For time travelers: How local schools ranked in 1970.

You’re fine-tuning your time machine so you can go back to 1970 and get a great deal on a house, then pay your property taxes with the change you find under your sofa cushions.  What 1970 school district are you going to want to put your kids in?  An article in the April 19, 1970 S.F. Sunday Examiner & Chronicle gives you guidance.

By the way, you’re traveling back to interesting times.  Because in 1970 California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction was Max Rafferty.  In 1970 Dr. Rafferty was someone you loved, or someone you loved to hate.

Dr. Rafferty was no hippy-dippy superintendent.  He’d been elected in 1961 on the back of a tremendously popular campaign speech called ”The Passing of the Patriot,” which blamed public schools for ”youngsters growing up to become booted, side-burned, ducktailed, unwashed, leatherjacketed slobs, whose favorite sport is ravaging little girls and stomping polio victims to death.”

”I don’t know”, he asked, “when at long last the American people will rise in all their power and majesty of their great tradition to put an end to this role of international doormat which we assumed of late and which becomes us so poorly.”

Which proves that interesting times are nothing new.

Let’s look at how some of the local elementary districts compared back in 1970.  First, grade 6 reading:

The lower the score, the higher the district was ranked in this metric in 1970.  Not many surprises here.  The closer the district is to what I call The Zone of Gracious Living, whose epicenter is Stanford, the higher the scores tend to be.  BTW the former Whisman district, which covered much of north Mountain View, is now part of the Mountain View district.

Next, expenditure per student:

The lower the score, the higher the expenditure per student.  You’d think this metric would give you valuable insight, but looking at the chart makes you wonder whether it has as much to do with the special needs of a district’s student body as anything else.

And, finally, the teacher-pupil ratio grades 4-8:

This chart’s a little more intuitive:  the lower the score, the smaller the average class size.  For a high-performing district, Palo Alto was packing ’em in like sardines back in 1970.  Yet by the 1980s enrollment was down, and the district was closing schools.

When you’re back in 1970, you’ll hear people say that home prices can’t go any higher.  Be sure to disregard that.

copyright © John Fyten 2017



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