recognition for our students, parents, and teachers."

Comments (26)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 21, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Here's the 2011 Newsweek List: Web Link

Thanks, Phil Winston, for not participating Paly in this list which leads to more academic stress for our students.


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Posted by Scoring is ridiculous
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 21, 2011 at 3:37 pm

I wish Newsweek would do a list of schools that are true public schools. Charter and magnet schools based on lottery selection with only 100 students in a graduating class and a 20:1 ratio just don't compare with a true public school. Apples and oranges....

The fact that Preuss School on the UCSD campus, which they are boasting about is ranked 8 spots higher, based on the facts of a 100% graduation rate and shoving 7 AP tests down a kid's throat is preposterous. The Preuss students with a 1500 SAT and an average AP score of 2.3 won't be getting into very good 4-year colleges, but I guess that's not what Newsweek cares about.


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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Yes, the problem with these "rankings" is that they have only a certain amount of merit. Yes, they have some merit, but please don't put all your belief into them and only them.
Like with US News & World Report college and university rankings, there is something to be learned from studying them, but they don't describe the entire picture of a school. Recently, people are taking USNWR rankings to be gospel and putting down a school that is one or two points below another..it gets silly.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2011 at 5:12 pm


In 2010--1000 Best High Schools

Gunn was 135

Paly was 444

Why such a huge difference in the same town?


This year Gunn has jumped up to 42--Well Done Gunn!

This will have an interesting effect on relative house prices between North and South Palo Alto


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Please stop implying that Gunn is a wonderful school and Paly is far behind.

As it is there are many parents and even home owners who crow over the Paly families as being not quite up to the same standard. We should not be a divided city in this respect.

We have two excellent high schools in Palo Alto. They both have excellent students with the same potential to do well in school and beyond.


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Posted by pragmatic
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Maybe Villalobos enjoys the prestige but she is unwittingly drawing a crowd which will provide more academic stress for her students such as immigrants who believe in studying and nothing else.

@Paly Parent: There has always been a division between North and South PA and North PA has been the more prestigious area and will continue despite academic rankings. There is plenty of Paly pride and we need no defending.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Did Paly not participate by choice or did they just forget to turn in the necessary paperwork?


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2011 at 6:32 pm



We have a healthy competition between Gunn and Paly in football, Tennis etc--academic competition is just the same.

We agree that News Week should have a separate category for private, charter, selective enrollment schools.

Palo Alto public high schools have to take in Tinsley students--for example --that effect the overall scores.

Private schools do not.

There should be a financial reward for Gunn teachers who have done such a good job--local billionaires should step up to the plate and make it happen.

Excellence in education is the future of US industry and global competitiveness.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2011 at 7:06 pm

I don't put much store by these rankings, but I really don't see why people object to them. As the parent of two Gunn kids, I can report they laughed at the idea that Newsweek rankings somehow create pressure for them. The college rat race, driven by the expectations of the families of their Palo Alto peers, does a fine job at creating the pressure - Newsweek is immaterial. It's always nice to be recognized, so I am glad to see it. Paly, and any other school, can do what they like; meanwhile, I am proud of Gunn and its students


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2011 at 11:39 pm


Both Paly and Gunn are good schools--we do not understand the discrepancy in ranking--it is huge

Why did Paly not participate this year while they did in 2010?.

It leaves the score at

Gunn--- 42th in the nation

Paly---444th in the nation

That is an enormous gap--what is the root cause?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 22, 2011 at 12:08 am

The root cause?

Why don't you actually look at the breakdown? Very simple, really. Gunn kids take more AP classes on average.

Basically, it's pretty much the pushy-parent factor. It was a stupid way to assess school quality, which is why they seem to be using a different scoring system this year.




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Posted by Unexpected
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2011 at 8:24 am

"Basically, it's pretty much the pushy-parent factor. It was a stupid way to assess school quality, which is why they seem to be using a different scoring system this year."

Then it is interesting that Gunn's ranking went UP with the new scoring system.


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Posted by CrunchyCookie
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 22, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Why all the excitement over the views of an idiot magazine that defines "best" by one arbitrary and silly metric -- the ratio of AP tests taken divided by the number of graduating seniors?

For contrast, the more well-rounded idiot magazine US News also published their new list; Gunn got #67 and Paly got #83.

