Top High Schools With the Most Minority, Disadvantaged Students

Robert J. Morse

There were many gold medal public high schools - which ranked in the top 500 in the U.S. News 2013 Best High Schools rankings - that had large proportions of economically disadvantaged students or very high percentages of minority students enrolled.

U.S. News has created two separate lists to profile the top-performing schools with these characteristics.

The first list below is of the 25 gold medal schools that had the highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students enrolled. This classification, a measure of poverty, is determined by the percent of students enrolled at a high school who are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch.

The Preuss School in California was first with 99.6 percent of its students in poverty. California had 14 high schools on the list with the highest percentages of economically disadvantaged students, by far the most of any state.

New York had the second-highest number with four, and Texas was third with three high schools.

The second group below is of the 25 gold medal schools that had the highest percentage of minority students enrolled. For the purposes of this list, minorities are defined as students at the schools who said that they were either American Indian, Asian, black, Hawaii Native or Pacific Islander, Hispanic or from two or more races.

There were seven high schools on the list where 100 percent of students were minorities. California had 11 high schools with the highest percentages of minority students, by far the most of any state. Texas had the second highest number with seven and New York was third, with three high schools on the list.

How did these schools become top-ranked high schools?

A key part of the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings methodology is designed to measure whether high schools have performed better than expected given their socioeconomic characteristics, not just whether they have the absolute highest performance in their state.

The Best High Schools rankings are based on the tenet that a great high school must serve all of its students well, and that key principle is built into its three-step methodology. Steps one and two of the methodology were based on state-by-state analyses designed to evaluate high schools on the performance of all of their students on state assessments.

Step one identified high schools within each state that performed better on state reading and mathematics assessments than their poverty level would lead one to expect. The second step identified high schools with disadvantaged student subgroups - black, Hispanic and low-income - that performed better than the state average for these subgroups.

For those schools that made it past the first two steps, a third step assessed the degree to which schools prepare students for college-level work.

Note: The economically disadvantaged and minority student enrollment percentages are from the 2010-2011 school year, based on data reported to the U.S. Department of Education's Common Core of Data.