7 Top Elementary Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area

So, you’re moving to San Francisco?

There’s so much to love about the Golden Gate City. Its universities, art museums, unique architecture and delectable food scene make it a beautiful place for any family. 

One more thing— it’s also notoriously expensive. Right now the least expensive 2-bedroom home in San Francisco is listed at $388,596.

Because of SF’s pricey reputation, you might be wondering: Can I find a top San Francisco school for my family in an area that won’t break my budget? 

Here at SchoolSparrow, we’re all about helping you find a school that’s just the right fit for your family— which means taking your budget considerations into account, too. And that’s why we’re committed to celebrating hidden gems: high-performing public schools traditionally overlooked by other school ranking systems. 

While school ranking sites like GreatSchools and SchoolDigger tend to drive families towards affluent, mostly white schools, we elevate diverse schools to the forefront by controlling for parent income when analyzing test scores.

Photo courtesy: David Nieto / Unsplash

The San Francisco Unified School District

Like the New York City public school system, the San Francisco Unified School District (or SFUSD) operates on a lottery system. 

When your child enters the district, you’ll fill out an application ranking the top 10-15 schools of your choice. An algorithm assigns students to schools based on several factors, including proximity to the school, siblings who already attend the school, and the test scores of the school in your attendance district. 

Because you’ll be responsible for ranking schools in order of preference, it’s absolutely crucial to outline your priorities ahead of time. Are you looking for a school with a fantastic bilingual program? High diversity stats? A thriving theater department? Proximity to your home? 

And so, without further ado, here are 7 San Fran hidden gems: the top elementary schools in San Francisco with diversity scores and more affordable listings to match!

1. Edward R. Taylor Elementary School (12 minutes south of Union Square)

Located in Southeast San Francisco, Edward R. Taylor Elementary School is home to roughly 650 students— and they’re all smashing test score expectations! 

Photo courtesy: Mike Fox / Unsplash

GreatSchools rates this school a 6/10, but a closer look at Taylor Elementary’s scores reveal it should be ranked as one of the best schools in San Francisco. 

For one thing, students at Taylor Elementary test an average of 18.7 points above expected when normalized for parent income. For another, this school has improved its test scores by a whopping 25% over just one year! 

In fact, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders are all performing at A level, according to SchoolSparrow rankings, making it one of the top San Francisco elementary schools.

What’s more, Taylor Elementary is located in the most affordable zip code on this list. San Francisco’s average list price is $1,108 per square foot, but the Taylor Elementary area features an average list price of $768 per square foot. For example, check out this 3-bedroom home listing located within a 15 minute drive  from the school and currently listed at $619,000.

With under 700 kids and a diversity score of 20.0 (out of 40 possible points), this K-5 school offers a diverse and inclusive learning environment. You’ll also find a variety of English Learner Development, Spanish Bilingual, and Chinese Bilingual classrooms at Taylor Elementary. 

A huge shoutout to Principal Angienette Estonina and all the wonderful staff and faculty at Edward R. Taylor Elementary!

Address: 423 Burrows St. San Francisco, CA 94134

Website: https://www.sfusd.edu/school/er-taylor-elementary-school 

2. Visitacion Valley Elementary (15 minutes south of Union Square) 

Don’t be fooled by the 5/10 score you’ll find on GreatSchools: Visitacion Valley Elementary ranks as one of the best elementary schools in San Francisco— and there’s a simple reason why. 

Photo Courtesy: CDC / Unsplash

Visitacion Valley students shatter expectations when it comes to test scores. Based on average parent income (the largest contributing factor for standardized test scores), you’d expect to see scores in the 33-35 range. 

Not so fast! These students score an average of 13.4 points higher across the board, and 3rd graders are doing especially fantastic. Shoutout to those 3rd grade teachers, whose students scored at A level two years in a row, according to SchoolSparrow metrics!

It’s clear that Principal Bridget Wallace and Visitacion Valley’s dedicated faculty and staff are leading this school to educational excellence!

Like Edward R. Taylor Elementary, Visitacion Valley makes its home in a more affordable neighborhood. In fact, its home listings are roughly $380 cheaper per square foot than the San Francisco average! The median list price of homes in this zip code is $912,000. Take a look at this 2-bedroom home, only 15 minutes away from Visitacion Valley and currently listed at $499,500.

Address: 55 Schwerin St. San Francisco, CA 94134

Website: https://www.sfusd.edu/school/visitacion-valley-elementary-school

3. Monroe Elementary School (16 minutes southwest of Union Square)

Meet Monroe Elementary, the third hidden gem on our list. Like other hidden gem schools, Monroe Elementary gets overlooked by most school ranking systems. GreatSchools, for example, awards it an average 5/10 score. 

A closer look at the raw data, however, reveals that Monroe Elementary deserves a place among the top San Francisco elementary schools!

Photo Courtesy: Thought Catalog / Unsplash

Based on average parent income (the largest contributing factor for standardized test scores), you’d expect to see students score around 40 points. Monroe students, however, outshine these expectations by scoring an average of 8.9 points higher on the reading/language arts section of  standardized tests.  

Special shoutout to Monroe’s 5th grade teachers, whose students have achieved A- level two years in a row, according to SchoolSparrow metrics!

This K-5 school is home to roughly 550 students and features English Language Development, Chinese Bilingual, and Spanish Immersion classrooms. Its diversity stats score 20 out of 40 possible points.

