The Best Public High Schools ranking provides a comprehensive assessment of the overall experience at public high schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It uses data sourced from various government and public data sets, Niche’s own proprietary data, and 4,625,227 opinion-based survey responses across a variety of topics from 287,560 current students, recent alumni, and parents.
A high ranking in Overall Experience generally indicates that:
- Students are very happy with their experiences in all aspects, including academics, teachers, health, safety, resources, facilities, extracurriculars, sports, and fitness;
- The school is an exceptional academic institution in terms of teachers, students, resources for learning, and student outcomes;
- The school is made up of a diverse population and fosters an accepting, positive school culture;
- Students are actively involved in a variety of extracurriculars and sports the school offers.
High Schools Assessed by This Ranking
At the time of calculation, our database contained records for 22,985 public high schools. For the purposes of this ranking, a public high school is considered to be a school that offers 12th grade, has at least 5 enrolled seniors, and has an average grade size of at least 15 students schoolwide. Schools were not included in the ranking process if they did not meet these minimum requirements. The final ranking results in 15,265 high schools receiving a grade, with 14,431 of those also receiving a numerical ranking.
|Academics Grade||Niche Academics grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding academics at the school. Read the methodology.||Niche grade||50%|
|Health & Safety Grade||Niche Health & Safety grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding health and safety at the school. Read the methodology.||Niche grade||10%|
|Student Culture & Diversity Grade||Niche Student Culture & Diversity grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding culture and diversity at the school. Read the methodology.||Niche grade||10%|
|Survey Responses||Parent and student opinions about the overall experience at the high school they currently or recently attend(ed). Includes 556,102 opinions about overall experience from 211,873 unique students, recent alumni, and parents. Minimum 7 unique respondents required at each school.||Niche users||10%|
|Teachers Grade||Niche Teachers grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding teachers at the school. Read the methodology.||Niche grade||10%|
|Resources & Facilities Grade||Niche Resources & Facilities grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding resources and facilities at the school. Read the methodology.||Niche grade||5%|
|Extracurriculars & Activities Grade||Niche Extracurriculars & Activities grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding clubs and activities at the school. Read the methodology.||Niche grade||2.5%|
|Sports & Fitness Grade||Niche Sports & Fitness grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding athletics and general fitness at the school. Read the methodology.||Niche grade||2.5%|
Statistics obtained from the U.S. Department of Education represent the most recent data available, usually from 2011–2012, as self-reported by the schools.
The process used to compute this ranking was as follows:
- First, we carefully selected the factors listed above to represent a healthy balance between statistical rigor and practical relevance in the ranking.
- Next, we evaluated the data for each factor to ensure that it provided value for the ranking. (The factor needed to help distinguish schools from each other and accurately represent each high school.) Because there are different factor types, we processed them differently:
- Factors built from parent- or student-submitted survey responses were individually analyzed to determine a required minimum number of responses. After this, responses were aggregated. We logically have a higher degree of confidence in the aggregated score for schools with more responses, so a Bayesian method was applied to reflect this confidence.
- Factors built from factual information were inspected for bad data, including outliers or inaccurate values. Where applicable, this data was either adjusted or completely excluded depending on the specific data.
- After each factor was processed, we produced a standardized score (called a z-score) for each factor at each high school. This score evaluates distance from the average using standard deviations and allows each school’s score to be compared against others in a statistically sound manner.
- With clean and comparable data, we then assigned weights for each factor. The goal of the weighting process was to ensure that no one factor could have a dramatic positive or negative impact on a particular school’s final score and that each school’s final score was a fair representation of the school’s performance. Weights were carefully determined by analyzing:
- How different weights impacted the distribution of ranked schools;
- Niche parent and student user preferences and industry research;
- Each factor’s contribution to our intended goal of the ranking described in the introduction above.
- After assigning weights, an overall score was calculated for each high school by applying the assigned weights to each school’s individual factor scores. This overall score was then assigned a new standardized score (again a z-score, as described in step 3). This is the final score for the ranking.
- With finalized scores, we then evaluated the completeness of the data for each individual high school. Depending on how much data the school had, we might disqualify it from the numerical ranking or from the grading process. Here is how we distinguished these groups using the weights described in step 4:
- High schools missing the Academics grade factor were completely excluded. They did not qualify for the numerical ranking or a grade.
- High schools that had at least 85 percent of the factors (by weight) were deemed eligible for both a grade and a numerical ranking. High schools that did not have at least 85 percent of the factors (by weight) were not included in the numerical ranking and received a grade only.
- Lastly, we created a numerical ranking and assigned grades (based on qualifications discussed in step 6). Here is how we produced these values:
- The numerical ranking was created by ordering each high school (when qualified) based on the final z-score discussed in step 5.
- Grades were determined for each high school (when qualified) by taking the ordered z-scores (which generally follow a normal distribution) and then assigning grades according to the process below.
Grading Process for This Ranking
While our ranking shows the top high schools, we use grades to provide the user some context to those rankings and also to provide insight into schools that did not make the top school list. It’s important to focus on more than just the number in the ranking. Given the high number of schools included in this ranking, there may not be a large gap between the 15th and 30th ranked schools. In reality, both are exceptional schools when compared to the total population of all high schools nationwide. Grades are assigned based on how each school performs compared to all other schools included in the ranking by using the following distribution of grades and z-scores:
|A+||1.96 ≤ z||548||3.59%|
|A||1.28 ≤ z < 1.96||1037||6.79%|
|A-||0.84 ≤ z < 1.28||1310||8.58%|
|B+||0.44 ≤ z < 0.84||1778||11.65%|
|B||0.00 ≤ z < 0.44||2571||16.84%|
|B-||-0.44 ≤ z < 0||2827||18.52%|
|C+||-0.84 ≤ z < -0.44||2241||14.68%|
|C||-1.28 ≤ z < -0.84||1603||10.50%|
|C-||-1.96 ≤ z < -1.28||1094||7.17%|
|D+||-2.25 ≤ z < -1.96||153||1.00%|
|D||-2.50 ≤ z < -2.25||58||0.38%|
|D-||-2.50 > z||45||0.30%|
Note that we intentionally did not assign a grade below D- to any schools.
It’s important to note that several high schools scored extremely well but did not qualify for the numerical ranking due to insufficient data. The Top 5 high schools that were graded but not rank are as followed:
- The Academy for Mathematics, Science & Engineering in Rockaway, N.J.
- Piedmont High School in Piedmont, Calif.
- BASIS Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Ariz.
- Pacific Collegiate Charter School in Santa Cruz, Calif.
- Alameda Science & Technology Institute in Alameda, Calif.
All of these schools received an A+ grade. With full data, these high schools may have ranked highly.