The 50 Best Public High Schools in the U.S.

highschoolA great public high school must serve all students (not just those who will attend college), educate students for a wide range of careers and college options, and provide a rich and multifaceted set of educational and extracurricular activities. As you’ll find reading this article, the United States has many exceptional public high schools that fit this bill.

The rankings contained below are based on many factors, but the high school must produce measurable academic outcomes across a large number of important academic indicators to be included. In addition, a great public high school will have a good reputation with recruiting colleges and be highly ranked in measures of student satisfaction and faculty quality. (Compare our article The 50 Best Colleges in the United States.)

The first step in the ranking process analyzes whether each school’s students perform in the top echelons in academics for a given U.S. high school cohort. ACT scores, SAT scores, average weighted GPA, and the API (Academic Performance Index) are used as a proxy for the educational environment within a high school.

These scores must be adjusted for the fact that students who come from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds tend to score lower, so higher proportions of such students with good scores lead to a higher ranking.

The second criterion used to evaluate the public high schools on this list is the degree to which they prepare each student in the high school community to enter and excel at college. The number and breadth of AP courses offered, Honors courses, International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, and relationships with local colleges are major factors in determining the level of academic preparedness for college. The number of students scoring 3 or better (a passing grade) on final AP tests is a telling predictor of post–high school academic performance.

The third aspect of schools assessed for this listing consists of intangible factors, such as innovative degree programs in the arts, diversity of the student body, current student satisfaction with their high school, quality and experience of the faculty, or modern lab or athletic facilities. Also, we have striven for as much geographical diversity as is consistent with our other criteria.

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bronxscience1. Bronx High School of Science (New York, NY)

Bronx High School of Science, founded in 1938, is part of New York City’s system of selective public high schools.

Bronx Science, as it is commonly known, is renowned for the number of Nobel Prize laureates (eight in all) and National Academy of Science members among its alumni. It is commonly considered the premier science magnet school in the country.

A large number of Bronx Science students have gone on to distinguish themselves in other fields, as well, including six recipients of the Pulitzer Prize.

The school attracts an intellectually gifted student body of diverse cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds from across New York City.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked one of the 22 Top-Performing Schools in America by the Washington Post
  • Ranked among top 100 in U.S. News and World Report‘s list of America’s Gold-Medal high schools (public and private)
  • Nobel Prize laureates include Leon Cooper, Sheldon Glashow, and Steven Weinberg
  • Pulitzer Prize winners include William Safire and Joseph Lelyveld
  • Other prominent alumni include critic Harold Bloom, novelist E.L. Doctorow, author Richard Price, architect Daniel Liebeskind, businessman and public servant Ronald Lauder, and Tumblr founder David Karp

northside2. Northside College Preparatory High School (Chicago, IL)

Northside College Preparatory High School is a public magnet high school located on the north side of Chicago. Northside Prep is a selective enrollment school, teaching at the Honors and AP levels only.

Northside Prep is nationally known for the success of its students in the college admissions process, with over a quarter of the matriculating class admitted to top universities. More than 99% of Northside Prep students go on to college of some sort.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #1 Public High School in the State of Illinois, 2001–2011
  • Ranked among Gold Medal Schools by U.S. News & World Report, 2007–2009
  • Ranked #37 in the nation in 2010 by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #24 in the nation, and #1 in the state of Illinois, in 2011 by Newsweek

connecticutibacademy3. Connecticut IB Academy (East Hartford, CT)

Connecticut IB Academy (CIBA) is a magnet school located near Connecticut’s state capital. The school is a distinguished Blue Ribbon School that is ranked among the best in America by the U.S. Department of Education.

Freshmen and sophomores take full Honors courses, while juniors and seniors take IB courses exclusively.

Seniors must write an Extended Essay, which is “an in-depth study of a focused topic chosen from the list of approved Diploma Programme subjects . . . intended to promote high-level research and writing skills, intellectual discovery, and creativity.” (CIBA website)

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked Best Magnet School in America by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked among the Best in America by the U.S. Department of Education

bostonlatin4. Boston Latin Scho0l (Boston, MA)

Founded in 1635, Boston Latin is the oldest public school—and the oldest still-existing school of any sort—in the United States.

