Top 10 High Schools

How does any school reach the top of a high school ranking list? When you consider the many obstacles in the path of high school faculty and the students themselves this is no easy feat. Many of the nation’s high schools are struggling with overcrowded classrooms, lack of access to updated computers and textbooks and budget shortcuts that make it difficult to afford the supplies needed to provide students with an adequate level of education that prepares them for college. The best schools in the nation, however, have managed to overcome these problems in unique, creative, and inspiring ways. Here we discuss the top 10 high schools in the United States.

International School

Starting off our top 10 high schools list is the International School, a school located in Bellevue Washington known for having a putting a strong emphasis on global education. The school teaches both middle school and high school students and accepts prospective students through a public lottery system; students simply apply for enrollment and wait to see if their number is drawn. Sometimes known as the Bellevue International School, the school was started in 1991 by six veteran teachers who won a $300,000 state grant. Each year, less than one hundred new students are accepted to the school and it has a waiting list of several hundred students. One of programs that accounts for the high school ranking of the International School is its focus on foreign languages, students take either German or French for the full seven years that they are enrolled at the school so they can become fluent.  

  • Bellevue Reporter: This article examines the joys and the chances of getting into the International School.
  • International School: Interested in viewing top ranking high schools in more detail? This official school website includes a wealth of information including information on sports, activities, school calendar, and policies.


  • Top Schools: A look at the instructional practices emphasized at the International School can be read here.  

BASIS Tucson

At BASIS Tucson, the best of European standards in education are combined with an American flair, emphasizing both education and creativity. Opened in 1998, the top ranking high schools doors are open to students in grades fifth to twelfth and uses an accelerated curriculum that challenges students to rise above the average. Latin, for instance, is a mandatory class for fifth graders. Students must also take a modern foreign language for a graduation requirement such as Mandarin Chinese. Small class sizes are used to give each student the attention they need and Advanced Placement (AP) courses for core subjects are a large part of the curriculum. So much so that students must take at least six AP exams before the graduate the high school.

  • Arizona Department of Education: This school report card provides general information and shows just how well students measure up in school rankings on standardized test and against the national average.
  • BASIS Tucson: At the official BASIS Tucson school site, you can find out more about the staff and faculty, read recent news, learn more about academic requirements and find out more student’s extracurricular activities to better understand how this school scores so well in school rankings.
  • Goldwater Institute: A brief article examining the successes of the BASIS Tucson charter school. 

School of Science and Engineering Magnet

The School of Science and Engineering Magnet refers to one of six magnet schools located at the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center in Dallas Texas, all of which have the capability to be among the top 10 high schools in the country. Also sometimes simply known as the Science and Engineering Magnet, the school has a very focused college preparatory curriculum, emphasizing mathematics, science, and liberal arts education. College level laboratory work is done by students and extracurricular activities cover everything aerospace club, Latin club, and orchestra. Students for the school are selected based on academic merits, which requires passing standardized tests and successfully completing an onsite interview. 

  • Collegeboard: The AP program at this school is highlighted as an example of excellence. 
  • A general article discussing major information about this school and its high school ranking can be perused here.
  • School of Science and Engineering Magnet: Review information about the entrance requirements for the School of Science and Engineering Magnet. The official school site also contains data pertaining to school activities, awards, and faculty members.
  • The White House: A look at a visit to the school by former President George W. Bush. 

Pacific Collegiate School

Since 1999, the Pacific Collegiate School has been working to provide an education focused on arts and languages to its student body. The small charter school selects its students through a lottery system; interested students apply and are chosen at random. Although tuition to the school is free, families are asked to make a $3,000 donation to help the school meet budget shortfalls. Information technology and international education are accentuated to help students prepare for living and working in the 21st century. To achieve this goal, students are expected to take AP classes, become proficient in a foreign language, and participate in community service activities. As for its high rank, schools rules also force students to maintain a C average to remain enrolled at the school.

  • Pacific Collegiate School: Student life, parental volunteer opportunities, and alumni information can be checked out at the official PCS website.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel: This article covers how the lottery helps in the selection of students and has helped it become one of the top ranking high schools.
  • Pasadena Star-News: The issues between the Santa Cruz City Schools district and the Pacific Collegiate School over admissions practices are discussed in this article.

