Metros with the most highly ranked public high schools

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September 10, 2019

Metros with the most highly ranked public high schools

George Eastman, the founder of Kodak film who changed the face of photography, said, “The progress of the world depends almost entirely upon education.” Countless studies show that after primary school, receiving a solid secondary education is critical to later life success. “The fewer years of education you’ve completed, the fewer doors are open to you. It’s that simple,” according to Andrea Clement Santiago of Verywell Health. That said, there are certain high schools that offer more to teenage learners than others.

Stacker compiled a list of the metros with the most highly ranked public schools using Niche’s list of best public high schools. These metros are ranked by which areas have the most public schools in the top 200, with ties broken by which metro has the higher-ranked school. All metros with two or more top 200 schools were included.

A number of factors were considered, including state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, and high school ratings. Niche’s methodology in ranking also includes grades for culture and diversity, parent/student surveys on overall experience, club and activities, health and safety, resources, and facilities.

Finances had a tremendous effect on which schools were able to top the list, with a number receiving higher funding than previous years. For schools in some metro areas, reaching academic excellence has come at the price of large deficits. Stacker also found that nearly all the most highly ranked public schools implement Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum.

Five states placed multiple metro areas on the list, led by California’s four, followed by Texas (three), with New York, Ohio, and Arizona each placing twice. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology gives the nation’s capital the distinction of having the top-rated high school in the country. And New York City boasts the most schools in Niche’s Top 200 with 40.

Read on to discover Stacker’s list of metro areas with the most highly ranked public high schools.

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EVula // Wikimedia Commons

#27. Nashville

- Top 200 public schools: 2
- Highest ranked public schools: Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School (#161 nationally), Central Magnet School (#200)

Increased funding for priority schools is one reason why Nashville ranks on the list, according to Jason Gonzales the Tennessean. This year the Tennessee Department of Education requested up to $12.8 million to ensure sustained success within the high school system—particularly with the American College Testing (ACT) program. Because of the program, the 2017 graduating class broke a state record, scoring 20.1 on the ACT for the first time.

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DanielPenfield // Wikipedia

#26. Rochester

- Top 200 public schools: 2
- Highest ranked public schools: Brighton High School (#116 nationally), Pittsford-Mendon High School (#153)

The Rochester Education Foundation (REF) is highly focused on feeding students enhanced literacy and music opportunities along with greater college access support; the Monroe County School District has two top high schools in the ranking. In 2013, REF created the Rochester College Access Network (RCAN), which assists teenagers in filling out federal financial documents and brings college students into high schools to discuss higher education. With Gov. Andrew Cuomo admitting himself that Rochester has some of the most unequal school funding, REF’s commitment to the school district is critical in keeping the two schools highly ranked.

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Elisfkc // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Kansas City

- Top 200 public schools: 2
- Highest ranked public schools: Blue Valley North High School (#72 nationally), Blue Valley High School (#125)

Blue Valley North High School has an award-winning STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program. The 2018-19 Blue Ribbon school students won the Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge, proving learners here are thriving in the current curriculum, set under the Kansas College & Career Readiness Standards (KCCRS). Blue Valley School District accolades include the 2018 graduating class completing an ACT composite score of 25.5, nearly four points above the state average of 21.6.

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Henry Gray // Wikimedia Commons

#24. Trenton-Ewing

- Top 200 public schools: 2
- Highest ranked public schools: Princeton High School (#47 nationally), West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South (#80)

Since 2009, Princeton High School (PHS) has been acclaimed for its high academic standards, with the New York Times praising Princeton's Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores a decade ago. One advantage PHS and Ewing High School have above other New Jersey schools is the Princeton University Preparatory Program, which recruits high school freshmen within the Mercer County School District and mentors them through their secondary schooling and collegiate career. In 2018, the Mercer County School District received one of the largest aid increases, enabling the highly ranked public schools to remain fully funded and successful.

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Ildar Sagdejev // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Durham

- Top 200 public schools: 2
- Highest ranked public schools: North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (#35 nationally), East Chapel Hill High School (#196)

Funding for Durham is fluent, with the Durham County Commissioners allotting $160 million to the local school district in June 2019. Along with state budget resources, the Durham Public Schools Foundation (DPSF) corporate partnership funding and personal Public School Champion donations help fund these two top schools. Innovative programs like the DPSF Youth Advisory Council and Youth Racial Equity Training also set these schools apart from other North Carolina four-years.

