The right high school can make all the difference for students planning to attend college.
Students with college aspirations may be well-served by attending a high school that offers Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses. In 2016-2017, a total of 15,091 public high schools in the U.S. offered AP classes, according to the College Board. During that same period, around 800 public U.S. high schools offered IB courses, according to the International Baccalaureate.
The 2018 U.S. News Best High Schools rankings, released today, can help parents identify top-notch schools in their area and see how these schools stack up nationally.
To create the rankings, U.S. News started with more than 28,800 public high schools across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Five hundred high schools earned gold medals, 2,211 received silver medals and 3,237 schools scored bronze medals in the national rankings.
See the list here:
For the second year in a row, the No. 1 school in the country is BASIS Scottsdale. Public high schools in the BASIS charter school network in Arizona dominated the top of the national rankings, claiming the first five spots.
Charter schools are public institutions, but they are exempt from some of the state or local regulations governing traditional public schools. Another difference is that charter schools generally have limited enrollment and accept students via an application process. Overall, 10 percent of the schools awarded medals in this year's rankings are charter high schools.
There are several new entrants to the top 10 this year: Arizona's BASIS Flagstaff, ranked No. 5; Meridian School, based in Texas and ranked No. 6; International Academy of Macomb, located in Michigan and ranked No. 7; and Baccalaureate School for Global Education, based in New York and ranked No. 9.
Three Texas schools dropped out of the top 10: the School for the Talented and Gifted and the Science and Engineering Magnet School, both located in Dallas, as well as Carnegie Vanguard High School in Houston. However, they didn't fall far – all three institutions are still ranked within the top 15.
U.S. News used a four-step methodology to evaluate high schools and create the rankings, with the help of North Carolina-based research firm RTI International.
The first step focused on student performance on state-mandated math and reading tests during 2015-2016. Schools had to perform better than statistically expected on these tests in their state, given their student poverty levels, to make it to the next step. The second step factored in the testing performance of a school's historically underserved students – those of black, Hispanic and low-income backgrounds – compared with the state average.
The third step took into account a high school's graduation rate. A school needed to boast a rounded graduation rate of at least 80 percent, which is higher than the threshold used for last year's rankings – 75 percent.
The final step determined if a school's national ranking was a gold, silver or bronze medal. In this fourth step, U.S. News looked at how well the remaining schools prepared students for college based on student participation in and performance on AP and IB exams.
The 2018 rankings methodology reincorporated IB data, which were not available last year. And for the second year, U.S. News used tiebreakers to determine numerical ranks for schools that performed equally in the final step.
An analysis of how states compare in the national rankings shows that Massachusetts came out on top. Roughly a quarter – 25.7 percent – of eligible high schools in the Bay State earned a gold or silver medal. California, where 25.4 percent of schools took home gold or silver, ranked second.
Every state, except South Dakota, had at least one gold or silver medal school. South Dakota's schools were only eligible for bronze medals because the state did not allow U.S. News to use its AP data.
In addition to the overall national rankings, U.S. News once again created separate rankings for the best charter and magnet schools. Magnet schools are designed around a theme and generally admit students through an application process.
Parents and students can also check out the top-ranked high schools for learning about STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. Only gold medal schools were eligible for the STEM rankings, which were calculated using data on student participation in and performance on AP math and science exams.
For the fourth year in a row, the top STEM school is High Technology High School, located in New Jersey. BASIS Scottsdale is ranked No. 2.
See the complete rankings of the Best High Schools.
Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report