The school’s curriculum is based on the traditional educational philosophy which holds that the classics are the foundation of an educated mind. Four years of Latin are mandatory for all pupils who enter the school in seventh grade, three years for those who enter in ninth.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked among Top 20 High Schools in the United States in 2007 by U.S. News & World Report
  • Named a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education
  • Numerous famous alumni include Cotton Mather, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Ward Beecher, William Sumner, George Santayana, Joseph Kennedy, Leonard Bernstein, and Nat Hentoff

stanton5. Stanton College Preparatory School (Jacksonville, FL)

Stanton College Prep is the oldest continually operating high school in Florida, and was originated in the 1860s as a segregated school for African American children.

To many students, Stanton is known for its challenging academics and rigorous standards. Stanton College Prep also has a nationally recognized student newspaper, The Devil’s Advocate, which makes it an excellent choice for aspiring journalists.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • First in Newsweek’s list of top 1000 public schools from 2000–2003
  • #9 on U.S. News and World Report ’s list of America’s Best High Schools
  • #1 in the U.S. for IB diplomas
  • Consistently in the top three schools in Florida for the number of National Merit Scholars
  • Named as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education

mssm6. Maine School of Science and Mathematics (Limestone, ME)

The Maine School of Science and Mathematics (MSSM) is a public, residential magnet school chartered and funded by the Maine State Legislature. It is located in the northeastern part of the state near the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge, a stone’s throw from the Canadian border.

MSSM features a community learning environment with excellent teacher-to-student ratios, extracurricular activities, and work education credits. The curriculum at MSSM includes rigorous AP courses in the hard sciences, literature and humanities, and the social sciences.

The school has a unique January Term where students participate in experiential learning, internships, and self-directed research projects.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • #38 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of America’s Best High Schools
  • Member of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (NCSSSMST)
  • Gold Medal from U.S. News and World Report for Best High Schools in America

signatureschool7. Signature School (Evansville, IN)

The Signature School is located in the Ohio River town of Evansville, near the point where Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois all meet. The school offers students three major study paths: math and science, fine and performing arts, or liberal arts/humanities.

The high school has been accepted into the IB program. However, the school also offers AP classes for those who choose to not to graduate with an IB diploma.

The Signature School has a focus on academics and the arts. It is well known for its many contributions to summer musicals in the region, as well as for shows by the “Signature Singers.”

The Signature School prides itself on offering challenging courses for the “self-motivated learner,” and for being different from other area schools. The student to teacher ratio is 20-to-1.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • #7 on the Newsweek’s list of America’s Best High Schools
  • Ranked #8 by the Washington Post in 2011
  • In the top 10 charter schools
  • Consistently ranked the #1 school in Indiana

International8. International Academy (Bloomfield Hills, MI)

The International Academy (IA) is located in Oakland County, Michigan, north of Detroit. The school is a public, tuition-free high school of choice for students across the county.

Students, who are required to earn both high school and IB diplomas, are selected by a lottery system to ensure fair enrollment standards. IA has an extended school year (205 days) and an extended school day.

According to school data, 94% of the Class of 2011 earned IB diplomas, as compared to the world average that year of 76%.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • 21% of Class of 2011, National Merit Scholars
  • Ranked #2 by U.S. News and World Report for Best High Schools
  • Ranked #1 School in the Nation by Newsweek in 2003
  • Average ACT Composite Score of 29

basis9. BASIS Scottsdale (Scottsdale, AZ)

BASIS Scottsdale, located in a suburb of Phoenix, is part of the BASIS network of high-performing, open-enrollment, tuition-free, public charter schools. Like its sister schools, BASIS Scottsdale offers a wide range of advanced curriculum studies in a variety of topics.

Newly enrolled students take a diagnostic academic test before enrolling, which places them in a group based primarily on proficiency in mathematics.

Every year, BASIS Scottsdale’s Master Teacher Campaign raises money to increase teacher salaries to ensure the highest quality faculty.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Featured by CNN for quality of education
  • Featured in the documentary film, 2 Million Minutes: The 21st Century Solution
  • Rated one of America’s Top High Schools by Newsweek

oxfordacademy10. Oxford Academy (Cypress, CA)

Oxford Academy is a college preparatory school located in the Anaheim school district, near Los Angeles. The school is rigorous and highly competitive; students only enroll after passing a rigorous test of their academic abilities.

Although Oxford Academy is not classified as a magnet school, a comprehensive entrance exam consisting of math, English, and essay writing is required for all students. Oxford Academy begins entrance testing in the 7th grade, with 200 spots open each year.

