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Elementary School District Enrollment Expected to Grow

High API scores drive popularity of SM-FCSD, says demographer.

As current trends continue to develop, student enrollment in the San Mateo-Foster City School District is expected to progressively increase over the course of the coming years, according to a district report.

The school district will take in an additional 264 students next year, and then continue to grow at a rate that could bring 1,121 more students into local schools by the 2016 fall semester, according to the report authored by demographer Tom Williams.

Williams, who presented his report Thursday at the district board of trustees meeting, said elementary school enrollment in San Mateo and Foster City region will maintain a consistent growth rate while other surrounding areas may not.

He attributed the future popularity spike in part to local birth rates remaining high throughout the recent recession, while fewer babies were being born in other areas of the county and region during that same time.

As well, he said that the high scores earned consistently on the Academic Performance Index (API) by students make the district a target for families with young children who are willing to relocate their home to an area featuring a quality school system.

The district's most recent API score is 840, a point higher than the year prior. That is 24 points more than the average of all other students in San Mateo County school districts, and is 62 points greater than the statewide average.

The state Board of Education generates API scores as a measurement of each school’s academic performance, based in part on the standardized test scores of students.

Williams spoke unfavorably of the parents who put such great emphasis on API scores in considering where to live, and which school district is the right choice for their child.

"Unfortunately, people have become obsessed with this," he said.

Board president Lory Lorimer Lawson agreed, and said that she felt it is a responsibility of those familiar with the district to speak up when others express opinions about a school system based solely on test scores.

Superintendent Cynthia Simms added that the high performance of district students according to the API will continue to drive the local housing market, and make the region an attractive location for families with school-age children.

To that regard, Williams said his research indicates that apartments are becoming, and will continue to be, the most popular form of housing for families with children in local district.

Since 2006, in the district there has been a 14.6% enrollment increase of students living in apartments. That compares to only a 3.6% increase of students in single-family homes, according to the report.

Williams said he believes the popularity of apartments will give way to more attached housing development being proposed across the region, as it is the preferred affordable option to the considerable costs found in the detached housing market.

But trustee Julie Chan said she believed more affordable single family homes will become available in Foster City due to the choice of local elderly citizens who prefer to live in the proposed senior living community.

Trustee Ellen Mallory Ulrich opined that the school system may not be able to handle much more growth, and questioned whether local city governments should reconsider continuing to approve new residential development projects in the district.

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marandbo February 07, 2012 at 01:28 AM
I can only speak about Hillsdale because of my experience and I have a problem with you calling it a "bad" school. HHS has worked long and hard over the last several years to implement their Small Learning Communities with the assistance of Stanford University. Teachers, administrators and parents have worked tirelessly to make that school what it is today! If you talk to the majority of parents and/or students of HHS, they cannot say enough great things about Hillsdale has one and continues to do for them. It was recently featured in a Washington Post article as well as a Newsweek article a few years back commending them on their efforts and success with Small Learning Communties. I can honestly say you know NOTHING about Hillsdale High School if you refer to it as a "bad" school.
marandbo February 07, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Sorry - too fast for my fingers - meant to say - "they cannot say enough great things about what Hilldale has done and continues to do for them".
EmilyS February 07, 2012 at 02:56 AM
If you are concerned that your child will not be academically challenged, rather than look at the scores of the whole high school, look at what AP and Honors offerings there are at each school. Honors and AP curriculums are set curriculums, and having great teachers in these courses is what your kids need. Test scores are showing you what the kids in all levels of classes are doing - and if your kids are scoring at the top of their classes, chances are they will be in the Honors/AP classes with kids who are also top of their class. The kids who are struggling will be in classes with other kids who are struggling for the majority of their classes - that way, teachers can teach at level. HS is not like elementary school where everyone is put in the same group, regardless of ability. Having a diverse, and I mean that academically as well as culturally, population is incredibly important for kids and adults - segregating kids purely by their ability to test well is setting all the kids up for failure - both the "gifted" ones as well as the ones who are not as academic. Encourage your kid to be a tutor/mentor to those who are struggling...best way to learn is to teach! Valuing a school (calling it a "5" or a "10") dangerous - there is a lot more to all of the schools than their ability to take a test, and their parents' education level (which is clearly correlated to the scores.)
Jennifer Selvitella February 07, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Having grown up in FC, attending Bowditch and then onto San Mateo, I concur with the comments regarding the overall experience of leaving the FC "bubble." Myself, as well as the majority of those I graduated with (from all areas of SM & FC), all went on to be highly successful individuals. Many of whom went on to become doctors, lawyers, scientist, engineers, etc, after attending schools such as Stanford, Brown, Cal, UCLA, MIT, just to name a few. I think my fellow alums would be as surprised as I, to hear we graduated from a "bad" school. A smart child, will excel in any environment. Our HS's offer a vast array of programs, well suited for even the brightest of children. HS is what the student makes of it, and has a lot to do with the parent's involvement and support. True success can also be attributed not only to academia, but being well rounded and well balanced from exposure to diverse environments. Plus, there is always private high school should a parent feel their child will not be challenged from a public high school education. There are many others issues facing our city that have more importance at this juncture than building a high school. We should be more concerned with our city losing Redevelopment funds and the current state of our school system. There is no money to build a high school here, that is a fact.
Annette S February 07, 2012 at 08:31 PM
All three schools are terrific in their own way. I agree w/Jennifer, school is what you make it, and what you chose to take away from it. No matter where you go. All my kids graduated from Hillsdale, and w/the small learning communities it just keeps getting better. There are no bad schools in our district, just lack of funding. This Foster City High school has been an issue for as long as I have been in San Mateo- 22 years, 5 kids all graduated and on to college. Pay to put your kids in pricey private schools if you think your kid is better than us public school kids, LOL.

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