Va. school makes top 10 ‘best high schools’ list; Md. ranks No. 3 for college readiness

WASHINGTON — Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia, has once again been named one of the 10 top-performing high schools in the country, according to new rankings from U.S. News and World Report.

The science-and-math-focused magnet school was ranked No. 10 on this year’s list — a slight drop from its sixth place showing last year. Thomas Jefferson was named the No. 3 high school in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

The No. 1 high school nationwide was the BASIS Scottsdale public charter school in Scottsdale, Arizona. Overall, six of the top 10 schools nationally hail in Arizona.

The U.S. News rankings evaluate more than 20,500 public high schools across the country based on students’ performance on standardized reading and math tests, graduation rates and other factors. A total of about 6,000 schools are numerically ranked.

The rankings also award gold, silver and bronze medals specifically for college readiness — based on students’ scores on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests.

In Maryland, the highest-ranked school nationally was Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, which came in at No. 113. (Winston Churchill was also Maryland’s top-ranked high school last year.)

Overall, though, Maryland is No. 3 when it comes to the highest number of gold medal schools. Nearly a quarter of schools in the state received a “gold” or a “silver” medal. Massachusetts is No. 1 this year.

Virginia ranked No. 18 in its share of “gold medal” schools.

Twelve states do not have any gold medal schools.

The top-performing school in D.C. was the School Without Walls High School in Northwest.

Individual schools’ showings in the rankings, which have been released annually, frequently shift year-to-year. In D.C., Wilson High School, which was ranked No. 2 last year, fell out of the rankings entirely this year. It’s a similar story in Montgomery County, where Richard Montgomery High in Rockville tumbled out of this year’s rankings.

The reason why some schools fell out of rankings this year compared to last year has to do with U.S. News’ methodology, its chief data strategist Robert Morse said. In the cases of some D.C. schools, they did not rank because they did not pass the first step of the four-step methodology. In other cases, some schools performed better than others on a tiebreaker, causing some schools to drop in rankings.

Seven of the top 10 schools in Virginia are in Fairfax County, and four of the top 10 schools in Maryland are in Montgomery County.

Just one school in Prince George’s County made the rankings — Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt — which ranked No. 21 in the state and was awarded a silver medal.

Kelly Mae Ross, education reporter at U.S. News, said beyond the rankings, the data can help parents make decisions.

“They can get a sense of how schools are performing. We provide all this data, all these rankings, all this information to families … to give them a starting point, to help them compare options and see how schools in their area are performing, to enable them to make a better informed decision,” Ross said.

U.S. News partnered with RTI International, a nonprofit social science research firm based in North Carolina, to compile the rankings.

The 2018 rankings reflect graduation data from 2016.

Top D.C. schools:

  • School Without Walls High Schools (D.C. Public Schools)
  • Benjamin Banneker Academy High Schools (D.C. Public Schools)
  • McKinley Technology High School (D.C. Public Schools)
  • Ellington School of the Arts (D.C. Public Schools)
  • KIPP DC College Preparatory (public charter)
  • Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School (public charter)
  • Seed Public Charter School of Washington DC (public charter)

Top Maryland schools:

  • Winston Churchill High (Montgomery County Public Schools)
  • Poolesville High (Montgomery County Public Schools)
  • Thomas S. Wootton High (Montgomery County Public Schools)
  • River Hill High (Howard County Public Schools)
  • Quince Orchard High School (Montgomery County Public Schools)
  • Marriotts Ridge High (Howard County Public Schools)
  • Centennial High (Howard County Public Schools)
  • Eastern Technical High School (Baltimore County Public Schools)
  • Towson High Law and Public Policy (Baltimore County Public Schools)
  • Urbana High (Frederick County Public Schools)

Top Virginia schools:

  • Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Fairfax County Public Schools) — GOLD (No. 10 nationwide)
  • George Mason High School (Falls Church City Public Schools)
  • Langley High School (Fairfax County Public Schools)
  • Open High School (Richmond City Public Schools)
  • McLean High School (Fairfax County Public Schools)
  • Oakton High School (Fairfax County Public Schools)
  • Woodson High School (Fairfax County Public Schools)
  • Marshall High (Fairfax County Public Schools)
  • West Springfield High School (Fairfax County Public Schools)
  • Washington-Lee High School (Arlington County Public Schools)

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report. 

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Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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