Best charter high school in every state

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July 11, 2019
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Best charter high school in every state

The first charter school program was created more than 25 years ago in Minnesota. In the 2017-2018 school year, almost 3.2 million students—about 6% of all those attending public school—were enrolled in more than 7,000 charter schools in the United States.

Like a public school, charter programs receive funding from local, state, or even federal government and are tuition-free for students. However, like private schools, they're free from many of the regulations that govern a typical public school. Akin to private schools, they're also chosen by families rather than assigned. Ideally, that means educators have more freedom to innovate or use new classroom methods. In exchange for that independence, these schools must adhere to their "charters"—particular rules about academic goals, the types of students served, their finances, and more. As a result, the particularities of each charter varies from state to state and school to school. There are also networks that run multiple charter schools with a unifying vision. The operations of any given charter school can come under strict scrutiny from the government; if a charter school is not running the way they've set out to do, they'll be shut down, which incentivizes them to push their students to achieve.

There are certainly criticisms of charter schools, including that their independence can lead to financial mismanagement or unfair admissions. However, with steep competition at private schools and with many families being unable to afford such private programs anyway, more and more are turning to charter schools to deliver what their high-performing youngsters need.

To determine which charter schools outperform the rest in each state, Stacker compiled data from Niche's 2019 list of Best Charter High Schools in America. Stats are based on analyses of academic and student life data, which comes from the U.S. Department of Education, test scores, college data, and Niche user ratings. Eight states do not have any charter schools. In those cases, the list includes information about charter schools in development or the legislation that may help groups establish charter programs soon.

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Alabama: ACCEL Day and Evening Academy

- Location: Mobile, AL
- This is the first charter school established in Alabama; it is not yet ranked by Niche.

The first-ever charter school in Alabama, Acceleration Day and Evening Academy, was established in Mobile to serve students from Mobile, Baldwin, and Washington counties. As the program's name suggests, the school boasts that its students can graduate more quickly than those attending traditional high schools, and they can even work to catch up on their studies if they've fallen behind. Last year, it was one of three such schools to win $1 million in federal education grants.

Alaska: Frontier Charter School

- Overall Niche grade: B+
- Location: Anchorage, AK
- Number of students: 298
- Student-teacher ratio: 99:1

Frontier Charter School educates elementary, middle, and high school students. As a part of the Anchorage School District, it instructs just 298 high schoolers. And, surprisingly, Frontier's student-to-teacher ratio is quite high at 99 to 1, meaning they have just a few educators. Perhaps that's not surprising: The program is widely considered a homeschooling extension.

Arizona: Basis Scottsdale

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Scottsdale, AZ
- Number of students: 1,081
- Student-teacher ratio: 11:1

This program received the first-place ranking for charter high schools at U.S. News & World Report. Students at this charter school take AP courses during or before 10th grade, setting them up for "Capstone courses" in their senior year that are the equivalent of college-level classes. Seniors can also take part in off-campus research projects, which is a unique offering. They also offer over 70 extracurriculars, including Model UN, 3D Printing, How to Start a Business, and yoga.

Arkansas: Haas Hall Academy

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Fayetteville, AR
- Number of students: 344
- Student-teacher ratio: 16:1

As the top public school in Arkansas, Haas Hall isn't slacking. Courses are catered to students' ability levels and interests, with curriculums geared toward what students want to study in college. The school claims its accelerated program allows students to complete two years' worth of math, science, art, history, and similar courses in half the time. Furthermore, students are put in classes based on their skill and ability levels, not grades.

California: Granada Hills Charter High School

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Granada Hills, CA
- Number of students: 4,650
- Student-teacher ratio: 19:1

Every student at Granada Hills Charter School gets a Chromebook during his or her enrollment. The charter, based in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Granada Hills, has six UC Academic Decathlon national championships under its belt and offers more than 60 extracurriculars and 34 art classes. Granada Hills first opened in 1960 and converted to a charter school in 2003. Now, it has two campuses and serves thousands of students.

Colorado: DSST: Stapleton High School

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Denver, CO
- Number of students: 546
- Student-teacher ratio: 15:1

Stapleton's name recently changed to DSST: Montview, but the school's top-ranked academic programs remain the same. One thing that sets the charter apart is its required 10-week internship for juniors. Students get matched to internships based on interests; past internships have included work at the Denver Zoo, Teach for America, and political campaigns.

Connecticut: Amistad Academy

- Overall Niche grade: B
- Location: New Haven, CT
- Number of students: 1,057
- Student-teacher ratio: 9:1

This charter has a big goal: Sending 100% of its students to a four-year college. With that in mind, most students take at least five AP courses before graduation. Amistad Academy is a part of the Achievement First network, a charter network that seeks to address education gaps.

