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Top education towns 2011:
Median home prices $800,000 or more

Clustered on the East and West Coasts, these cities offer wonderful public schools and plenty of other attractions, but be prepared for the sticker shock of million-dollar homes.

By GreatSchools Staff

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Orinda, CA

Educational quality score: 86.68
Median home value: $851,990
Population: 18,586

Long before a tunnel connected the town of Orinda to other communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, settlers drove cattle across its oak-studded grasslands. The town still has a languid, small-town feel with family-oriented lakefronts and a popular community pool.

Orinda is a super-achiever when it comes to family-friendly activities that attract the masses from the other side of the Bay Bridge. It's home to the popular California Shakespeare Theater and the California Independent Film Festival, among other attractions. 

It's also an educational superstar. Orinda has four public elementary schools and one middle school, and they all performed among the top 10 percent of schools in California, according to the Academic Performance Index (API). Miramonte High School recently earned the number one slot in the API, and nearly all of the students are bound for college. On unusual program allows seniors to devise their own studies, and many have used the opportunity to get a taste of real life, working at UCSF Medical Center and Alice Waters' renowned Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA. Add to that a competitive spirit that keeps Miramonte High's water polo team at the top of its rankings, and it's easy to see why Orinda students go far.

Learn more about schools in Orinda, CA.

Photo credit: Richard Thomas

Comments from readers

"As a proud parent of 2 West School Elementary students, I know our teachers and administrators are tops and that my children are getting a fabulous public school education. Way to go NC!"