Rancho, located in the Presidents neighborhood not far from Novato High School, is consistently the city's…More highest-scoring elementary school on annual tests and is a major source of pride for the Novato Unified School District. It is known for its high standards for personal responsibility and heavy involvement by the parents.
Rancho was a "back to basics" school from the 1970s to the early 2000s, but now teaches the same curriculum as the other elementary schools in Novato. Rancho has no neighborhood boundaries from which it draws students and thus has kids enrolled from across the city.
A lottery system is used to determine who is accepted each year. Parents interested in enrolling their kindergartners at Rancho are recommended to set up an appointment to receive a school tour unless the family has had another child at Rancho within the past three years. Anyone may fill out a registration packet at any neighborhood school office as well as an intra-district transfer application.
Some critics have questioned why Rancho still has no drawing boundaries and the lottery system now that the curriculum is no longer "back to basics." The school district has contracted a facilities study that will address that subject sometime in 2012.
Hamilton Meadow Park School serves one of the newest sections of the city, one that has blossomed in the past 15…More years out of what used to be Hamilton Air Force Base and the residential area known as Hamilton Field. Today it's just called Hamilton, and its citizens run the gamut from white collar to welfare recipients.
The school is just off the Highway 101 frontage road called Nave Drive, and a stone's throw from the vintage Hamilton Field archway on Main Gate Road.
The student body is comprised of kids mostly from Hamilton (including the sector called Meadow Park) and the nearby Pacheco Valle area on the other side of Highway 101. Enrollment plunged when the Air Force and other military personnel moved out in the early 1990s, but the student population has bounced back as new housing was built over the past decade.
The school is one of eight elementary schools in the Novato Unified School District, but it also has sixth and seventh grades to accommodate the need in the area and slow the flow of students to San Jose Middle School in Ignacio. In 2010-11 it is scheduled to add eighth grade as well.
Hamilton has 27 classrooms, a multipurpose room/cafeteria, a library, two staff lounges, a computer lab, an art/music room and two large playgrounds.
Hamilton's elementary API index for the 2008-2009 academic year was 845. The state has set 800 as the score schools should strive to meet.
As of the 2009-2010 school year, the ethnic breakdown of the student body included 44.8 percent Hispanics, 37.7 percent whites, 8.4 percent African Americans and 5.3 percent Asian Americans. The sixth graders were 52.1 percent whites, 36 percent Hispanics, 5 percent Asian Americans and 4.9 percent African Americans.
Thirty-seven percent of the elementary students in 2009-2010 and 29 percent of the sixth graders were considered English language learners, slightly above district averages.
The socioeconomic status of the families in the Hamilton area is below the district average. The school has 57 percent of its kids labled as socioeconomically challenged compared with the district average of 32.9 percent, according to district statistics (socioeconomically disadvantaged students are those receiving free or reduced lunch or when neither parent is a high school graduate). Forty-two percent of the school's parents had college degrees, below the district average of 53 percent.