Special Report

Best Public High School in Every State

According to a survey conducted in August, about half of U.S. school districts planned to reintroduce full-time in-person learning this fall, with the remainder either resuming the virtual learning processes introduced during the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak or using a hybrid model.

Many schools throughout the country that have attempted to start the year with full in-person classes have already had to revert to virtual learning. With regional cases high in many parts of the country and the possibility of cases resurging in the future in others, it is unclear how long before normal in-person classes will resume nationwide. Also unclear is the long-term effects that school closure and virtual learning will have on student development.

Already, the public education system in the United States lags behind the schools of many wealthy nations. According to an annual study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. trails 24 other countries — Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, and the U.K. among them — in student performance in core subjects.

Nationwide, only about 33% of public school students about to enter high school are considered proficient in math, and 32% are considered proficient in reading, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Here is a list of the school districts where children are least likely to succeed in every state.

These figures offer a grim assessment of the general state of American schools. Encouragingly, however, there are still public schools all over the country that offer a well-rounded and high-quality education, and where student achievement is high.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed rankings for all public schools from school data clearinghouse Niche and identified the best public high school in every state. Niche’s school rating system accounts for a range of factors, including student and parent survey responses, teacher absenteeism, standardized test scores, and other measures of academic performance. A full methodological breakdown is available here.

Nearly half of the schools on this list are either charter or magnet schools. Unlike regular public high schools, where place of residence is typically the only factor in enrollment, many of these schools have competitive admissions processes that are designed to select only the most motivated and talented students from both inside and outside of the school district. Unlike normal public high schools, magnet and charter schools often receive additional funding through private sources such as tuition and donations.

In many non-charter or magnet schools on this list, high student achievement is often due not only to school quality, but also to advantages outside of the classroom. For example, children of better-educated parents are themselves more likely to succeed academically. The vast majority of non-charter or magnet schools on this list are located in school districts where adults and parents are far more likely to have a four-year college education than the typical American adult. These school districts also tend to be relatively wealthy. Here is a list of the most educated city in every state.

Click here to see the best public high school in every state.
Click here to see our methodology.