Oxford Academy follows a University of California system–approved A-G course listing, meaning that all required classes meet the standards and recommendations for entrance in a University of California college. In addition to the UC course listing, Oxford requires all students to choose either the Business or the Advanced Sciences pathway in their junior year.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #4 Best High School by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #7 by the Washington Post for Best U.S. High Schools
  • Average combined SAT score of 1,912
  • Four-year graduation rate of 100%

gatton11. Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky (Bowling Green, KY)

Gatton Academy is a public academy with an early college entrance program, funded by the state of Kentucky and located on the campus of Western Kentucky University.

Gatton Academy focuses exclusively on college preparatory activities, and students of the Academy are considered both high school students and college undergraduates by Kentucky and federal scholarship programs.

Thus, the students are qualified for research programs, scholarships, honors, and even bachelor’s degrees, but at the same time must take the classes required by the state of Kentucky for a high school diploma.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Second year in a row on the Public Elite High Schools list
  • In the top 20 of public high schools for scores on standardized tests
  • Top-ranked by America’s Best High Schools in 2011
  • Top School in America by Newsweek in 2011
  • Average combined SAT score of 1,912
  • Four-year graduation rate of 100%

TAGDallas12. School for the Talented and Gifted (Dallas, TX)

Dallas’s School for the Talented and Gifted, or “TAG school,” is a public, college preparatory, magnet secondary school located in the Oak Cliff area. TAG’s curriculum is designed to provide a comprehensive academic program to serve identified talented and gifted students in grades nine through twelve.

TAG uses the Advanced High School criteria set forth by the Texas Education Agency, and provides the most rigorous curriculum in the state of Texas.

The school supplements the state-wide standards with an AP curriculum which helps prepare students for top-ranked universities.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked the #1 high school in the United States in 2006 by Newsweek
  • Consistently rated the Best Public High School in Dallas by D Magazine
  • Rated “Exemplary” by the Texas Education Agency every year since its inception

jeffersoncounty13. Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School (Irondale, AL)

Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School (JCIB) is a public high school school located not far from Birmingham.

JCIB has an award-winning arts and literature magazine named Counterpane, which is entirely produced by the students. The school offers a unique, for-credit class which teaches creative writing skills and artistic appreciation through work on Counterpane.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • In the top five Newsweek Best Public High Schools from 2005–2009
  • Included in the Elite School list published annually by Newsweek
  • Average ACT composite score of 29
  • Counterpane received the highest award in 2009 by a program to recognize excellence in student literary magazines

preuss14. Preuss School (San Diego, CA)

The Preuss School is a college prep high school located on the campus of University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

Founded in 1999 after the passage of California Proposition 209, Preuss provides a rigorous curriculum and educates low-income students between sixth and twelfth grades.

The school only admits students whose primary guardian does not have a college education, and who qualifies for federal assistance or free lunches. With a focus on low-income and minority students, the excellent academic performance of Preuss students is a credit to the focus and discipline of the school’s faculty and students.

Students study a standard selection of high school subjects on the high school campus, but also have access to the excellent UC campus system for college-level classes. The school runs a shuttle to the campus to facilitate access to UCSD courses.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Received the Distinguished School Status from the Center for Education Reform
  • Blue Ribbon School designation from the Department of Education
  • Ranked in the top 50 of both Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report rankings of the top U.S. high schools
  • Highest API in San Diego County

scienceacademy15. Science Academy of South Texas (Mercedes, TX)

The Science Academy of South Texas is a public, magnet high school located near Brownsville, between McAllen and Harlingen. The school serves as an attractive alternative to local high schools for students interested in pursuing education and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

The school’s unique focus on STEM subjects has earned it national recognition for quantitatively gifted students.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #26 by the Washington Review for Best High Schools
  • Ranked #12 in Newsweek’s Best High Schools list
  • Department of Education Blue Ribbon award-winner

cityhonors16. City Honors School (Buffalo, NY)

City Honors School, a public, college preparatory school for grades 5–12, recently completed a $43 million dollar expansion of its facilities.

The school develops a differentiated curriculum for each student, aligning their studies to their intellectual and academic abilities.

