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U.S. News ranks America’s top public high schools — and for the first time, charters dominate Top 10

Kate Stringer | April 26, 2017

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U.S. News and World Report has released its 2017 rankings of America’s public high schools, and for the first time ever, the majority of the schools in the top 10 are charters.

BASIS Scottsdale, BASIS Tucson North, and BASIS Oro Valley — all Arizona public charter schools in the BASIS network — placed one, two, and three atop the 2017 list. Rounding out the top tier are Arizona’s BASIS Peoria and BASIS Chandler schools (ranking #5 and #7 respectively) and California’s Pacific Collegiate Charter in Santa Cruz (#10).

This year’s charter breakthrough builds on gains from previous years. In 2016, three charters made the list’s top 10; in 2015, two charters made the cut. Nationwide, there are now around 6,800 charter schools serving nearly 3 million students.

Among the top 10 California high schools, only one was in Los Angeles Unified, the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES).

Among the top 20 LA Unified high schools on the list, 12 are charters. Six of those are Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, and the No. 2 school on the LA Unified list is Magnolia Science Academy, which ranked 14th statewide.

VIDEO: 74 Explains — What’s a Charter School?

Selective public schools, many of them magnets, continue to dominate the rankings of the 22,000 public high schools from which U.S. News collects data. Of those schools represented in this year’s top 10, three hail from Texas — School for the Talented and Gifted, Carnegie Vanguard High School, and School of Science and Engineering — and one from Virginia: The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

In past years, schools of choice have regularly risen to the top of the magazine’s rankings. These are typically academically rigorous institutions, many of which are highly selective as to whom they let in.

But the rising prominence of charter schools in the rankings comes at a time when Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has publicly promoted the idea of expanding school choice programs nationwide and President Trump has proposed a roughly 50 percent increase in federal spending on charter school program grants.

Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said she hopes the rankings cut through the heated political rhetoric surrounding today’s school choice debate to shine a light on the positive work being done by charter school teachers and network leaders.

“It points to the fact that if you allow educators the autonomy to run their schools and allow families to make selections, those schools perform better academically and meet the needs of their student populations better than if you try to fit families under a one-size-fits-all monopoly,” Rees said Tuesday.

U.S. News and World Report creates its rankings in partnership with the North Carolina-based nonprofit RTI International. Schools are evaluated on how well they serve all students, math and reading scores, graduation rates, and preparation for college-level work. More highlights from this year’s list below, and you can see the full rankings here.

The Top 25 Public High Schools, as Ranked by U.S. News:

1. BASIS Scottsdale (AZ)
2. BASIS Tucson North (AZ)
3. BASIS Oro Valley (AZ)
4. School for the Talented and Gifted (TX)
5. BASIS Peoria (AZ)
6. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (VA)
7. BASIS Chandler (AZ)
8. Carnegie Vanguard High School (TX)
9. School of Science and Engineering (TX)
10. Pacific Collegiate Charter (CA)
11. Academic Magnet High School (SC)
12. Oxford Academy (CA)
13. Pine View School (FL)
14. Whitney High School (CA)
15. University High School (AZ)
16. High Technology High School (NJ)
17. High School of American Studies at Lehman College (NY)
18. DeBakey High School for Health Professions (TX)
19. Maine School of Science and Mathematics (ME)
20. Amistad Academy (CT)
21. University High School, Tolleson (AZ)
22. Design and Architecture Senior High (FL)
23. KIPP San Jose Collegiate (CA)
24. International Studies Charter High School (FL)
25. Manhattan Bridges High School (NY)

This article was published in partnership with The 74.

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