Schools in Lafayette vs. Walnut Creek

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December 2003

I'm interested in hearing people's experiences with Walnut Creek and Lafayette elementary schools. We currently live in Walnut Creek (in the Murwood elementary school area) but are considering moving to Lafayette, partly because of the good things we've heard about the schools. I'd love for my son to learn a second language from early on and have good music education--are the public schools out here strong in those areas? And what about the culture of the schools--are they respectful, warm, and inclusive or more toward the cliquish and mean end of the spectrum? Do the kids come to love learning? Some of the schools described in the private schools newsletters sound so fabulous; I'm wondering how the supposedly high quality public schools in this area compare. Thanks in advance for any info you can share. Kathy

Both my kids go/have gone to Buena Vista Elementary in Walnut Creek. It's great. While it's more traditional than some local private schools, I really love it and so do my kids. While Lafayette public schools may be ''better'' than Walnut Creek public school, I think what you're talking about is that they have higher test scores, which in my opinion is due to richer parents, not better schools. Walnut Creek is somewhat more diverse than Lafayette. Buena Vista has the most class diversity of the WCSD, but I think Murwood just passed us up in the % of English language learners, which of course adds cultural diversity. All the WCSD schools have fabulous parent involvement and raise money for art, music, and PE in the schools through an ed foundation (as do Lafayette schools). I think they all promote respectful and inclusive behavior pretty successfully in elementary, but my (biased and rumor- based) opinion is that in high school, Walnut Creek is probably less exclusive. Unfortunately, in the Walnut Creek elementary schools a second language is only available as an after-school class. Deborah


My husband and I and our young son are planning to move to the east side of the Caldecott. We've seen houses we like in both Lafayette and Walnut Creek. I've heard lots of good things about Lafayette public schools, but not much about Walnut Creek schools. If anyone can provide some information, I'd be very grateful. (The houses we've liked in Walnut Creek have been in the Parkmead school area.) Kathleen

1. Test Scores You can find STAR test score results by visiting or (The California Dept. of Education). Although, test scores aren't everything, I think that they are useful general indicators of a school's performance. Some would argue otherwise. The San Francisco Chronicle also did a nice write up of all the Bay Area Star Results on Friday, July 30, 1999, in a special section. The STAR Test Score Results for Parkmead Elementary 98/99 are Reading Math Lang. Spelling 78/76 77/77 75/74 64/70 Not as great as Lafayette, but pretty good relative to the bay area.

2. District Information I recommend that you contact the Walnut Creek School district. WUSD publishes a free WUSD Report to the Community that provides test scores and School Accountability Reports (SARs) - this is information that all public schools are supposed to make available to the public. When buying a house you'll want to contact the school district to make sure the house you're buying feeds into the school you think it does. If you give them the address they will tell you over the phone. Also you need to be careful in Walnut Creek because the boundaries are very fuzzy. Some homes feed into WUSD, some Mt. Diablo School district, some Alamo. With rising housing prices, this is not something to overlook.

3. The School Of course you might also want to go to the school -- talk to the principal and staff. This might give you a feeling about the schools. You might ask to take a tour or observe a class, but they'll probably say "no" because it's too disruptive. When you visit, you might be surprised at the age and dilapidated look of some of the Walnut Creek schools. It might not be what you expected. Good Luck Check out Jennifer

All of the elementary schools in Lafayette are rated highly in terms of standardized scores on tests (I don't recall the name of the test)- students perform above the 95th percentile if I recall. We looked into school comparisons when we were looking at homes out here and at that time there was a web site that allowed you to look up individual schools...there are also hardcopy booklets from all of the school districts which you can ask for. I remember that Indian Valley School and the elementary school associated with the Northgate area of WC were also rated exceptionally high. Sharon

To compare schools, one thing you can do is go to the State's Dept of Education's website which posts all the STAR scores. You can read all about the tests and also look up schools by either school district or zip code. From the research I did a few years ago, Lafayette schools did better on these tests. Note that parts of WC fall into the same school district as lafayette. These maybe worth checking out too. Good luck. The site I metioned above is Niloufar

My son is in 3rd grade at Buena Vista and we're very happy with it. I know Parkmead is well thought of and houses the district alternative school, PALS, which sounds pretty great if you're looking for a more progressive, child-centered approach. All the WC schools are California Distinguished Schools. I don't know anything about Lafayette schools except that they have more $/pupil than Walnut Creek and they raise more money from parents as well. So you'll probably find more so-called extras. On the other hand, they're less diverse. One caution: several schools in the city of Walnut Creek are NOT in the Walnut Creek school district: they're in Mt.Diablo district. Deborah