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By Tim Hunt

Great rankings for Pleasanton high schools

Uploaded: May 6, 2014

Pleasanton school officials had to be celebrating last week when the U.S. News and World Report digital edition highly ranked both comprehensive high schools based upon seniors' performance on college-oriented tests.
Amador Valley was ranked 46th in California and 256 nationally, while Foothill was No. 64 in the state and 327 nationally among public high schools. Notably, the two Pleasanton schools topped the other public schools in the Tri-Valley area, particularly those in the San Ramon Valley where Dougherty Valley (67), California (199) and Monte Vista (236) also were highly ranked.
The common factor in the rankings, which are ultimately based on how well seniors do on the advanced placement exams, is demographics—most notably income. Both Pleasanton schools have about 5 percent of the student body that qualifies for free or reduced price lunches—the measure used for poverty. Dougherty Valley is at 5 percent, while Cal is at 3 percent and the other two high schools are at 1 percent (Danville and Alamo).
Effectively educating students who live in poverty is a major challenge. Only Livermore High has a significant number of poor students (21 percent) as well as the highest percentage of Hispanic students (23 percent).
The top-ranked San Ramon Valley school—Dougherty—also has the highest percentage of Asians (56 percent) compared to 9 percent in Livermore. The Pleasanton schools are at 25 percent Asian (Amador) and 32 percent (Foothill). The value many Asian families place on education tends to result in excellent academic performance. Dublin High School ranked No. 237 in the state and No. 1091 in the country.
There's another key factor at play—the rankings (like many) are focused only on high-achieving students bound for higher education. For many students, that's a good goal—for those who have different gifts—say working with their hands—good luck. The assumption of way too many families, students and educators is that students fail if they do not get into a prestigious university as a freshman.
Little could be farther from the truth—what matters is where you finish, not the starting point.
Secondly, I know a number of people who are gifted in the trades and make very good money—get paid overtime—and do not take the job home once they park their truck. The general assumption that all students must go to a university is simply wrong—the Europeans have been ahead of us for years with multi-tracked education that allows those gifted in the trades to pursue them