Delaware: Charter School of Wilmington

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Wilmington, DE
- Number of students: 971
- Student-teacher ratio: 19:1

The Charter School of Wilmington focuses on students with a strong STEM interest. As part of that focus, the school's juniors get matched with mentors and science professionals to take part in a 12-month, independent science research project. In January, the students participate in the Delmarva Power Science Fair; winners even get scholarship money.

Florida: Archimedean Upper Conservatory (AUC)

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Miami, FL
- Number of students: 312
- Student-teacher ratio: 11:1

Ranked as the ninth-best school in the entire state of Florida, Archimedean Upper Conservatory has some other impressive stats, too. For example, 100% of its students take AP courses. Also, 90% of charter's students are minorities and 57% of them are considered economically disadvantaged. Another unique aspect? AUC's primary education goals are mathematics, philosophy, and Greek language instruction.

Georgia: Walton High School

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Marietta, GA
- Number of students: 2,693
- Student-teacher ratio: 19:1

Walton High School boasts a nationally certified pre-engineering program, which is a four-year series of courses for students. The school is also an International Spanish Academy, teaching about 30% of its courses in Spanish to students in this immersion track. In addition to these academic programs, Walton High School offers more than 30 extracurriculars. That includes the school band, which has been featured in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Hawaii: Education Laboratory School

- Overall Niche grade: A
- Location: Honolulu, HI
- Number of students: 443
- Student-teacher ratio: 12:1

This charter school on the Big Island practices what is known as “heterogeneous grouping”—essentially, it chooses students from a lottery as a way to bring in individuals from across a multitude of ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and academic achievement. The Education Laboratory School also partners with the University of Hawaii, acting as an education lab for the college while researching and evaluating new approaches to teaching.

Idaho: Meridian Medical Arts Charter School

- Overall Niche grade: A
- Location: Meridian, ID
- Number of students: 201
- Student-teacher ratio: 14:1

This Idaho charter school focuses on delivering a health-science curriculum. The program offers dual-credits and certifications for Certified Nursing Assistants, Emergency Medical Technicians, and Health Information. With these opportunities at their disposal, many Meridian students go on to pre-med, nursing, and other similar fields of study.

Illinois: Cambridge Lakes Charter School

- Overall Niche grade: B+
- Location: Pingree Grove, IL
- Number of students: 815
- Student-teacher ratio: 14:1

Cambridge Lakes Charter School serves a K-12 student body with 484 students. Each student takes assessments at the beginning of the academic year to develop personalized learning plans and, by high school, enters a blended e-Learning Academy, meaning some of the school's courses are taught online.

Indiana: Signature School

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Evansville, IN
- Number of students: 361
- Student-teacher ratio: 14:1

Rated the #3 most challenging charter school in the nation by The Washington Post and the #3 best charter school in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, this unconventional school is based in a renovated, 1920s hotel. The Signature School prides itself on small class sizes of about 60 students and on being immersed in the downtown community of Evansville. The school also requires students to perform more than 100 hours of community service; graduates in 2018 volunteered more than 7,800 hours throughout their time in high school.

Iowa: West Central Charter High School

- Overall Niche grade: A-
- Location: Maynard, IA
- Number of students: 79
- Student-teacher ratio: 9:1

West Central Charter High School aims to give students a pathway to college education, whether that's an associate's degree from a community college or a four-year university. Students can take classes according to their career interests. The school doesn't just give college credit to high-achieving, AP-taking students—its seeks to give the same opportunities to Low SES students (those with lower academic achievement) and those with learning disabilities.

Kansas: Lawrence Virtual School

- Overall Niche grade: B
- Location: Lawrence, KS
- Number of students: 1,100
- Student-teacher ratio: 29:1

Today, not all high school courses are conducted in real life. For the students of Kansas' Lawrence Virtual School, none of them are. This program boasts a flexible schedule and curriculum depending on learning abilities and needs. For students who want to interact with kids their age, the school offers field trips. Plus, students are allowed to enroll in extracurriculars at other schools in the district.

Kentucky: No charter schools

Though Kentucky signed a 2017 law authorizing charter schools, no such programs have opened yet or even been submitted for approval. Getting funding, a problem which has plagued the entirety of Kentucky's public school system, seems to be the obstacle. Once that's sorted out, a charter school could open, which some lawmakers say would give students pathways out of failing public programs.