Newcomers High School

Located in Long Island City, this Queens high school is the only all-immigrant school among this list of top ranking high schools. Opened over 15 years ago, this school accepts Queen resident immigrants who have arrived in the country within the last year before enrolling. The school features roughly 1,000 students who speak about 30 different languages. The goal of Newcomers High School is to help students quickly assimilate and move into regular high schools and therefore teaching English is a priority. Students are also taught about respecting other cultures and learn more about the culture of New York City. Beyond core subjects and AP courses, creative pursuits such as art and music are also explored.

  • Newcomers High School: The official website of this New York school offers a lot of insight into the curriculum and admissions process.
  • NYC Department of Education: Want to learn more about how Newcomers High School got on this list of top ranking high schools? Visit the website for an in-depth look at what makes this school unique.
  • NY1: Video and accompanying article discusses how Newcomers High School has gotten such high school rankings. 
  • NY Daily News: This brief news article looks at Newcomers High School ranking.

School for the Talented and Gifted at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center

For those seeking a strong liberal arts education, the School for the Talented and Gifted has earned its high school ranking as one of the most advanced high schools in the country. The school along with The School of Science and Engineering are found within the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center. In all, the center houses six different magnet high schools which are part of the Dallas Independent School District. Students from the school district are screened to enter the school by a detailed process that includes behavioral assessments and a review of academic transcripts. At the school, which has slightly more than half of its students being from a minority background, diversity is accentuated. Interesting extracurricular activities available at the school include German dance and robotics.

  • Dallas Independent School District: A brief summary of the school can be read here which includes data on enrollment, awards, parental involvement, and extracurricular activities.
  • U.S. House of Representatives: A statement from Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, representative of the 30th District of Texas acknowledging the achievements of the School for the Talented and Gifted can be read here.
  • Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center: Both The School for the Talented & Gifted and The School of Science and Engineering are housed in the same campus building at this center. 


Oxford Academy

For students serious about continuing on to college, Oxford Academy pushes forward with an advanced curriculum that includes taking five AP courses in order to graduate. Located in Cypress, California the school is a combined middle school and high school. Students entering the seventh grade are accepted into the school by competing for about 200 spots open to the students in the local district. These students must pass an entrance exam to be accepted into the school and must also maintain an acceptable grade point average during their time at the school. Academics are not the only focus of the school, a wide range of athletic activities including basketball, swimming, and track are offered.

  • Oxford Academy: Find out more about what makes Oxford Academy special by taking a look at the school’s official website.
  • Oxford Academy Foundation: To remain in the top 10 high schools list, Oxford Academy relies on financial donations. This non-profit organization helps to raise moneys so the school can continue to provide the best level of education possible.  
  • Oxford Academy Sports: Sports are so important at Oxford Academy; the high school has an official sports website.  

Whitney High School

At this magnet school, also in California, three-fourths of the student body is Asian. In total, roughly 1,000 students are enrolled in this public school, a combined middle school and high school. To get into the school, students take a writing test and their scores on state exams are examined. The school has been the recipient of numerous awards including two Blue Ribbon School awards and multiple mentions as a California Distinguished School.

  • BusinessWeek: View statistics on Whitney High School here.
  • Placer Herald: This short recent news article examines the photography achievements of students at Whitney High School.
  • Whitney High School: See the school and the students in action at the official website for Whitney High School.

International Academy

The International Academy is the name of a very unique school located in the Bloomfield Hills district of Oakland County, Michigan. The school also has additional campuses in the state, one located in Troy and the other at the White Lake Township. The public school is tuition-free and students are selected by a lottery. Students do not just earn the typical high school diploma at the International Academy, they also focus on international education standards and earn International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas, this international education program teaches students about respect and tolerance for other cultures.

  • WDET-TV: Learn more about the International Academy in this video.
  • The Oakland Press: An interview with the Principal of the International Academy can be read here.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

To make the top rank, schools on this list have to work exceptionally hard to challenge their students and the best school in the nation, holds the name of a former president. Named Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST), and established in 1985, this high school is located in the suburbs of Fairfax, Virginia. To be accepted into the school, students from the local area must go through a competitive admissions process that includes taking a standardized test to measure mathematical and reasoning abilities. The curriculum has a strong focus on math, science, and technology related subjects such as chemistry and physics. Student activities and leadership are also encouraged through athletic, clubs, and competitions.