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These Are the Best High Schools in California

August 6, 2022 | 7 Minute read

High school is an important stretch of education for teenagers. They often start to get a sense of what they want to focus on in the future, they can engage in numerous extracurricular activities and they can start preparing to choose the best spot for what for many is their final four years of school: college.

California is blessed with a slew of top-notch high schools. When U.S. News & World Report reviewed 24,000 high schools to name the best in the country, more than 1,600 were in California.

What makes a great high school in the state? Factors range from academic and student life to teachers, sports, how the schools prepare students for college, and more. Here are eight high schools that really stand apart from the rest.

best high schools in California

1. Gretchen Whitney High School

It’s hard to beat being named the best high school in the state by U.S. News & World Report and also be ranked among the top 15 in the United States. Located in Cerritos, which is in Los Angeles County, the school was lauded for its honors and advanced placement courses that include computer science, physics, and foreign language. Whitney soars above the state average in almost any field measured, from its graduation rate to its college-readiness rate.

Beyond that, Cerritos is a great place to live and raise a family. Home to about 50,000 residents, it features more than two dozen parks and a first-rate performing arts facility.

best high schools in California

2. Henry M. Gunn High School

Welcome to another No. 1 high school in California, this time according to Niche.com. Featuring a student-teacher ratio of 19-1 – small for a California public high school – the Palo Alto-based institution strives to help every student reach his or her full intellectual, social and creative potential. The school far exceeds the California average for college readiness, and many apply to nearby Stanford University, one of the top colleges in the country. The Palo Alto Unified School District (which includes Palo Alto High School) has some of the highest standardized test scores in the state.

Enjoying more than 260 sunny days a year, Palo Alto – one of the most affluent spots in Northern California – is a destination for many, especially for the tech workers who toil in Silicon Valley. Palo Alto means tall tree in Spanish, and as might be expected, trees line the streets. The city has bike lanes galore and a vibrant civic culture.

best high schools in California

3. Loyola High School

Ranked No. 1 among the best Catholic high schools in California, Loyola High School in Los Angeles also enjoys the distinction of being the best all-boys high school in the state – in addition to being among the best lacrosse high schools in California. The graduation rate at the private school of 1,270 students is 100 percent. And the students get incredible attention from their teachers; the student-teacher ratio is a mere 13-1. Graduates are “prepared for lives of leadership and service to their community,” according to the school’s website, and many students choose to stay at the nearby top-notch universities, such as the University of Southern California and UCLA.

Situated in the country’s second-biggest city, there’s plenty for students to do off-campus, where beaches beckon and cultural opportunities abound.

best high schools in California

4. Pruess School UCSD

The rare high school that is actually situated on a college campus – in this case, the University of Califronia-San Diego – Pruess School UCSD is the top-ranked high school in San Diego and is the fifth-best in the state, according to U.S. News & World Report. The Pruess School aims to prepare low-income students for college (minority students make up 99 percent of the student body), so perhaps it’s no surprise that 100 percent of students take at least one AP exam and that Pruess earns fifth place on the College Readiness Index for California.

And talk about location: Pruess sits in the San Diego suburb of La Jolla, which is one of the most popular zip codes in California. For those who love the outdoors, the miles of beaches and hiking trails are both big attractions.

best high schools in California

5. Dr. T. J. Owens Gilroy Early College Academy

Dr. T. J. Owens Gilroy Early College Academy is the top-ranked school in the San Jose area and among the best high schools in a California ranking, according to U.S. News & World Report. Why is it such a standout? Mathematics and reading proficiency among students both top 90 percent, which is far above the average rates in the Gilroy Unified School District High schools and in the state.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose is a booming metropolis. No surprise that among its many cultural attractions is the Tech Museum of Innovation, which is interesting for all ages. There are plenty of biking and walking trails for those who love the outdoors.

best high schools in California

6. Troy High School

Located in Orange County, this high school not only receives the Niche.com vote for the No. 1 high school in the area; it earns a grade of A+. Let’s give the teachers plenty of credit; they are ranked third among more than 1,800 public high schools in California. The average SAT is close to 1400, far superior to the state average.

Though perhaps not as well-known as Newport Beach or Costa Mesa, Fullerton is appealing. The Muckenthaler Art and Cultural Center is a stunning building – an 18-room mansion constructed almost a century ago. There are events galore for residents to choose from.

best high schools in California

7. California Academy of Mathematics and Science

Not only is this institution – part of the Long Beach Unified School District – ranked No. 1 in the area, it is considered the second-best high school in California, according to U.S. News & World Report. The number of students who passed at least one AP exam is an astounding 94 percent, and mathematics proficiency is at 95 percent – one of the best in California.

Located in Carson, a city of about 95,000, there are unique spots to visit, such as the Porsche Experience Center if you’d like to enjoy a thrilling ride, and the International Printing Museum, home of one of the biggest collections of printing presses in the world.

best high schools in California

8. West Campus High School

West Campus is the top-ranked school in the Sacramento City Unified School District – and there is plenty of data to show how the 829 students excel there. The AP participation rate is 87 percent, and reading proficiency is 93 percent. Its 100 percent graduation rate is tied for the best in California.

The state capital offers residents plenty of options for entertaining themselves, from visiting the Sacramento Zoo to checking out restored locomotives and more at the 225,000-square-foot California State Railroad Museum.

best high schools in California

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