Education policy in the United States is set largely at the state and local levels. This patchwork of laws and regulations has led to considerable variation in academic standards, teacher training, and funding across America’s public school districts – and some states have a better reputation for school quality than others.
Depending on the state, average per pupil spending at public K-12 schools ranges from only $8,000 to nearly $25,000, depending on the state. Similarly, high school graduation rates range by state from less than 75% to well over 90%. (Here is a look at how much each state spends on its public schools.)
With such disparities, it is little surprise that every year, millions of families send their children to private schools, which charge tuition but also generally have some clear advantages, including smaller class sizes and better student outcomes.
Still, while many public schools are struggling, there are also those that stand out for the opposite reason. Within each state, there are high schools that have a track record of high graduation rates, offering students updated facilities, a range of extracurricular activity options, and a dedicated teaching staff.
Using data compiled by Niche, an education research platform, 24/7 Wall St. identified the best public high school in each state for 2023. Niche ranked schools based on a weighted index of seven measures, including self-reported standardized test scores, parent and student surveys, extracurricular activities, and indicators of teacher quality. A full description of each measure and its weighting is available here. Charter and magnet schools, as well as boarding schools and schools affiliated with a university, were excluded from analysis.
In nearly every high school on this list, the graduation rate is at least 90%. In many of these schools, average SAT and ACT scores are on par with those reported at elite private boarding schools. (Here is a look at the best private schools in America.)
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