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James Willamor // Wikimedia Commons

#22. Raleigh

- Top 200 public schools: 2
- Highest ranked public schools: Raleigh Charter High School (#23 nationally), Green Hope High School (#198)

Like Niche, which grades Raleigh Charter High School with at least an A in all categories including academics, diversity, college prep, health and safety, teachers, and club activities, U.S. News & World Report also ranked the school as the second best in the North Carolina metro area. The state has proposed placing another charter school in the region by 2021.

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Rocky 1380 // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Baltimore

- Top 200 public schools: 3
- Highest ranked public schools: Marriotts Ridge High School (#130 nationally), River Hill High School (#155), Centennial High School (#188)

The Marriotts Ridge High School motto is “Exemplifying honor and excellence in all that we do.” A reason for its success, along with the other two top schools, is that they are part of the Howard County Public Schools System, which recently received “historically high funding,” according to Jess Nocera of the Howard County Times. Centennial High School Biology teacher and varsity cross-country and track coach Kevin McCoy, who is one of three brothers who both teach and coach in Howard County, made news when The Washington Post reported on the family’s dedication to education.

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Creative Commons

#20. Miami

- Top 200 public schools: 3
- Highest ranked public schools: A.D. Henderson University School & FAU High School (#90 nationally), School for Advanced Studies - South (#109), Suncoast Community High School (#122)

2018 Blue Ribbon Award winner A.D. Henderson University School & Florida Atlantic University (FAU) High School are both located on the college campus of the same name. Admission is based on a lottery process and provides innovative faculty-developed research and syllabi for individual students. The unique program has been praised as “college for free,” with high school students having the opportunity to work toward their secondary and undergraduate degree at the same time.

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Docnavi // Wikimedia Commons

#19. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos

- Top 200 public schools: 3
- Highest ranked public schools: Canyon Crest Academy (#31 nationally), Torrey Pines High School (#110), Westview High School (#187)

Secondary schools Canyon Crest Academy—consistently ranked by Newsweek as one of the top 100 four-years—and Torrey Pines, are in the San Dieguito Union High School District, which reached a $3.7 million deficit in the 2018–19 year budget. The schools maintain excellence in academics and sports, with Niche rating Torrey Pines #9 out of 2,057 for best high schools for athletes in California.

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#18. Tucson

- Top 200 public schools: 3
- Highest ranked public schools: BASIS Tucson North (#26 nationally), Basis Oro Valley (#41), University High School (#99)

These educationally competitive high schools follow the BASIS Curriculum, which entails students taking a minimum of eight Advanced Placement (AP) classes and passing at least six AP exams in four years. As of late, BASIS Tucson North made news for its lack of funding rather than abundant resources, as the “renowned” institution went $44 million in debt. Meanwhile, John Rosinbum, who was just named “Charter Teacher of the Year,” shines a brighter light on the district, which has proposed building a BASIS Tucson South for primary learners in a less financially viable region.

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#17. Austin-Round Rock

- Top 200 public schools: 3
- Highest ranked public schools: Liberal Arts & Science Academy (#22 nationally), Westlake High School (#44), Westwood High School (#106)

Liberal Arts & Science Academy is a public magnet high school "recruiting the most academically advanced students from public and private middle schools throughout the city," according to its website. After attending the academy, students graduate with a college readiness of 98.8/100, according to U.S. News & World Report, which notes "LASA's advanced, rigorous curriculum includes 30 Advanced Placement courses and 121 honors courses." Additionally, Austin's other two top high schools, Westlake and Westwood, remain respected college preparatory facilities, both ranking high for college readiness at 98.24 and 98.6, respectively.

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Ken L. // Flickr

#16. Dallas-Fort Worth

- Top 200 public schools: 3
- Highest ranked public schools: School of Science & Engineering (#16 nationally), School for the Talented & Gifted (#17), Carroll Senior High School (#96)

The Dallas Independent School District, which governs the School of Science & Engineering and School for the Talented & Gifted, received a $70 million boost in funding for the 2019–20 school year. Along with secure financial resources, programs including high school/university dual enrollment and dozens of AP classes continue to set these two schools apart. Additionally, Carroll Senior High School boosts a Harvard-honored debate team, winning leadership awards from the Ivy League school.

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Good Free Photos

#15. Columbus

- Top 200 public schools: 3
- Highest ranked public schools: The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (#6 nationally), Dublin Jerome High School (#98), Dublin Coffman High School (#185)

A public residential high school for the gifted, The Mississippi School of Mathematics and Science also ranks #1 by Niche 2020 High Schools with the Best Teachers in America. Alumni reviews report that a brilliant faculty, challenging curriculum, research opportunities, and community outreach keep the school at the top. The Dublin City School District, which governs both Dublin Jerome and Coffman High Schools, remains highly successfully, recently adding 500 students to its roll call.