Amazingly, the class of 2012 received $111,000 in scholarships for their intended colleges, not including need-based aid. This is a concrete indication of the high academic and extracurricular performance of the City Honors student body.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Named at or near the top of all public high schools in Western New York by Business First every year since its rankings began in 1997
  • Named one of the top-50 public, feeder schools in the United States by Worth magazine
  • Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Richard Hofstadter, Olympic Gold Medalist Steve Mesler, and former White House press secretary Bill Burton are all alumni

biotechnologyhigh17. Biotechnology High School (Freehold, NJ)

Biotechnology High School is a public magnet high school of the Monmouth County Vocational School District, located southeast of New Brunswick between Trenton and Asbury Park.

The school’s curriculum includes an intensive science course, which exposes students to eight science classes over four years and prepare them to pursue their education in biotechnology.

The science curriculum focuses on critical thinking, problem solving, new technologies, teamwork, and the scientific method. Ninety percent of graduates continue their education in the life sciences.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #1 school in New Jersey by the Daily Beast online magazine
  • Ranked #25 among Best U.S. High Schools by Newsweek
  • Average SAT scores above 650 in reading, math, and writing

wyominghs18. Wyoming High School  (Wyoming, OH)

Wyoming High School, located in a suburb of Cincinnati, offers a challenging course load, including many AP classes.

The school is nationally recognized for its AP American Government program, and is therefore an excellent choice for students looking for careers in politics, political science, or foreign relations.

The school also has an excellent arts program, offering students three string orchestras, a band, and many choral options. In addition to music, Wyoming High offers classes in computer graphics, photography, and AP art classes.

The school also has many foreign language options for students, including Spanish, French, and Latin. All foreign languages are offered in five levels, which culminate in the AP class for the given language.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Top five schools in Ohio according to standardized test scores
  • Ranked #50 on the U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools list
  • Ranked first nationally in American Government curriculum

walterpayton19. Walter Payton College Preparatory High School (Chicago, IL)

Walter Payton College Prep is a public, selective-enrollment magnet high school located on Chicago’s north side.

Walter Payton is known for many strengths, including a focus on mathematics and government. Its math Olympiad team recently won the Illinois Council of Mathematics Teachers (ICTM) state championship.

Also, the model UN team at Walter Payton won the best delegation designation at the Global Classrooms conference.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Winner of the 2010 Intel Schools of Distinction award
  • Named best high school in Illinois by the Chicago Tribune
  • Ranked #41 among Best U.S. High Schools by U.S. News & World Report

walnuthills20. Walnut Hills High School (Cincinnati, OH)

Walnut Hills High School—a public, college preparatory high school—is part of the Cincinnati Public Schools district. As such, it maintains a diverse student background.

Walnut Hills has a focus on classical studies, and all students must complete at least three years of Latin. Emphasis is placed on ancient Roman and Greek history and culture. The unique classical studies focus is augmented with a varied academic curriculum.

Walnut Hills boasts more AP courses offered to students than any other school in the nation.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #36 among Best U.S. High Schools by U.S. News & World Report
  • Four-time academy award–winning, documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim and Nobel Prize–winning physiologist Stanley Prusiner are Walnut Hills alumni

van nuys21. Van Nuys High School (Van Nuys, CA)

Van Nuys High School (VNHS) is a public high school located just north of Los Angeles. VNHS has three magnet programs on their campus to serve the diverse needs of the student body.

All three magnet programs have a large percentage of students who take extensive course loads. The three magnets also have established relationships local organizations in the relevant magnet focus. Community hospitals provide opportunities for students pursuing life sciences to explore the healthcare industry.

The creative arts magnet has excellent relationships with the Live Concert Academy and the Zappa Institute of Technology. These relationships provide students with real life experiences which build upon their academic achievements.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • One of the best high schools in California
  • Popular singer Paula Abdul and computer scientist Vint Cerf, recognized as one of the fathers of the internet, are alumni

WilliamsPreparatory22. Williams Preparatory (Dallas, TX)

Williams Prep, which opened in 2007, is a part of the Uplift Education Charter Schools chain. The school focuses on nurturing strong relationships between teachers, students, and parents, while maintaining sterling academic standards.

Williams Prep provides a curriculum with the highest academics that truly prepares students for college. To foster a professional learning environment, teachers and students are given the time and tools they need to reflect and achieve academic and professional growth.

Every student in the graduating class of Williams Prep was accepted to college. The school also has a partnership with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, which provides students with access to the cutting-edge research and hands-on medical training they need to pursue further education in the medical field.

The school is also financially backed as a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) school by the Texas High School Project.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • 5/5 rating from Redfin.com
  • Highly ranked by the Texas Department of Education

Hardingcharterprep23. Harding Charter Preparatory High School (Oklahoma City, OK)

Harding Charter Prep is exclusively focused on preparing students to attend the college that is the right fit for their abilities and interests.

