Now how did this happen? ZipRealty has produced a school ranking report that justifies buyers staying in its own East Bay backyard. A number of news sites ran completely uncritical parroting of this news release. Let’s take a closer look to find out exactly how this happened, because there’s a reason there’s a Real Bay Area and the East Bay will never be part of it.
See updates below.
San Ramon Valley, Sunol Glen and Piedmont schools top the list.
EMERYVILLE, Calif., May 16, 2013 – ZipRealty, Inc. (http://www.ziprealty.com) (NASDAQ: ZIPR), the leading online residential real estate brokerage and technology provider, has released its first annual ranking of the Best Places for Families to Live: Top School Districts with Most Affordable Housing in the Bay Area. The public school rankings were compiled by factoring each school district’s School Score on ZipRealty.com with median price per square foot in that district. To be considered, at least 10 home sales must have closed in that school district over the course of 2012.
"We all know lots of factors – not just price per square foot – go into determining home values," says ZipRealty CEO and President Lanny Baker. "Among the most important of these factors for many families today is the quality of local schools in relation to the price of their local real estate. In our ongoing effort to help home buyers make important decisions, we are thrilled to bring these two sets of data together."
ZipRealty’s proprietary School Score ratings measure the performance of each school district, including elementary, middle and high schools on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. ZipRealty calculates School Score ratings based on test-score data as well as student/teacher ratios, says Jamie Wilson, Senior Vice President of Technology.
Notice that dateline? Emeryville. You think a realty portal located in a region with an inferiority complex is going to play fair with school rankings when up against the Real Bay Area? Ha. You can see how this is shaping up with the name of that list: “Best Places for Families to Live: Top School Districts with Most Affordable Housing in the Bay Area.”
Now if you’ve been reading Burbed for more than a couple of weeks, you already know that “Top School Districts” and “Most Affordable Housing in the Bay Area” are Two of Those Things That Don’t Go Together. It’s kind of like finding America’s Top Supermodels Who Live In Trailer Parks. Only the supermodels are probably easier to locate because there’s less overbidding.
But it was the Top 10 on this list that made us write in to ZipRealty to ask just how the heck this list came to be. Have a look:
- San Ramon Valley Unified: School Score 9.1/Median Price per SF $304
- Sunol Glen Unified: School Score 9.3/Median Price per SF $356
- Piedmont Unified: School Score 9.5/Median Price per SF $539
- Palo Alto Unified: School Score 9.2/Median Price per SF $885
- Castro Valley Unified: School Score 8/Median Price per SF $265
- Dublin Unified: School Score 8.4/Median Price per SF $265
- Pleasanton Unified: School Score 8.6/Median Price per SF $332
- Albany Unified: School Score 8.6/Median Price per SF $419
- Benicia Unified: School Score 7.8/Median Price per SF $181
- Martinez Unified: School Score 7.8/Median Price per SF $185
Okay, what the heck? Not only is every single school district on this list but one on the East side of the Bay, every single one is also single. Where the hell are the non-unified school districts? And look who’s sticking out like a sore thumb on this list. Yes, everyone’s favorite Palo Alto, sailing in at a Most Affordable Housing Price of $885 a square foot (which is too low because they calculated it more than a week ago).
Needless to say, that Most Affordable Housing figure made us write to ZipRealty’s media contact and ask just how this list was ranked. Their answer is they put all the 9s in one bucket, then ranked the per square foot prices within the rank, then did the same for the 8s, the 7s, etc. The school score itself was calculated based on “test-score data as well as student/teacher ratios.” So Palo Alto and its sky-high price per foot represented the “worst” or Least Affordable of the Most Affordable of the 9s category, which had all of four school districts in it.
We were also sent the full list of 70 school districts, and there actually were some non-unified organizations therein. The highest scoring non-unified district was Los Gatos-Saratoga High School District, with an 8.3 (and a Most Affordable Housing Price of $601 a foot, which then pushed it below the Tamalpais and Fremont Union HSDs, which scored lower but were much more Most Affordable, reinforcing what we said above about those supermodels).
