Best high schools in the US: How are the rankings determined

FILE - Students in class.

The U.S. News & World Report recently released its 2024 best U.S. high schools rankings. 

The outlet gathered data from nearly 25,000 public high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and officially ranked almost 18,000 schools. 

Here are the top 10 best high schools in the U.S., according to U.S. News. 

  1. BASIS Charter Schools Inc. in Peoria, Ariz.
  2. Signature School in Evansville, Ind.
  3. Tesla STEM High School in Redmond, Wash.
  4. Julia R. Masterman Secondary School in Philadelphia, Penn.
  5. Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago, Ill.
  6. The School for the Talented and Gifted (TAG) in Dallas, Texas
  7. Academic Magnet High School in North Charleston, S.C.
  8. International Academy in Bloomfield, Mich.
  9. Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology in Lawrenceville, Ga.
  10. Riverside Stem Academy in Riverside, Calif. 

Nationwide, Florida and Arizona ranked with the most high schools in the top 100 with 12, while California had 11.

To see the entire list, click here.

The data for U.S. News’ rankings are collected from a variety of high schools including public, charter, magnet and STEM-focused institutions.

The ranking is based on six factors, which include: 

  • College readiness 
  • College curriculum breadth 
  • State assessment proficiency
  • State assessment performance 
  • Underserved student performance 
  • Graduation rate

RELATED: These are Texas' top 10 high schools, according to US News

College readiness index

The College Readiness Index (CRI) accounts for 30% of a high school’s overall ranking and it is measured by how many 12th graders earned a qualifying score on Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams during the 2021-2022 academic year, according to U.S. News. 

In cases where a school has both AP and IB exams, U.S. News creates a blended CRI. 

Any schools that didn’t have students who took either exam end up with a score of zero on this ranking indicator. However, adjustments are made so that these schools don’t rank significantly worse than schools that did. 

U.S. News also noted that two states – Maine and Oklahoma – did not allow access to use their schools’ AP data in this ranking. 

RELATED: These are Washington's top 10 high schools, according to US News

College curriculum breadth

Just like the CRI, the College Curriculum Breadth Index (CCBI) is derived from the 2021-2022 academic year among 12th graders. 

The CCBI accounts for 10% of a school’s rank. 

The CCBI is based on the number of 12th graders who took and got qualifying scores on multiple AP or IB exams. 

"Students who took exams and earned qualifying scores in four AP or IB content areas earned full credit. Those who earned qualifying scores in two or three AP or IB content areas were given partial credit of 50% and 75%, respectively," U.S. News explained. 

The exams that were measured for AP were in English; math and computer science; sciences; world languages and cultures; history and social sciences; arts; and AP capstone. 

For IB, it was language and literature; language acquisition; individuals and societies; sciences; mathematics; the arts; extended essay; and theory of knowledge. 

RELATED: Top 10 best high schools in Pennsylvania, according to US News

State assessment proficiency

The state assessment proficiency accounts for 20% of a school’s ranking. 

Typically, each state has a standardized test to measure students’ knowledge in subjects related to math, reading and science, U.S. News said. 

These scores were compared with other schools in their states and then nationally. 

State assessment performance

The state assessment performance accounts for 20% of a school’s rank and the score is derived from math, reading and science state standardized tests. 

The total assessment scores are then compared to what U.S. News "predicted for a school with its demographic characteristics in its state." 

According to U.S. News, there is a "very significant" relationship between the number of students that are Black, Hispanic and/or from a low-income household and a school’s results on standardized tests. 

"Schools performing best on this ranking indicator are those whose assessment scores far exceeded U.S. News' modeled expectations," U.S. News said. 

Underserved student performance

This parameter accounts for 10% of a school’s rank. 

The underserved student performance index assesses the learning outcomes among Black, Hispanic, and low-income students. 

"This evaluates how well this underserved subgroup scored on state assessments compared with the average for non underserved students among schools in the same state," U.S. News said. 

RELATED: These NYC public high schools are considered some of America's best

Graduation rate

The graduation rate accounts for 10% of a school’s overall rank. 

The data for graduation rates was taken from students who entered ninth grade during the 2018-2019 academic year and then graduated four years later in 2022. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.