In a year when high schools in the Sunbelt shone brightly, Philadelphia’s Julia R. Masterman School held onto its status as this region’s top-ranked secondary school, according to the closely watched annual rankings from U.S. News and World Report.
The magazine — which ranked 17,000 public high schools from coast to coast, a dramatic increase from previous years — said the Center City magnet school for high achievers is the 22nd best high school in the United States. The only other Pennsylvania entry in the Top 100 was Downingtown STEM Academy, at No. 29.
No schools in South Jersey were among the highly rated in the magazine’s coveted list, although seven schools from the northern half of the Garden State are in the top 100.
U.S. News said it both expanded the number of schools ranked and slightly simplified its methodology for 2019. Criteria for ranking included test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, and serving historically disadvantaged student populations. Because of the much larger sample of schools, the magazine urged readers not to compare this year’s list to 2018’s rankings.
Here are 5 major takeaways from the 2019 list:
The magazine also featured a ranking of the 50 states and D.C. by their percentage of high schools that made the top quarter of the rankings. Pennsylvania was at the upper middle of the pack at No. 17, with 26.2 percent of its high schools (176 overall) in that upper quadrant.
New Jersey was near the top at No. 5 on this list, with 38.3 percent (156 total) in the highest quarter of the rankings. The top four states as ranked by U.S. News are Massachusetts, Maryland, California, and Connecticut.
As school choice diversifies, the magazine said, both charter schools — publicly funded but with independent leadership — and magnet schools for top achievers performed well nationally. Within the top 5 percent of all schools, the magazine reported, more than 18 percent were charter schools and 15 percent were magnet schools.
Locally, Philadelphia’s Masterman (No. 11) and Central High School (No. 65) ranked high on the national list for magnet schools. Among charter schools, the only one in Pennsylvania or New Jersey to make that Top 100 was North Star Academy Charter School of Newark at No. 88.
After Masterman and Downingtown Stem, in Chester County, the top-ranked overall high schools in the Keystone State are Delaware County’s Radnor High School (No. 237), Philadelphia’s Central (284), Conestoga High School in Chester County’s Tredyffrin/Easttown School District (298), Strath Haven High School in Delaware County’s Wallingford-Swarthmore School District (323), Unionville High School in the Unionville-Chadds Ford District (329), and Bucks County’s New Hope-Solebury High School (356).
Those who say that everything’s bigger in Texas got some affirmation when U.S. News found that three of the nation’s top 20 high schools are in the Lone Star State — more than any other — while Arizona and California each placed two, on a list where top performers were well-distributed across the nation.
What’s the top high school in America, as ranked by U.S. News? Academy Magnet High School in North Charleston, S.C., followed by the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone, Maine, and the BASIS Scottsdale school in Arizona.
In a survey of graduation rates, U.S, News found that Pennsylvania had a mean graduation rate of 95.2 percent at high schools in the top quadrant and 86.9 percent in the lower three quadrants. In New Jersey, the mean graduation rate was 97 percent in the top 25 percent of high schools and 89.4 percent in the rest.