Despite Harding’s excellent reputation and rankings, there are no requirements as to which students can attend. There are no tuition fees or entry tests required.

The school instills in students the expectation that they will go to college, no matter what their socioeconomic background. The school places a high premium on community service, and requires service hours from both students and their parents.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #68 for Best U.S. High Schools by U.S. News & World Report in 2010

schoolinternationalstudies24. School of International Studies (San Diego, CA)

The School of International Studies is a component part of San Diego High School, a complex of five, administratively independent campuses located on the southern edge of Balboa Park.

Collectively, San Diego High School is the oldest high school in the city, and one of the oldest in the state. The other campuses focus on arts, STEM, business, and communication and leadership.

The division into subject areas provides students with a more focused learning environment.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #4 on Best U.S. High Schools list by U.S. News & World Report
  • IB pass rate of 98%
  • API score of over 800
  • Ranked #22 by Newsweek

lincolnpark25. Lincoln Park Academy (Fort Pierce, FL)

Lincoln Park Academy is a public high school on the Atlantic coast of Florida, south of Cape Canaveral, near Port St. Lucie.

Referred to simply as “LPA”, the school offers dual-enrollment options, AP and IB classes, and a curriculum track focused on engineering.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #43 in the Challenge Index by the Washington Post
  • Rated “A” every year by the Florida Department of Education
  • Ranked #21 by Newsweek

andrewcarnegie26. Carnegie Vanguard High School (Houston, TX)

Carnegie Vanguard High School is a part of the Houston Independent School District. Formerly located in Houston’s Sunny Side community, the school recently moved to the Fourth Ward/Midtown area.

Carnegie Vanguard—which is named after industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie—provides education to students in grades nine through twelve. The school offers all core AP classes.

The school is a Vanguard Program–designated school, and 100% of its students are gifted and talented in academics. Students come from a wide range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, which contribute to the diversity and learning environment of the school.

To attend the school, each student is identified as having academic and leadership abilities exceeding his or her age cohort. The school places an emphasis on students using their gifts to contribute to the health of their community and school.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #13 in the Challenge Index by the Washington Post
  • Ranked #1 School in Texas by Children at Risk
  • Ranked #11 by Newsweek

pineview27. Pine View School for the Gifted (Osprey, FL)

Pine View School is a public, college preparatory high school located on Florida’s Gulf coast, between Sarasota and Venice. The school provides the only program in Florida dedicated to educating intellectually gifted students.

The mission of Pine View School is to use an experiential learning environment which encourages a passion for intellectual curiosity and bravery of thought. Pine View combines academic rigor with a commitment to social awareness of the student’s community and world.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #11 U.S. High School by U.S. News & World Report
  • Combined average SAT score of 1,335 (out of 1,600)
  • Ranked #15 on Best U.S. High Schools list by Newsweek

maggielwalker28. Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies (Richmond, VA)

The Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies is a public, regional high school located in Virginia’s state capital, whose mission is “to provide broad-based educational opportunities that develop gifted students’ understanding of world cultures and languages as well as the ability to lead, participate, and contribute in a rapidly changing global society.”

Today, the school is known for its outstanding academic record and high rankings in scholastic competitions. All academic classes are taught at an AP or Honors level. The class of 2010 received over $8.1 million in scholarships totaling more than $50,000 per student.

The Governor’s School asks students to complete 140 hours of community service by their date of matriculation. Students do not receive their diplomas without first meeting their community-service goals.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

earlycollegeguilford29. The Early College at Guilford (Greensboro, NC)

The Early College at Guilford (ECG) is a public high school which partners with Guilford College, a national liberal arts institution.

The school’s curriculum is writing-intensive and fast-paced. Students take Honors and AP courses in the ninth and tenth grades, and by the eleventh and twelfth years have the opportunity to take classes at the undergraduate level.

They can earn up to two years of college credit in high school, making ECG an attractive choice for students who are ready for college earlier than their peers.

The high school is founded on Quaker principles, and encourages an atmosphere of conviviality and trust among professors and students.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #17 for Best U.S. High Schools by U.S. News & World Report
  • Elite High School designation by Newsweek

bergencountyacademies30. Bergen County Academies (Hackensack, NJ)

Bergen County Academies (BCA) is a free, public, magnet high school located in Hackensack, New Jersey.