Louisiana: Benjamin Franklin High School

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: New Orleans, LA
- Number of students: 945
- Student-teacher ratio: 21:1

Some of the awards won by this school include rankings among the top 100 high schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School award, and a 2016 National Green Ribbon School award. Plus, in 2017, Benjamin Franklin High School boasted 20 National Merit Semifinalists. Opened in 1957 “as a school for the gifted children of New Orleans,” as its website reads, the founders hoped to fuel the space race with their science and math-oriented curriculum. Back then, admissions requirements included an IQ test.

Maine: Baxter Academy for Tech & Sciences

- Overall Niche grade: A-
- Location: Portland, ME
- Number of students: 343
- Student-teacher ratio: 11:1

This college-prep program focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Among its unique offerings are Flex Fridays, a weekly group project designed by the students themselves. Past projects have included creating things like an underwater robot, a canoe, murals, video games, and VR gear. True to its mission, electives include both arts-focused programs like creative writing and graphic design, besides things like coding.

Maryland: Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School

- Overall Niche grade: B+
- Location: Hanover, MD
- Number of students: 464
- Student-teacher ratio: 15:1

As one of just two charter schools in its county, the popular Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School admits students using a lottery system. In 2010, the school was named Maryland Charter School of the Year. Among other achievements, the math and science-focused school has an award-winning robotics team.

Massachusetts: Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Marlborough, MA
- Number of students: 952
- Student-teacher ratio: 12:1

This charter school, which serves students from sixth grade through high school, had two National Merit Semi-Finalists and nine Commended Students from this year's graduating class. Courses have a heavy focus on math and science, with the rigor and independence structured like college classes. Among the school's accelerated offerings are Intro to Cyber Security & Cryptography and data science.

Michigan: Washtenaw Technical Middle College

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Ann Arbor, MI
- Number of students: 666
- Student-teacher ratio: 37:1

Washtenaw Tech functions differently than a normal high school: After its students complete their core requirements, they work toward obtaining a technical certificate or associate's degree from a local community college. This unique focus and the fact that the school's students are among the top 1% of all high schoolers in the state has earned Washtenaw some awards, including recognition from the State Department of Education as a Reward School, an honor given to the nation's highest performing schools.

Minnesota: St. Croix Preparatory Academy Upper School

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Stillwater, MN
- Number of students: 352
- Student-teacher ratio: 15:1

The curriculum at St. Croix, a K-12 school in Minnesota, follows the Trivium method. This classical style of teaching touted by Plato focuses on teaching critical thinking skills through grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Students also take Latin to improve their understanding of the English language.

Mississippi: No charter schools

Though Mississippi legislators have passed several laws allowing public schools to convert to charter schools, none have undergone this process. However, the authorizing board recently got substantial grant money and began accepting applications for new programs, which are now getting started.

Missouri: University Academy - Upper School

- Overall Niche grade: B+
- Location: Kansas City, MO
- Number of students: 217
- Student-teacher ratio: 13:1

After Missouri passed its charter school law in 1998, University Academy was among the first programs to receive a charter—which preceded a full year of preparing and planning before the school opened. Today, the school serves 1,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Among other things, this charter school aims to help any students who are homeless or in foster care by enrolling them even if records are missing, providing on-site mental health care, giving them school supplies and a uniform, and even assisting with transportation to school.

Montana: No charter schools

Though Montana has several charter schools, including Bridger Charter Academy in Bozeman, charters have had a difficult time getting off the ground in this state. Namely, constituents and lawmakers are concerned about money being diverted to charters from public institutions, a concern shared by many who oppose charter schools across the nation.

Nebraska: No charter schools

Bills have been introduced to bring charter schools to Nebraska, but none have been successful. Attempts to create charter programs in the state have been met with outrage. As one student from a public high school put it at a 2017 legislative hearing, “What about students that are left in public schools? I believe we need to support students, but I don't believe taking money out of public schools is the way to do that.”

Nevada: Coral Academy of Science - Las Vegas

- Overall Niche grade: A
- Location: Las Vegas, NV
- Number of students: 2,728
- Student-teacher ratio: 25:1

Coral Academy's core teachings align with its acronym, CASLV: Challenge, Acceptance and achievement, Safety, Lifelong learning, and Values. The charter school has six campuses, offers free after-school tutoring, and boasts award-winning robotics and debate teams.

New Hampshire: Academy for Science & Design High School

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Nashua, NH
- Number of students: 190
- Student-teacher ratio: 18:1

This STEM-focused charter school produces high-achieving students. Five of its graduating seniors in 2018 were New Hampshire Scholars, five were National Merit Finalists, and five were presidential scholars. That may not sound like a lot, until you consider that just 268 students attend the academy's high school programs—and there are only about 45 students in each senior class.

