Pleasanton Schools Lead in Quality, Student Performance

By any number of measures, the Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD) is one of the best school systems in California. Here is one example. The University of California at Berkeley is the crown jewel of California's public university system. UC Berkeley had a 15.1% acceptance rate in 2018, when nearly 90,000 people applied to enter as first-year students. Given the competitive nature of college admissions, local parents might understandably wonder which high schools in the Bay Area have the highest acceptance rates for UC Berkeley. In May, the San Francisco Business Times decided to answer that question by analyzing data from the University of California's admission database. Both of Pleasanton's high schools, Amador Valley and Foothill, appeared on the list of top schools in terms of acceptance rates.

Earlier this year, Foothill High School was recognized as a California Distinguished School. It was the fourth time Foothill has been so honored. To qualify for this status, schools are judged on factors outlined by the California School Dashboard. These factors include test scores and graduation and suspension rates for two consecutive years, or erasing achievement gaps over the same period.

In early 2019 the Amador Valley High School Competitive Civics team placed second in the National We the People Finals in Washington D.C. We the People is a competitive civics program sponsored by the Center for Civic Education. For the second year in a row, Amador Valley High School and Foothill High School competitive civics teams represented California at the We the People National Finals following the State Competition held in Sacramento. At the State Competition Amador Valley's team won first place and Foothill's team earned second place.

"The Pleasanton Unified School District has nationally recognized programs that prepare its students to make a better world through a variety of college and career paths," says Patrick Gannon, PUSD Coordinator of Communication and Community Engagement. "The District's Project Lead the Way Program, which is available for elementary school students all the way through high school, helps create college and career pathways for students in developing areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. Through this program and many others, Pleasanton Unified helps prepare every students to be resourceful, resilient, responsible, and engaged world citizens."

Pleasanton's 95.7% high school graduation rate is higher than the Bay Area's as a whole, according to the report Tri-Valley Rising. Ranking website Niche gave PUSD an A+ rating as "one of the top 20 public school districts in California for 2019." Clearly, the City of Pleasanton and its residents value quality education. Several factors contribute to the quality of local schools. They include several organizations dedicated to local education and active support from the business community, including companies at Hacienda.

Pleasanton Partnerships in Education

Nonprofit Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) has played a key role in helping maintain the quality of local schools. Over the past 20 years PPIE has issued $1 million in teacher and student grants to PUSD schools for innovative STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) projects, according to its 2017-2018 annual report. As a result, students have been involved in projects that included 3D printing, robotics, environmental science, other science projects, and more. Oracle, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the Rotary Club of Pleasanton have been among the strong supporters of these STEAM grants. PPIE has also raised more than $8 million in funds for targeted technology and critical staff, including librarians, school site IT specialists, counselors, instructional coaches, and supplemental teachers for class-size reduction.

PPIE's support of STEAM-related projects are not limited to the higher grades. Teacher Denise Morgan, a first-grade teacher at Donlon Elementary school, was one of the recipients of PPIE support recently. So was Donna Adkins, a third-grade teacher at Fairlands Elementary. "I'm trying to teach kids how to answer their own questions," says Adkins, who used funds from PPIE for classroom resources that help students do hands-on projects and investigations into important questions such as how birds fly. "Creating is one of the highest levels of learning," she notes.

PPIE is also actively building bridges between local schools and local companies. In 2017, the nonprofit launched an Advisory Council for business and education leaders to promote business-school collaboration. The Council meets for lunch discussions at key business partners, which include Hacienda companies such as Oracle, Robert Half International, and Huntington Learning Center. Council members discuss key issues, such as career readiness and school stress, and make recommendations for practical action to support students.

Workforce Readiness

A "speed interview" program at Foothill High School was a new initiative that grew out of the Advisory Council. The program allowed more than 100 high school students to practice mock interviews with a broad range of PPIE business partners. Students met with a business volunteer for a 15-minute interview, presented a short pitch about their qualifications, answered interview questions, and received feedback.

"These students are so capable and positive, I honestly came away feeling very hopeful about our future," according to Stephen Hilton, board president of PPIE and a senior vice president at Robert Half International, who participated in the program as one of the business partners.

PPIE plans to expand the speed interview program to include Amador Valley High School and elsewhere. The program is one of the results of the nonprofit's efforts to connect Pleasanton students with additional resources from the local business community. Virtual classroom appearances by business partners and working with the Tri-Valley Regional Occupation Program are among other efforts by PPIE to work with business leaders.

Workforce readiness is an important issue for local educators, nonprofits, and business leaders. The Tri-Valley Regional Occupational Program (TVROP) is one of the organizations working to ensure that Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley continues to have a highly educated and skilled workforce to support the region's economic strength. TVROP serves all public high schools within the Dublin Unified School District, Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, and Pleasanton Unified School District. A key element of TVROP's mission is to help educate students while supporting and guiding the development of life and career skills valued by business, industry, colleges, and society.

In late 2018, TVROP was was chosen as one of 51 recipients of the state's leading educational honor, the Golden Bell Award. The Golden Bell Awards, now in their 39th year, are sponsored by the California School Boards Association to recognize outstanding public school programs for innovation, sustainability, and best practices that facilitate positive student outcomes. TVROP was honored for the success of its Middle College High School at Las Positas College.

Middle College is a unique collaboration between Las Positas College, the Tri-Valley Regional Occupational Program, Dublin Unified School District, Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, and Pleasanton Unified School District. As TVROP explains, through this alternative high school program, students have the opportunity to obtain a rigorous high school education while concurrently earning college credits. Middle College is an innovative pathway to college and career readiness that integrates high school, college, and career training on a community college campus.

Niche not only gives Pleasanton schools an A+ but also gives Pleasanton an overall A+ as one of the top areas for raising a family in California. That is no surprise to any of the local residents, business leaders, or nonprofit executives who have worked so hard to maintain the quality of local schools. Pleasanton's top schools are one of the factors that make it a wonderful location for both families and companies.

For more information about the Pleasanton Unified School District, please visit

For more information about Pleasanton Partnerships in Education, please visit

For more information about the Tri-Valley Regional Occupational Program, please visit

For more information about the educational opportunities available at Hacienda, please visit

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