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bormang2 // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Cincinnati

- Top 200 public schools: 4
- Highest ranked public schools: Indian Hill High School (#114 nationally), Wyoming High School (#143), Walnut Hills High School (#165)

Indian Hill High School made news for its privately funded STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) small-group learning classroom, which will add to its already advanced curriculum. Meanwhile, the 100-year-old Wyoming football team keeps the top high school in the news for its 703 wins, while Walnut Hills High School maintains nationally ranked with programs that require incoming seventh and eighth graders have three years of Latin when entering the 7-12 grade school. Though the three top Ohio high schools are separated by different school districts, each remains the best in its region.

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WhisperToMe // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown

- Top 200 public schools: 4
- Highest ranked public schools: Carnegie Vanguard High School (#94 nationally), Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions (#105), Clements High School (#126)

Micahel E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions has only been open since 2017 and is already nationally ranked as a top Texas high school. Fully equipped with dentistry, rehabilitation and patient care teaching labs, mock hospital rooms, and science labs, the $67 million high school is one of a kind. Additionally, Clements High School has drawn students to its challenging and culturally diverse four-year campus since 2011, and Carnegie Vanguard High School programs are reportedly “like private education for free,” according to alumni.

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X96lee 15 // Wikipedia

#12. Detroit

- Top 200 public schools: 4
- Highest ranked public schools: International Academy (#56 nationally), International Academy (#66), Troy High School (#69)

With more than two dozen AP courses and tests including Chinese Language and Culture, Macro Economics, Psychology, and 2D Studio Art, Troy High School stands out among others, with Newsweek ranking it 60/500 for the top high schools in the U.S. in 2016. The award-winning Troy High School Orchestra, with Freshman, Concert and Symphony ensembles, also sets the school apart. Though it remains the top high school in the Detroit metro area, International Academy is penalized for allegedly violating the state’s open meeting law, which has shed a negative light on the school that consistently sees positive press.

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Thomson200 // Wikimedia Commons

#11. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell

- Top 200 public schools: 4
- Highest ranked public schools: Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science & Technology (#13 nationally), Northview High School (#124), Walton High School (#172)

Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science & Technology has been putting out National Merit Scholars for some time while also winning the 2018 National Consortium of Secondary STEM Schools Innovative Partnership Award for its strategic student program including the Senior Capstone Experience—an intense year-long study upon graduation. Also notably ranked within the Fulton County School District, which just passed a $1.7 billion fiscal budget for the 2019 school year, Northview High School remains a top high school with academic honors including the Governor’s Cup Receipt and Newsweek Magazine Top 1,000 High Schools in America.

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William Chen // Wikimedia Commons

#10. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward

- Top 200 public schools: 5
- Highest ranked public schools: Lowell High School (#137 nationally), Amador Valley High School (#145), Burlingame High School (#150)

In 2018, Lowell High School took steps to decrease racial disparities within the school when it opened its doors to all qualified middle school students from a predominently black middle school. Some unique programs that help keep this high school ranked #1 is The Lowell, a nationally recognized student-run newspaper, and the Lowell Forensic Society, the nation’s oldest award-winning high school speech and debate team. Meanwhile, Amador Valley High School was awarded the 2017 National Blue Ribbon School accolade for its highly recognized programs and test scores, including an average of 1350 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

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MSPACE HOLDINGS // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue

- Top 200 public schools: 5
- Highest ranked public schools: Tesla STEM High School (#30 nationally), Interlake Senior High School (#148), International Community School (#157)

Tesla STEM High School senior Griffin White earned the highest American College Testing (ACT) score possible of 36 in 2018. Meanwhile, more than 20% of Interlake Senior High School students are considered to be gifted, according to Niche. The International Community School offers no athletic programs, with the focus being on academics. 

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Cliff // Flickr

#8. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy

- Top 200 public schools: 6
- Highest ranked public schools: Lexington High School (#91 nationally), Brookline High School (#115), Boston Latin School (#123)

Academic competitions and a Model UN help keep Lexington High School students sharp during their careers at this top high school. Brookline High School has a School Within a School, a democratic curriculum with a weekly Town Meeting, for select juniors and seniors, which helps set it apart from other four-years in Massachusetts. Lastly, Boston Latin School offers distinct programs, including the Clough Center for Global Understanding, Deitch Leadership Institute, and the Wolk Innovation Center, which provides a Senior Capstone/Advanced Research Experience.