BCA is divided into seven specialized course curricula. The school also has an excellent student to teacher ratio of 11-to-1.

The quality of the faculty at the Bergen Academy is outstanding, with many teachers holding doctorates in their specializations.
To encourage the application of their education, seniors at Bergen participate in the Senior Experience, an internship program where students work for an outside company for the whole day, one day a week.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked Best High School in New Jersey by Bloomberg Businessweek
  • Average combined SAT of 2100 (out of 2400)—the second highest score in the U.S.
  • Ranked #21 ranking by Newsweek

paxonschool31. Paxon School for Advanced Studies (Jacksonville, FL)

The Paxon School for Advanced Studies (PSAS) is a part of the Duval County Public Schools system. It has one of the strongest math and science programs in the state of Florida.

PSAS has been invited to apply for the Siemens Advanced Placement High School award, an honor only awarded to ten schools in each state. The high school’s faculty consists of over 100 teachers whose qualifications include National Board Certification and Teacher of the Year.

The beautiful, 88-acre campus includes athletic facilities, a swimming pool, a professional-grade television production studio, science labs, and a theater.

In addition to an excellent academic record, PSAS also focuses on a balanced life for students, with social clubs such as Youth Leadership for Change.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #30 for Best U.S. High Schools by U.S News & World Report 
  • Ranked #6 ranking by Newsweek

ics32. International Community School (Kirkland, WA)

The International Community School (ICS) is a public high school belonging to the Lake Washington School District, near Redmond, northwest of Seattle.

ICS is one of a group of schools founded by Dr. Bruce Saari. The word “international” in the school’s name refers to its focus on international issues in the curriculum.

The school is not open-enrollment; rather, students enter a lottery after minimum admission requirements are met.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Average composite ACT score of 29.5
  • 100% graduate completion rate

gretcehnwhitney33. Whitney High School (Cerritos, CA)

Whitney High School (WHS), located between downtown Los Angeles and Anaheim, is known as a community academic learning center, with a focus on vocational and educational achievement.

WHS offers 12 Advanced Placement courses and 35 Honors courses. The school also has a variety of interscholastic sports and co-curricular activities, which include student government, service organizations, broadcast journalism opportunities, drill teams, and pep squads.

WHS also has an advanced robotics team and participates in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Blue Ribbon designation from the U.S. Department of Education
  • Six-time winner of the California Distinguished School award
  • Best Overall Academic Performance in California by Businessweek

humefogg34. Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School (Nashville, TN)

The Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School is a public high school located in the Tennessee state capital. The school is committed to meeting academic needs of students and to providing opportunities for their personal development.

Hume-Fogg’s mission is to instill a love of learning within the student body. The school accomplishes this through emphasizing creative thinking, abstract reasoning, experiential learning, and self-discipline.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #36 on the Best High Schools list by U.S. News & World Report
  • Professional baseball pitcher Johnny Beazley, Academy Award–winning director Delbert Mann, and poet Randall Jarrell are all alumni

dsoa35. Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts (West Palm Beach, FL)

The Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts (AWDSOA) is a public, magnet high school drawing students from across Palm Beach County.

AWDSOA has an intensive focus on the arts, with six areas of specialization: Communication Arts, Dance, Digital Media, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts. Two classes from a student’s chosen area of specialization are taken, in addition to the normal class load.

The culture of the school is centered on creativity and expression. Therefore, AWDSOA is a great springboard for students intending to perform or create professionally.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #36 on the Best High Schools list by U.S. News & World Report 
  • 79 students have started their own theatre companies
  • 363 students have appeared on television
  • 14 are in national theater tours

classen36. Classen School of Advanced Studies (Oklahoma City, OK)

The Classen School of Advanced Studies is a public, magnet high school which offers IB diplomas, as well as fine arts classes. Students joining the school choose a major, whether within the IB program or in one of the many specialized fine arts programs offered.

Students are not restricted to classes based on their majors, but each major does have a structured course load. The school’s arts program has won several awards and honors at the state level.

Majors Available at Classen:

  • International Baccalaureate
  • Band
  • Dance
  • Dramatic Arts/Technical Theater
  • Guitar
  • Instrumental Music
  • Piano
  • Strings
  • Visual Arts
  • Vocal Music

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked among the Top 100 in the Challenge Index by the Washington Post
  • Ranked #14 by Newsweek
  •  Accreditation by the North Central Association of Schools

jericho37. Jericho High School (Jericho, NY)

Jericho High School is located in Nassau County on Long Island, near New York City. The school offers a variety of AP classes, as well as the opportunity for students to earn credits at nearby St. John’s University, in Queens.

