Southwest high schools are dominating the 2016 US News and World Report rankings of best high schools in the nation, with the top 10 spots occupied by six Southwest high schools included, based on the rankings released this week.
The Washington Post's T. Rees Shapiro reports that Texas and Arizona high schools earned the top four rankings, and the fifth national spot was taken by the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Each year the news magazine collects information on over 21,500 schools. This year, for the first time, the report included graduation rates as a factor in choosing their top schools. A US News analysis discovered that the country's top 6,000 high schools have rates of graduation at least 15% higher than all other schools.
The elite list included the School for the Gifted and Talented in Dallas, marking the fifth consecutive year to receive the top honor. Two schools in Arizona, BASIS Scottsdale and BASIS Tucson North (both charter schools), ranked second and third respectively. And another Dallas institution, the School of Science and Engineering Magnet, took fourth place.
In Maryland, Montgomery County's Walt Whitman ranked No. 63, and Winston Churchill took No. 94. In the District of Columbia, the School Without Walls was the city's top rated school, ranking at No. 88. Fairfax County, Virginia's Thomas Jefferson High joined Virginia's second-ranked school, McLean High, which ranked at No. 108.
The magazine found that overall, California, Connecticut, and Maryland had the largest number of high schools that genuinely prepared students for college and careers.
Once again, the Best STEM School was High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey, according to US News and World Report.
"A high school education is imperative for success in both college and a career, and a school's graduation rate is a key indicator of whether students are being effectively prepared for both paths," said Anita Narayan, managing editor of Education at U.S. News. "The 2016 Best High Schools rankings provide students and parents with data-driven information on public schools to help them make better-informed decisions about their education."
Many of today's secondary school students begin taking college-level coursework while they are still in high school. In 2015, almost 4.5 million Advanced Placement (AP) exams were given and over 56,000 International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas were awarded after the testing session in May.
At some of the highest ranked high schools in the nation, all graduating students are exposed to college-level work through at least one AP or IB exam, writes AOL's Alexandra Pannoni.
And in the Bay Area of California, the highest scoring school was Lowell High in San Francisco, which took the 52nd place slot. University Preparatory Academy Charter in San Jose came in at 55th. Mission San Jose in Fremont ranked 76th and KIPP San Jose Collegiate charter school was rated 86th.
But some Bay Area educators could be somewhat disappointed that previous high ranking area schools, such as Gunn High in Palo Alto, Saratoga High, and Piedmont High in Piedmont, were missing from the top tiers of the rankings this year.
In 2014, the state was using the Common Core-linked annual standard exams for the first time and did not offer any reports on the results of the testing. Because of this, the magazine used proficiency scores from the California High School Exit Exam, said Robert Morse, US News' chief data strategist. Most California students took the exit exam only as sophomores.
Overall, 499 schools in the state received gold or silver medals compared to 556 schools which received them last year.