New Jersey: Bergen Arts & Sciences Charter School

- Overall Niche grade: A
- Location: Garfield, NJ
- Number of students: 1,126
- Student-teacher ratio: 14:1

With more than 1,000 students enrolled in its K-12 program, Bergen boasts a 92% graduation rate. Graduates go on to Rutgers, Montclair State University, and New York University, among other colleges. Niche also gave this school high marks for its diverse student body; more than 43% of its students are Hispanic and the gender split is close to 50/50.

New Mexico: Albuquerque Institute of Math & Science

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Albuquerque, NM
- Number of students: 357
- Student-teacher ratio: 17:1

This charter school uses a lottery system for admissions—and has a waiting list of more than 1,000 students. The program excels to such a high degree that, in 2018, an editorial in The Albuquerque Journal lamented that more public schools weren't following in its footsteps. Now, despite pushback, the school's principal Katy Sandoval-Snider is fighting to create a second campus to expand the number of students the program serves. Sandoval-Snider has been lauded as an “Outstanding Educator of the Year” and continues to teach math and science to the students at Albuquerque Institute of Math & Science.

New York: Success Academy Harlem 1

- Overall Niche grade: A
- Location: New York, NY
- Number of students: 1,156
- Student-teacher ratio: 12:1

Located just north of Central Park in Harlem, this charter school is part of the Success Academy network, which operates 47 schools in NYC, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. The program offers a specialized STEM track, which prepares students for four-year universities. Its offerings include mechanical and electrical engineering; full-year literature classes and writing seminars are required for the humanities.

North Carolina: Raleigh Charter High School

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Raleigh, NC
- Number of students: 562
- Student-teacher ratio: 14:1

Raleigh Charter High School emphasizes citizenship for its students. According to the school's mission statement, that includes encouraging self-awareness, building up local communities, engaging with those who are different, learning problem-solving skills, and more. The school also offers its students 29 community service programs, more than 50 clubs, and seven NCHSAA sports teams.

North Dakota: No charter schools

North Dakota does not have any charter school laws. Though there's been a debate about how charter schools may or may not improve the educational offerings for the state's families, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum wrote in a 2017 statement that “we need to think bigger and bolder than vouchers or charter schools.”

Ohio: Toledo School for the Arts

- Overall Niche grade: A
- Location: Toledo, OH
- Number of students: 693
- Student-teacher ratio: 14:1

Visual and performing arts are at the forefront of this charter school's curriculum. In addition to the typical core classes that most high school students take, Toledo School for the Arts also provides classes in dance, theater, and music, among others, connecting students with professional artists and arts-oriented institutions, such as the local art museum, symphony, and repertoire theater.

Oklahoma: Harding Charter Preparatory High School

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Oklahoma City, OK
- Number of students: 483
- Student-teacher ratio: 15:1

Founded in 2003, Harding Charter Prep puts its students on track for an Advanced Placement Curriculum, offering a total of 22 AP courses. Students are also required to complete 30 hours of volunteer service per year. And, in addition to being put on track with pre-AP classes from the start of their high school experience, students complete a Senior Capstone Project as a graduation requirement.

Oregon: Baker All Prep Early College

- Overall Niche grade: A-
- Location: Baker City, OR
- Number of students: 227
- Student-teacher ratio: 186:1

Baker's courses are all taught online and through textbooks, though some face-to-face instruction, field trips, and more are available. The charter school also offers its students a unique opportunity. If students opt for dual-enrollment with the local community college, Baker pays for up to 12 of those credits and even provides a $200 stipend to go toward the cost of textbooks.

Pennsylvania: The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts

- Overall Niche grade: A
- Location: Bethlehem, PA
- Number of students: 600
- Student-teacher ratio: 10:1

The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts in 2018 was awarded a Blue Ribbon by the Department of Education and, in 2019, it topped the Niche list as the best charter in Pennsylvania. In addition to more conventional offerings for its art students, such as dance and music, the program also offers figure skating, literary arts, and production design. Among the school's alumni are Broadway and film actors and back-up singers.

Rhode Island: Blackstone Valley Prep High School

- Overall Niche grade: A-
- Location: Cumberland, RI
- Number of students: 239
- Student-teacher ratio: 15:1

The high-schoolers at Blackstone Valley Prep receive individualized curriculums and track their progress with a “Personalized Learning Platform,” an online system that visually maps out how they're doing in each class over time. The school doesn't have conventional hours, either. School days and academic years are longer, plus some programs dip into weekends and school breaks.