Jericho High School also boasts among the highest average SAT scores in the country, and spends more money per student than any other high school on Long Island.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #32 by Newsweek
  • Musician/producer Jon Carin and actress/filmmaker Adrienne Shelly are alumni

georgemason38. George Mason High School (Falls Church, VA)

George Mason High School (GMHS) is a comprehensive public high school located near Washington, DC. The school is unusual in serving grades 8–12, making it one of the rare five-year high schools in the U.S.

GMHS has won numerous honors and awards for its scholastic achievements, including consistently top rankings for the VHSL Scholastic Bowl Team.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #45 by Newsweek
  • First school in Virginia to become an accredited IB institution

sturgis39. Sturgis Charter Public School (Hyannis, MA)

Sturgis Charter Public School, which is located on Cape Cod, offers a comprehensive range of classes, including AP classes and the full IB program for all students.

The program of instruction consists of courses taken in six groups: Language A; Language B; Individuals and Societies; Experimental Sciences; Mathematics; and the Arts.

Courses are further designated as Higher Level (HL) or Standard Level (SL) to meet different students’ abilities in a given course area. To receive the IB diploma, students must complete at least three courses at the Higher Level (HL).

In addition to the extensive coursework, diploma candidates must also complete a thesis and a course in philosophy known as the Theory of Knowledge.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #29 by Newsweek
  • Very low student-to-teacher ratio of 10/1

locustvalley40. Locust Valley High School (Locust Valley, NY)

Locust Valley High School is located near Oyster Bay, across Long Island Sound from White Plains. The average income of the surrounding area is one of the highest of the nation.

Locust Valley’s excellent student newspaper, The Spectrum, has won the Columbia Scholastic Press Association/Empire State Scholastic Press Association Gold Award for quality in high school student journalism.

Locust Valley also has a focus on history and government, and gives a special award each year to a graduating senior who excels in both of these areas.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #55 by Newsweek
  • Ranked #99 by U.S. News &  World Report
  • Ranked #144 by the Washington Post

greatnecksouth41. William A. Shine Great Neck South High School (Great Neck, NY)

William A. Shine Great Neck South High School a public four-year high school located on Lake Success on Long Island, not far from New York City. The school offers a wide range of specialized educational opportunities including TESL, special education, and Regents.

Great Neck South High also has very strong music and choral programs. In addition to structured coursework, students are also offered an opportunity to pursue an independent study in a chosen field with guidance from a teacher.

The school offers eight language choices, including Mandarin and American Sign Language, an indication of the cosmopolitan nature of the school.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, Emmy Award–winning 30 Rock producer David Miner,  and Danger Danger drummer Steve West are alumni

DSC0669142. Sonoran Science Academy Tucson (Tucson, AZ)

Sonoran Science Academy Tucson is a public charter school that is exclusively focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects, while still providing a standard menu of curriculum choices for a pre-college education.

The school’s  mission statement is embodied by students and faculty, and reads: “The vision of Sonoran Schools is to be America’s premier STEM school organization, graduating future leaders and world-caliber talent.”

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Ranked #27 by the Washington Post
  • Ranked #103 by Newsweek
  • Ranked #144 by U.S. News & World Report
  • Named Arizona Charter School of the Year by AZ Charter Association
  • Took First Place in the First Lego Robotics World Championship
  • Named Top School by Southern Arizona Science & Engineering Fair
  • Took First Place in Intel Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF)

davidsonaugusta43. Davidson Fine Arts (Augusta, GA)

Davidson Fine Arts (DFA) is a public, magnet high school for the fine arts. In addition to a course load dedicated to preparing students for college, DFA offers extensive course options in visual arts, music, chorus, dance, theater, and film production.

The enrollment process at the school is based on prior academic performance, as well as an audition.

Unusually for schools on this list, DFA students are admitted on a racial quota system (45% Caucasian, 45% African American, and 10% other).

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • #1 School in the State of Georgia
  • Ranked among Top 100 of America’s Best High Schools by Newsweek
  • National Grammy Signature School

wheatley44. The Wheatley School (Old Westbury, NY)

The Wheatley School, which was founded in 1955, is a public high school located on Long Island, not far from New York City. The school recently completed an extensive refurbishment and renovation of its facilities.

