A good school can lead to a lifetime of opportunities. Myriad data shows that lifetime earnings dramatically increase with every degree obtained. Bachelor’s degree holders will earn an average of roughly $26,000 more each year than high school graduates. And for those who decide that pursuing a college degree is not the best postsecondary option, a good school will provide students with the tools and support to make that choice, and the foundational skills necessary to succeed in the workforce.

For many families, the school district is a top criteria when deciding where to buy a home. But this consideration and ability to choose is not a luxury all families can afford, especially in today’s wildly competitive housing market.

One important proxy of a quality education is per-student spending. According to the most recent Census data available, the national average per-pupil expenditure in fiscal year 2019 was $13,187. Several recent studies suggest that increased spending per student correlates with higher academic achievement, particularly in districts serving predominantly low-income students. Since public schools are largely funded by property taxes, schools in low-income areas suffer the most from a lack of funding for critical expenditures like staff salaries and benefits, transportation, instructional resources, and support services.

There are more than 13,000 school districts in the U.S., each one slightly different, for better or worse, than the next. However, several common denominators exist and, when compared, can serve as indicators of what makes an impactful district.

Stacker compiled a list of the best school districts in California using rankings from Niche. Niche ranks school districts based on a variety of criteria including academics (SAT/ACT scores and state proficiency tests), teacher salaries, expenses per student, and access to extracurricular activities.

#10. Fremont Union High School District (Sunnyvale)
– Number of schools: 6 (11,071 students)
– Graduation rate: 96% (81% reading proficient and 78% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $108,480 (23:1 student to teacher ratio)

#9. Arcadia Unified School District (Arcadia)
– Number of schools: 11 (9,254 students)
– Graduation rate: 99% (77% reading proficient and 75% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $111,323 (25:1 student to teacher ratio)

#8. Acalanes Union High School District (Lafayette)
– Number of schools: 5 (5,635 students)
– Graduation rate: 96% (89% reading proficient and 72% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $87,800 (21:1 student to teacher ratio)

#7. San Marino Unified School District (San Marino)
– Number of schools: 4 (2,909 students)
– Graduation rate: 95% (88% reading proficient and 87% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $90,822 (20:1 student to teacher ratio)

#6. Carmel Unified School District (Carmel)
– Number of schools: 8 (2,483 students)
– Graduation rate: 95% (79% reading proficient and 69% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $121,948 (17:1 student to teacher ratio)

#5. San Dieguito Union High School District (Encinitas)
– Number of schools: 10 (13,177 students)
– Graduation rate: 95% (79% reading proficient and 72% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $110,214 (25:1 student to teacher ratio)

#4. Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District (Mountain View)
– Number of schools: 3 (4,548 students)
– Graduation rate: 92% (82% reading proficient and 68% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $126,499 (19:1 student to teacher ratio)

#3. La Canada Unified School District (La Canada)
– Number of schools: 4 (4,131 students)
– Graduation rate: 99% (89% reading proficient and 85% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $94,097 (24:1 student to teacher ratio)

#2. Palo Alto Unified School District (Palo Alto)
– Number of schools: 19 (11,745 students)
– Graduation rate: 95% (81% reading proficient and 81% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $124,742 (17:1 student to teacher ratio)

#1. Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District (Los Gatos)
– Number of schools: 2 (3,542 students)
– Graduation rate: 98% (86% reading proficient and 78% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $109,507 (22:1 student to teacher ratio)