Comparing a high school district (grades 9-12) to a unified district (grades K-12) is
batshit insane pretty silly, though. Elementary schools have lower student-teacher ratios because, and stop us if this concept seems a little too technical, but State Law mandates smaller student-teacher ratios for elementary classes. Therefore a Unified district would score more highly, benefitting both from that smaller student-teacher ratio and the resulting higher school test scores than a district that only has high schools. You know, because high schools have… larger classes… and more students in the school from more diverse backgrounds than elementary schools.
Talk about a stacked deck: Alameda County has no high school districts at all, only unified districts. Same with Solano County. And you know else how they shuffled the cards funny? Where the HELL is Cupertino Union School District? You may have heard of them, they’re the one that scores 998 on the danged STAR tests from a couple of their elementary schools. But they’re nowhere to be found on the list. And that’s rather interesting, because we looked up a house in the district on ZipRealty, just to find out CUSD’s ranking.
It’s 9.4, which means it beats every other district on the list except Piedmont (which got a whopping 9.5, or 10.2 on the list of 70 we were sent, which makes us wonder about their copyediting). Yet for some reason there’s no mention of Cupertino at all. Maybe it’s that Most Affordable Housing Price of $750 a foot – except that’s still less than Palo Alto.
Perhaps they only wanted to include school districts that had high schools? Maybe, but that doesn’t explain the presence of two (yes two out of 70) elementary school districts on the list (Howell Mountain and Pope Valley, both toward the bottom). How many of the 70 were unified school districts? 53. And 14 high school (only) districts.
Sorry, that’s whacked, comparing unified districts with high school only. We can run similarly helpful lists, showing East Bay city values jumping by huge margins… and forgetting to mention that they utterly imploded after 2006. Oh wait, that’s what realtards do every time they tell you that NOW IS ALWAYS THE TIME TO BUY.
We’ve helpfully pulled out all the high school districts from the ZipRealty list, to get a better idea of how they rank against each other, since we don’t see the value in comparing apples with horse apples. The two numbers after each high school district are the price per square foot, and the ZipRealty School Score.
Updated 4:30 PM: The number in parenthesis in front is the rank amid all those unified districts. And we’ve separated them into their respective school score buckets, which is how the entire list was ranked (first digit of score, followed by ranking price per foot from least to most).
(11) TAMALPAIS UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT $486 8.1
(12) FREMONT UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT $545 8
(13) LOS GATOS-SARATOGA JOINT UHSD $601 8.3
(17) WEST SONOMA COUNTY UNION HSD $255 7
(19) ACALANES UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT $307 7.6
(24) SAN MATEO UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT $474 7
(25) MOUNTAIN VIEW-LOS ALTOS UNION HSD $626 7.6
(27) LIBERTY UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT $124 6
(32) SAN RAFAEL CITY HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT $338 6.4
(36) CAMPBELL UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT $408 6
(38) SEQUOIA UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT $515.5 6.8
(45) SAN BENITO HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT $153 5.5
(52) EAST SIDE UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT $272 5.7
(54) JEFFERSON UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT $344 5.8
Jefferson was 54th out of 70 districts, which means it still managed to beat out 14 unifieds despite the structural handicap of not having any K-8 students.
Update 4:30: Just for giggles, let’s take a look at the bottom 10 schools on their list. East Bay in yellow, and the two WTF elementaries in green (both in Napa County).
61. HAYWARD UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT $192 4.2
62. HOWELL MOUNTAIN ELEMENTARY SD $201 4.7
63. OAKLAND UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT $210 4.9
64. SAN LORENZO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT $211 4.8
65. SAN LEANDRO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT $218 4.6
66. PAJARO VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT $247 4
67. SONOMA VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT $269.5 4.4
68. CALISTOGA JOINT UNIFIED SD $405 4.7
69. POPE VALLEY UNION ELEMENTARY SD $55 3.8
70. EMERY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT $270 3.6
No RBA here!
We rank this press release 4 Pinocchios and 5 Lereahs.
And seriously, shame on Yahoo Finance and HuffPo Parents for not doing the slightest bit of due diligence on it. Do we have to do everything?
Update 4:30 PM: We’ve asked ZipRealty to explain their mooshing together unified and high school districts, as well as the two elementaries in their list. We will run any response of theirs in full.