Wheatley excels in athletics as well as academics, and would be a great fit for any student gifted in both areas. More than 65% of students play on at least one sports team.

In accordance with the school’s flexible approach to education, a program called “Freedom of the Grounds” was instituted, which allows certain students to leave study halls at will. The trust the school places in students is evident, and reflects the quality and leadership potential of the student body.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Television actor Rick Hoffman, novelist Nicole Krauss, Seinfeld writer Carol Leifer, and U.S. soccer star Mike Masters are all alumni

dupontmanual45. duPont Manual High School (Louisville, KY)

duPont (sic) Manual High School, a public, magnet high school, began in 1892 as an all-male vocational training school.

The school has excellent academics, and a sterling reputation for football. The school has won five state titles and two national championships—one of the best records in high school football.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Several top rankings  in America’s Top High Schools by Redbook
  • Named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education—the highest honor a school can receive

coralreef46. Coral Reef High School (Miami, FL)

Coral Reef High School (CRHS) is known locally as “Miami’s Mega Magnet School” because it offers six comprehensive magnet programs.

The school does not serve local students alone, but instead takes applications from students across Dade County. Student enrollment decisions are determined by a lottery, except for the fine arts, where students are accepted on the basis of their artistic ability.

Due to the high level of student performance, CRHS receives more money than most other districts of comparable size. The school has a live television studio, and produces the daily morning newscast through student efforts.

CRHS has six different magnet paths, including IB, Leisure Medicine & Health Science, Business & Finance, Legal & Public Affairs, Engineering & Technology, and Visual & Performing Arts.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • “A” on Florida’s FCAT examination more than 10 times since 1998
  • Singer JD Natasha is an alumna

woodscharter47. Woods Charter School (Chapel Hill, NC)

Woods Charter School (WCS) is a public, charter high school which offers a challenging preparation for attendance at university, with an emphasis on character development.

WCS has a long history of strong student performance as measured by state testing, AP pass rates, and SAT and ACT scores.

The school has many attractive features for prospective students, including small class sizes, close student-teacher relationships, and a caring school community.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Rated among the Top 200 High Schools by the Washington Post
  • 52% of faculty have advanced degrees
  • North Carolina Honor School of Excellence
  • 90% of seniors enrolled in AP courses

benjaminfranklin48. Benjamin Franklin High School (New Orleans, LA)

Benjamin Franklin High School is a public, magnet high school which was founded in 1957 to support the talents of gifted children.

Ben Franklin has a tough and selective enrollment process, and draws the smartest and most motivated students from across the city of New Orleans.

The school also offers a variety of extracurricular activities, including sports, performing arts, publications, and clubs.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • Named by CBS News “one of the best public high schools in the country—a magnet for the city’s smart and motivated students”
  • Has produced 17 National Achievement Semifinalists—the most of any school in the U.S.
  • Five-star rating (highest possible) from the Louisiana Department of Education

davidsonacademy49. Davidson Academy of Nevada (Reno, NV)

The Davidson Academy of Nevada is a free, public day school for “profoundly gifted” students, which was founded by the entrepreneur/philanthropist couple, Bob and Jan Davidson. As the first U.S. public high school formed for this purpose, the Davidson Academy’s student body has a distinguished history of academic achievement.

The school is located on the campus of the University of Nevada at Reno, which affords secondary students the opportunity to interact with college students and professors. The Davidson Academy pours significant resources into each student, working with them to come up with a personalized learning plan to adapt their education to their individual skills.

The admission requirements may be the most stringent in the nation, as only candidates with an SAT, ACT, or IQ score in the top one-tenth of one percent are eligible to apply.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • The Washington Post called the school one of the country’s “top-performing schools with elite students”
  • Nuclear scientist Taylor Wilson—the youngest person to build a working nuclear fission device—is an alumnus

montavista50. Monta Vista High School (Cupertino, CA)

Monta Vista High School is a four-year, public high school located in Silicon Valley, near San Jose.

Monta Vista, which is widely regarded as one of the top high schools in California, is located in one of the most affluent cities in the country, with an average income of more than $100,000 per household.

The school is an academic powerhouse, with 42 National Merit Semi-finalists and 84 National Merit students.

Awards, Rankings, and Alumni:

  • API of 956 (out of 1000) in 2012
  • Ranked #57 in the nation by the the Washington Post