South Carolina: Brashier Middle College Charter High School

- Overall Niche grade: A
- Location: Simpsonville, SC
- Number of students: 440
- Student-teacher ratio: 17:1

Brashier Middle College teaches students according to "Learning for Mastery," a model created by an educational psychologist named Benjamin Bloom. Essentially, students are not expected to regurgitate information but, rather, master it through cooperation with other students and independent learning. The school's teachers also regularly get together for peer groups focused on how they can improve their educational methods.

South Dakota: No charter schools

While South Dakota does not have any charter schools, federally recognized Native American tribes are allowed to have charters that serve the young people within their community, as long as they use federal grants to do so. South Dakota has also moved forward with a voucher system for low-income students to receive help to attend private programs.

Tennessee: Memphis Business Academy High School

- Overall Niche grade: B-
- Location: Memphis, TN
- Number of students: 420
- Student-teacher ratio: 17:1

Known as MBA among its faculty and students, this K-12 charter school has some unique programs. On Wednesdays, for example, students have a designated hour to read a work of their choice. The school also offers a special STEM program where students design products using resources from Project Lead the Way, LEGO, and others.

Texas: Uplift North Hills Preparatory Upper School

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Irving, TX
- Number of students: 527
- Student-teacher ratio: 15:1

Uplift North Hills Preparatory Upper School is part of Uplift Education, the biggest charter network in North Texas. In 2017, 100% of the school's seniors were accepted into colleges, with 98% deciding to enroll. This may be due, in part, to the fact that students are put on track to attend college starting in sixth grade when the school takes them on college tours.

Utah: Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy

- Overall Niche grade: A+
- Location: Lindon, UT
- Number of students: 633
- Student-teacher ratio: 19:1

Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy focuses on imbuing students with a liberal arts education through classical styles of teaching. Not only do students learn Latin, but they participate in what the school calls Socratic Seminars. These daily, two-hour classes teach historical events through the reading and discussion of literature, such as "Hamlet" or "The Odyssey."

Vermont: No charter schools

Vermont is one of several states throughout the country without charter schools. That may be due, in part, to the fact that this relatively small state already has the lowest student-to-teacher ratio in the U.S. The state's "Flexible Pathways" program also allows for some innovation within public schools, expanding dual-enrollment programs, increasing blended learning opportunities, and boosting access to work-study programs.

Virginia: Green Run Collegiate

- Overall Niche grade: A-
- Location: Virginia Beach, VA
- Number of students: 364
- Student-teacher ratio: 12:1

Among the goals of this charter school, which opened in 2013, is providing students with what's known as an “International Baccalaureate” education. This special accreditation program aims to teach students to think independently, critically, carefully, and logically; it shapes a curriculum based on a balance of language, science, math, and arts programs.

Washington: Delta High School

- Overall Niche grade: C
- Location: Pasco, WA
- Number of students: 400
- Student-teacher ratio: Not available

Focusing on STEM education for high school students, Delta High School offers its students work-study programs and internship fairs to help connect them to career experience. In addition to student clubs, Delta High School has a “natural helpers” program for students willing to help their peers in times of crisis and emotional need. Many graduates go on to study at the University of Washington, according to Niche.

West Virginia: No charter schools

Charter schools are up for consideration in West Virginia as part of a larger education bill. Should it pass, charter schools could open starting in July 2020. The state's school board will decide how the schools are funded. However, charters face some steep opposition: A form from West Virginia's Voice showed that 88% of those polled did not want charters, many believing that charters would draw high-performing students away from public institutions.

Wisconsin: Waukesha Engineering Preparatory Academy

- Overall Niche grade: A
- Location: Waukesha, WI
- Number of students: 181
- Student-teacher ratio: 66:1

True to the school's name, Waukesha Engineering Prep provides students with two learning tracks: engineering or health. The charter school aims to help students set their own goals and track their own progress; as part of that, the school uses data to make “learner profiles,” allows students to customize their curriculum, and focuses on proficiency-based learning rather than simply memorizing and regurgitating information. In addition to topping Niche's list as the best charter school in the state, it's considered the 18th best school in the state for STEM.

Wyoming: Arapahoe Charter High School

- Overall Niche grade: B-
- Location: Arapahoe, WY
- Number of students: 22
- Student-teacher ratio: 8:1

Most of the K-12 students from this school are part of the Arapaho tribe, a group which historically lived primarily in Colorado and Wyoming. As such, Arapahoe Charter High School works to celebrate those traditions. This rural school is one of just five charter schools in the state.

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