Public education endures a lot of criticism over standardized tests, dropout rates and ill-prepared graduates. While the negative headlines could be discouraging for parents choosing a high school for their teen, great things are happening in classrooms across the country.
The 2014 Best High Schools rankings, released today, can help parents identify standout schools in their state, as well as those that excel nationally. U.S. News analyzed more than 31,200 public high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and has published data on more than 19,400, including student demographics and results on state exams and Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests.
[Click here to explore the Best High Schools national rankings.]
We teamed up with American Institutes for Research, a D.C.-based organization, to evaluate schools in three phases. The first two steps looked at overall student performance on state-mandated assessments, as well as how effectively schools educated their black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students. We then used participation in and performance on AP and IB exams to evaluate how well schools prepared students for college-level course work.
In the national rankings, 500 high schools earned gold medals, 1,519 took home silver and 2,688 were awarded bronze.
Dallas-based School for the Talented and Gifted claimed the title of the No. 1 public high school in the country for the third consecutive year. Students at TAG are required to take at least 11 AP courses and can partner with area universities to conduct field research.
Minority students are in the majority at TAG – nearly 60 percent are black, Hispanic or Asian – and 30 percent of the total study body qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch, according to data reported to the U.S. Department of Education for the 2011-2012 school year.
BASIS Scottsdale continued its upward climb, moving to second place in the 2014 rankings. The Arizona school claimed the No. 5 spot in 2013 – its first year eligible for the rankings after the high school opened during the 2007-2008 school year. BASIS Tucson North, also in Arizona, traded places, dropping from second to fifth.
[Click here to see photos of the top 10 public high schools.]
Some familiar names joined TAG and the two BASIS schools in the top 10 this year, including the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology in Georgia and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia. Both schools retained their third and fourth place rankings, respectively, while Pine View School in Florida also held onto its No. 6 position.
Newcomers to the top 10 for 2014 include University High School in Arizona (No. 7), the International Academy in Michigan (No. 9) and Oxford Academy in California (No. 10). The School of Science and Engineering Magnet (No. 8), which is housed in the same Dallas learning complex as TAG, returned to the top 10 after placing third in the 2012 rankings.
Two states on opposite sides of the country performed the best in the numerical rankings. Slightly more than 22 percent of Maine’s eligible high schools earned gold and silver medals, while on the West Coast, slightly more than 22 percent of California’s eligible schools landed gold and silver. The Golden State boasted 105 gold medals – more than any other state.
[Click here to see how your state performed in U.S. News' Best High Schools rankings.]
Charter and magnet schools accounted for 155 of the top 500 schools. These schools limit the number of students enrolled by using a lottery or application process; magnet schools in particular use a competitive process to draw the more academically gifted students, so U.S. News also ranked each of these programs separately.
BASIS Scottsdale, Gwinnett and BASIS Tucson North topped the Best Charter Schools rankings, with Signature School in Indiana and International Studies Charter High School in Florida rounding out the top five.
TAG and the School of Science and Engineering topped the Best Magnet Schools rankings, followed by Florida’s Stanton College Preparatory School, the Maine School of Science and Mathematics and Connecticut’s Academy of Aerospace and Engineering.
U.S. News also identified the Best High Schools for STEM, evaluating schools using data on 2012 graduates who took AP tests in science, technology, engineering and math subjects such calculus, computer science and physics. Only schools awarded gold medals in the national rankings were considered, with just 250 earning numerical ranks for their STEM achievement.
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology ended the three-year reign of New Jersey’s High Technology High School as the top high school for STEM in the U.S.
Students at TJ get hands-on experience with state-of-the-art equipment in the school’s 14 research labs. They also participate in a daylong research symposium that brings in professionals from STEM fields.
High Technology High School placed second in this year’s STEM rankings, BASIS Tucson North claimed the No. 3 spot and Whitney High School in California took fourth. Henry M. Gunn High School made substantial gains after failing to medal in 2013. The Silicon Valley school placed fifth in the STEM rankings and 104th in the overall national rankings.
10. Oxford Academy
9. International Academy
Bloomfield Hills, MI
8. School of Science and Engineering Magnet
7. University High School
6. Pine View School
5. BASIS Tucson North
4. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
3. Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology
2. BASIS Scottsdale
1. School for the Talented and Gifted