It's not every day that a politician, a beauty queen and a hip hop star champion the same cause, but don't tell that to President Barack Obama, reigning Miss America Mallory Hagan and Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am.
All three are using their fame to promote STEM education, and it's not hard to understand why. Training in science, technology, engineering and math can place students in the pipeline for in-demand career fields such as software development, biomedicine and aerospace engineering.
Early exposure to those subjects is key to preparing high school graduates to eventually fill the millions of jobs waiting for technically skilled workers. The U.S. News 2013 Best High Schools for STEM rankings, released today, identify public high schools excelling at that task.
The rankings evaluate 500 gold medal public schools from the 2013 Best High Schools rankings, using Advanced Placement STEM test data for 2011 graduates as the benchmark. Of those schools, 250 earned a numerical rank for their STEM achievement.
High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey, continues to outpace its peers on that front, earning the title of the Best High School for STEM for the third straight year. Students at the highly competitive school come from more than 50 school districts to immerse themselves in a curriculum rich with math, science and technology.
Students at High Tech High kick off their freshman year with courses in software applications and engineering design, take physics as sophomores and can earn college credit while studying sustainable energy at Brookdale Community College. The high school is located on Brookdale's campus, so students can easily go back and forth between the two.
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, and Troy High School in Fullerton, California, did not ease up on their STEM focus, either. Both schools retained second and third place billing, respectively.
At Thomas Jefferson, students benefit from research labs rarely seen outside of a university setting. Job shadowing and internships at Troy help students connect the dots between classroom theory and real-world application.
Academy of Allied Health and Science in Neptune, New Jersey, made significant gains in STEM achievement, climbing from No. 135 to the No. 4 spot. The New Jersey school is one of 12 from the Garden State to break the top 100 in this year's rankings.
The Academy's swift rise illustrates the close competition between schools in the STEM rankings. A 12.4-point jump in the school's STEM index was enough to propel the school 131 places. That index, calculated by U.S. News, is based on the percentage of 2011 AP test-taking graduates who took — and passed — AP math and science exams.
Okemos High School in Okemos, Michigan, also improved leaps and bounds in the 2013 STEM rankings. The Chieftains jumped 73 spots to claim the No. 8 position.
Located across the street from Michigan State University's campus, Okemos is one of only two Michigan high schools to make the top 100 of the STEM rankings. The other — East Lansing High School — is just five miles up the road.
California, New York and New Jersey are home to the lion's share of the Best High Schools for STEM in the country. The three states combined house nearly half of the public schools that earned a numerical rank this year. Close to 45 of the ranked STEM schools are either charter or magnet schools.
Here's a list of U.S. News' top 10 STEM high schools:
10. Acton-Boxborough Regional High School
9. Stuyvesant High School
New York, New York
8. Okemos High School
7. Poolesville High School
6. Monta Vista High School
5. Lynbrook High School
San Jose, California
4. Academy of Allied Health and Science
Neptune, New Jersey
3. Troy High School
2. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
1. High Technology High School
Lincroft, New Jersey