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Top 10 cities to live and learn 2011

From an island retreat to mid-western hamlet, our top 10 cities may not resemble one another at first glance. But each offers residents a priceless amenity: extraordinary public schools.

By GreatSchools Staff

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Manhattan Beach, CA

Education quality score: 97.69
Median home value: $1,278,980
Population: 37,745

Only 19 miles southwest of Los Angeles lies the scenic and sun-soaked strands of Manhattan Beach, a city with so much sand it once sold thousands of tons to build up the beaches of Waikiki in Honolulu. Manhattan Beach also used to be a summer retreat for L.A. dwellers. Today, those tiny surfside cottages are some of the most expensive beachfront estates in the U.S.

Students here don't spend all their time surfing, however. High teaching standards propelled Manhattan Beach Unified School District from fifth to third place in California's Academic Performance Index rankings in 2010. All five elementary schools ranked in the top 10 percent of schools statewide. But two schools, Grand View Elementary School and Pacific Elementary School, stood out, landing top honors as Distinguished Elementary Schools. Manhattan Beach Middle School landed on the Distinguished Middle and High School list in 2009.

Learn more about schools in Manhattan Beach, CA.

Photo credit: ColetteSimond

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

05/24/2011:
"600-700 students is small. We have 1100+ in some K-5 St Johns, Fl Schools and still manage to be an A+ district."
05/19/2011:
"I am currently in High School in the Carroll school district, and I will say that the district is far behind when it comes to technology. They might have enough money to spend on computers and interactive whiteboards, but the teachers seem very uneducated for the most part. In the past couple of weeks there have been lots of network issues. Aside from the old computers, the computer programming classes teach old languages that are rarely used these days. Also, I should point out that students aren't allowed to use any electronic devices of their own, this includes a laptop to type a paper, e-book readers, and music players. I'm not sure if my expectations are too high, but I personally could be a lot more productive with a laptop at school, and I feel that the IT staff break more than they fix. It would be better to let students run some of the servers, like my friends do at other high schools."
05/3/2011:
"My only issue is that not one of these communities is a real CITY. Please change the name of your article to reflect the SUBURBAN nature of your choices (even 36K is not a city!). Perhaps the organization's name should be GREATSUBURBANSCHOOLS.org since you had to rule out many rural and urban schools. I would love to see a real assessment of great city schools."
05/2/2011:
"We have 3 children Southlake schools and the programs are wonderful. The parents are very involved and I don't know any who have a nanny. We love it here!"
04/27/2011:
"I can't speak for all, but I can tell you Manhattan Beach is not a small system. With a population of 36,000 and 5 elementary schools. The two elementary schools listed both have well over 600 students K-5."
04/27/2011:
"Responding to comment on small size of communities or schools listed. I can't speak for all, but I can say Manhattan Beach population is 36,000. NOT a small town. Pacific School has over 600 students K-5. Grandview has over 700 students K-5. Great schools and great kids overall!"
04/27/2011:
"I live near Southlake... and I work near Southlake. I know many who have worked in Southlake. The parents can't parent--they have nannies do it all for them. My suspicion is that the drop-out rate is probably hidden, or that it has to do with the generously high income of the parents, or both. But I'll tell you... those students sure are brats!"
04/27/2011:
"I notice all of these are very small systems...which probably means a limited number of problem kids. None of these are over a population of 25,000 people and so their school systems are very small."
04/26/2011:
"Where is the list???"
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