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Melikamp // Wikimedia Commons

#7. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale

- Top 200 public schools: 6
- Highest ranked public schools: Basis Scottsdale (#9 nationally), BASIS Peoria (#55), BASIS Phoenix (#59)

As BASIS curriculum schools, Peoria and Phoenix focus on subject matter other schools do not, teaching adolescents economics, engineering, and Mandarin, among other complex lessons. Along with Niche’s #2 ranking, BASIS Peoria was rated by the 2019 U.S. News & World Report as #3 for best STEM high schools, #5 for best charter high schools, and #21 for best U.S. high schools. BASIS Phoenix also ranked high in the report, coming in #35 for best U.S. high schools.

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Mika Ben-Shaul // Wikimedia Commons

#6. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara

- Top 200 public schools: 7
- Highest ranked public schools: Henry M. Gunn High School (#27 nationally), Saratoga High School (#38), Palo Alto High School (#39)

These top three high schools are located in the U.S. and Silicon Valley’s most expensive area, which offers abundant funding for advanced programs and curriculum. While Henry M. Gunn High School has more than 20 AP classes, it also offers unique programs including Advanced Authentic Research and Project Lead The Way. Despite being one of the top high schools in California, Palo Alto High School is not immune to school shooting threats, with one student taken into custody in August 2019. 

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Smallbones // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Philadelphia

- Top 200 public schools: 8
- Highest ranked public schools: Julia R. Masterman Secondary School (#46 nationally), Conestoga Senior High School (#49), Charter School of Wilmington (#67)

Two-time Blue Ribbon School for Educational Excellence Award winner, Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School also maintained Pennsylvania’s highest SAT and ACT scores since 2017. The school made recent news for English teacher David Neale’s inspiring speech to the 2019 graduating class. The Charter School of Wilmington, which admits students based on placement testing, has AP courses, a three-phase college preparatory curriculum, and the Junior Research and Science Fair that distinguish the school.


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Jim // Flickr

#4. Washington D.C.

- Top 200 public schools: 8
- Highest ranked public schools: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology (#1 nationally), Poolesville High School (#32), Winston Churchill High School (#78)

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology claims the title of the nation’s top school, a national champion chess team, and robotics teams that compete on the world stage. Poolesville, noted for its design team, and Winston Churchill High School both fall in the Montgomery County Public School District in Maryland; whereas Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology is in the Fairfax County Public School District in Virginia. Though the three schools are separated by different state boundaries, they all fall under Washington D.C.’s most elite high schools.

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Marcmann15 // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana

- Top 200 public schools: 12
- Highest ranked public schools: Troy High School (#63 nationally), California Academy of Mathematics & Science (#79), Palos Verdes Peninsula High School (#87)

Troy High School has dominated the Science Olympiad, winning the national competition that features nearly 8,000 schools 11 of the past 20 years. Troy also won the Air Force’s National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, which began with over 6,000 schools, defeating Palos Verdes and 10 other finalist schools. The California Academy of Mathematics & Science, which is located on the campus of Cal State - Dominguez Hills and opened in 1990 with a mission to empower women and minorities, is the state’s top-rated magnet school and 12th overall public high school.

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Bert Kaufmann // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Chicago

- Top 200 public schools: 26
- Highest ranked public schools: Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (#2 nationally), Walter Payton College Prep (#3), Northside College Preparatory High School (#11)

The three-year residential Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy boasts a graduation rate of 99%, an average SAT score of 1450, and was Niche's #2 high school in 2019. Walter Payton College Prep, named for the Chicago Bears great, was the city’s most difficult to get into, followed by Northside. A labor dispute between the city and the Chicago Teachers Union over salaries and class sizes threatens a potential interruption to the 2019-20 school year.

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PointsofNoReturn // Wikimedia Commons

#1. New York

- Top 200 public schools: 40
- Highest ranked public schools: Stuyvesant High School (#4 nationally), Bergen County Academies (#5), High Technology High School (#7)

New York City spends over $17,000 per student, according to Politico, although a controversial provision in the city’s current funding plan provides an extra $1,000 per student at some elite schools. Stuyvesant High School was rated tops in New York for college prep and STEM classes by Niche, but a lack of diversity in admittance and recent spelling error has had the school in the national spotlight for the wrong reasons. Bergen County Academies, which was also rated the top high school in the state by USA Today, is located in northern New Jersey.

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