The other California schools:
3. Whitney High (Cerritos)
4. Oxford Academy (Cypress)
7. Pacific Collegiate School (Santa Cruz)
22. California Academy of Math & Science (Carson)
23. Animo Leadership Charter High School (Inglewood)
25. Lennox Mathematics, Science & Technology Academy
28. Lowell (SF)
32. The Preuss School (La Jolla)
36. Mission San Jose (Fremont)
44. School of International Studies (San Diego)
54. Hawthorne Math and Science Academy
70. Monta Vista (Cupertino)
73. Piedmont High
80. La Canada High
86. Campolindo High (Moraga)
89. Miramonte High (Orinda)
93. Saratoga High
98. Lynbrook (San Jose)

But of these, notice only Mission San Jose (36), Monta Vista (70), Piedmont (73), La Canada (80), Campolindo (86), Miramonte (89), Saratoga (93), and Lynbrook (98) are classified as "open enrollment". In other words, Gunn and Paly are #2 and #6.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 24, 2011 at 10:14 am

I find these rankings really, really useful when trying to explain to my bright students why they feel like they are not bright. Likewise when explaining to family and friends from other areas why we seem stressed about school and why our kid are always going to summer school, those numbers come in pretty handy. And finally, colleges will see those numbers and understand the significance of a 3.5 grade point average from Gunn or Paly in comparison to the 3.5 from other schools around the country.


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Posted by HA!
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 24, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Turns out we were right... Paly didn't have their act together and forgot to submit their information to Newsweek. Really classy of P Winston to blame in on his predecessor.

Classic!


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 24, 2011 at 9:04 pm

@HA!: Phil Winston is extremely well-liked. I think it's great that he bypassed the career boost and kept Paly out of the rankings. He really cares about our students and understands the academic pressure.


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Posted by HA!
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 27, 2011 at 10:58 pm

@Mom --- Turns out that Phil Winston meant to turn in the paperwork but they never did! Read the Weekly! Oh the Irony.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 27, 2011 at 11:17 pm

@Mom: So he says that was the reason. . . Whatever the case, I and many others are relieved that Paly was not included. We don't need more people flocking to our school.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 27, 2011 at 11:18 pm

I meant "@HA!" Oh, these threads will make ya go nuts aftah awhile. . .


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Posted by Newsweek?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2011 at 11:34 am

FWIW....

As a recent PA family, we spent a year researching schools before deciding to move to PA. We chose Paly.

Both PA schools are fantastic; the Newsweek's ranking is total and complete rubbish. The number of AP classes tells you virtually nothing. Look at the SAT scores if you want a better sense of student/teaching quality and how the kids will perform after high school. What we actually did was look at the number of students admitted to the top universities (WSJ study - Ivy league mostly), and saw that Paly ranks about 40 or so (in top 3 or 4 public schools in country, the rest are private). Gunn was not ranked even thought avg. SAT scores are higher.

Besides, there are other reasons we preferred NorthPA/Paly as a destination.....more diverse, more affluent, a little less pressure from the parents from what we could tell (Due to wealth difference?), nicer/cleaner facilities, and the fact that success is based on many things besides pure academics....who are their friends, where will they be in 30 years, and is my kid secure, happy, and confident? We are definitely tiger parents, but don't want to kill our children in the name of success either. Balance is key.

IMO, if you're in PA, your kid's future is far more likely be determined by factors besides whether they went to Gunn or Paly.


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Posted by gunns ok
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2011 at 2:15 pm

"more diverse, more affluent, a little less pressure from the parents from what we could tell (Due to wealth difference?), nicer/cleaner facilities"

All I can say is WOW, glad you found your spot!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by alex
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2011 at 7:14 am

i really enjoyed reading this post very helpful since i am planning to move to PA . i incur both GUNN AND Paly are very good schools, at the end of the day where your child ends up in life depend a lot on the home and parenting environment.

Give your child the love,support,confidence and self belief along with Your TIME this will ensure a greater chance of success then which of the two schools you pick .

hope to see you the same parents posting messages 5 years down the road at Harvard vs Stanford or Harvard vs MIT :)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Titans 4ever
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 9, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Hey! THIS IS GREAT! It's only expected that all the negative comments would be from PALY people. You guys should be happy for us. I mean there are only 2 high schools in this school district, why can't we just get along and celebrate each others successes??!!!


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Posted by Parent 2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Nicer facilities at paly is right. I love Gunn, but do they have to make it so butt ugly, even the new buildings? What are they thinking? The new building remind me interior wise for all the world of that civil war barracks at the Golden Gate bridge, just in how it feels.


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Posted by Parent 2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2013 at 8:31 pm

I meant to say, the physical environment, light, nature, open space - they all have a big impact on physical stress.


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