As if there weren’t enough reasons to love Monroe Elementary, take a look at its home prices! Monroe Elementary is located in the second most affordable zip code on our list, with a median list price of $826 per square foot. The median list price for homes in this neighborhood is $980,000. Here’s a 2-bed, 2-bath condo in Monroe’s zip code, currently listed at $739,000.

Address: 260 Madrid St. San Francisco, CA 94112

Website: https://www.sfusd.edu/school/monroe-elementary-school 

4. George R. Moscone Elementary (14 minutes south of Union Square)

Located in the historic Mission District, George R. Moscone has a great diversity score (20.0 out of 40) and is committed to fostering an inclusive educational community. All newsletters and morning announcements, for example, are given in English, Chinese, and Spanish. 

Photo courtesy: www.sfusd.edu

Don’t be fooled by Moscone Elementary’s 5/10 score on GreatSchools: this K-5 school deserves a place as one of the best schools in San Francisco. All its students score higher than expected on standardized tests. 

Special shoutout to the fourth grader teachers, whose students have scored at A level two years in a row according to SchoolSparrow metrics! 

Moscone Elementary’s zip code features a median list price of $1,052 per square foot and a median selling price of $1,402,400. And take a look at this 4-bed, 2-bath home currently listed at $699,900 (for those who consider themselves handy!).

With its diverse educational environment and high-performing students, Moscone would be a great choice for any family!

Address: 2576 Harrison St. San Francisco, CA 94110

Website: https://www.sfusd.edu/school/george-r-moscone-elementary-school

5. Starr King Elementary (12 minutes south of Union Square)

So many things set Starr King Elementary apart from the pack. 

Consider, for example, their African American Parent Advisory Council, created specifically as a forum and support system for the Black parent community at Starr King. 

Or take a look at the two-way Mandarin Immersion Program they offer to all incoming students— in addition to their excellent General Education track. 

And don’t forget about the SFUSD QTEA Innovation Award that Starr King Elementary received in 2019! This school is clearly going places. 

Beautiful mosaics line the path up to Starr King Elementary. Photo courtesy: www.starrkingschool.org/

When it comes to test scores, 3rd and 4th graders consistently exceed expectations, scoring at A and A- levels respectively, according to SchoolSparrow rankings. Overall, Starr King students perform an average of 5.7 points above expected based on parent income levels.

Starr King finds its home in a zip code with a median selling price of $1,136,400 and a median list price of $1,164 per square foot, but it also has one of the least expensive listings in all of San Francisco for sale right now, a 2-bedroom condo currently listed at $438,00.

Plus, with a diversity score of 20.0 (out of 40 possible points), Starr King promises a diverse and inclusive education environment for your family!

Address: 1215 Carolina St. San Francisco, CA 94107

Website: https://www.starrkingschool.org/ 

6. Jean Parker Elementary School (9 minute drive from Union Square)

Jean Parker Elementary School serves K-5 students in the North Beach, Russian Hill, and Chinatown area, although students from all over San Francisco are welcome to apply. The school also offers a Chinese Biliteracy pathway meant for Cantonese-speaking students. 

Meet Jean Parker Elementary school, one of the best San Francisco elementary schools!
Photo courtesy: www.sfusd.edu/school/jean-parker-elementary-school

The 6/10 score GreatSchools awards Jean Parker Elementary just doesn’t tell the whole story. 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders are all scoring higher than expected when normalized for parent income. In fact, the school as a whole performs an average of 10.7 points above expected, making it one of the best San Francisco elementary schools!

According to the latest data, Jean Parker’s fourth graders are doing especially well, with an A+ score according to SchoolSparrow rankings.

Jean Parker’s zip code features a median list price of $1,999,000. That’s $1,318 per square foot, compared to SF’s average of $1,108 per square foot. Here, for example, you’ll find this 2-bedroom condo currently listed at $449,449. 

With high-performing students and a small, close-knit community, Jean Parker Elementary is a must-see for parents touring SF schools!

Address: 840 Broadway St. San Francisco, CA 94133

Website: https://www.sfusd.edu/school/jean-parker-elementary-school 

7. Sherman Elementary (9 minute drive from Union Square)

Okay, we admit it: we cheated. With a 7/10 on GreatSchools, Sherman Elementary School isn’t exactly a hidden gem. After all, a 7 is a very respectable score! But we couldn’t help bragging on Sherman because of a few other factors this score leaves out of the story…

Sky view of Sherman Elementary, one of the top San Francisco elementary schools.
Photo courtesy: https://www.shermanschool.org/welcome

For one thing, Sherman Elementary has a great diversity score: 30.0 out of 40 possible points, the highest on our list. 

For another, students at Sherman score 11.8 points higher than expected on standardized tests! Based on average parent income alone, you’d expect test scores in the low 60’s range. Sherman students outstrip this expectation to score an average 72.0 points. 7/10 is way too low a score for this outstanding school– it’s one of the top San Francisco elementary schools, and deserves recognition as such!

Special shoutout to the 3rd grade teachers, whose students performed at A level two years in a row!

Sherman Elementary finds its home in the Cow Hollow-Marina district, with a median list price of $1,950,000. This comes out to $1,263 per square foot, slightly higher than the San Francisco average. That’s not to say there aren’t affordable options here: consider, for example, this 2-bedroom condo currently listed at $388,596— the least expensive 2-bedroom listing in all of San Francisco! 

Address: 1651 Union St. San Francisco, CA 94123

Website: https://www.shermanschool.org/

How does your school district compare? Want to learn more about our unique school ranking algorithm? 

Come visit us at schoolsparrow.com or read about the Hidden Gems in 25 cities across the U.S.!

Photo courtesy: Jess Bailey / Unsplash

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