After evaluating data from more than 17,800 secondary schools, U.S. News & World Report has released its annual Best High Schools breakdown, which has several Orange County campuses ranked prominently.
Oxford Academy in the Anaheim Union High School District was highest on the list locally, ranking No. 3 in California and No. 16 nationally. The digital media outlet noted that Oxford offers “an intensive honors curriculum that requires students to take a minimum of four Advanced Placement courses to graduate.” Oxford freshman and sophomores can also select from four career pathways, including biomedical science, engineering, business/entrepreneurship, and software systems and development.
“Oxford Academy boasts a culturally diverse student body, with many students coming from homes where English is the second language,” U.S. News says.
All total, nine Orange County schools placed within California’s top 100, and a dozen local schools ranked within the top 1,000 nationally.
They include Troy High School in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District. Troy was Orange County’s second highest-rated school, coming in at No. 26 in California and No. 203 in the national rankings. Orange County School of the Arts, a charter in Santa Ana, was third in the county. It ranked No. 38 in California and No. 303 nationally.
University and Northwood high schools in the Irvine Unified School District were next on the OC list, ranking No. 47 and No. 55 in California, respectively.
The No. 1 spot in the nation was once again claimed by Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, located in Alexandria, Virginia. With a STEM-focused curriculum, Jefferson boasts 15 specialized research labs and offers such courses as DNA science, advanced marine biology, automation and robotics, architectural drawing and design, research statistics and AP calculus, the report says.
Methodology based on six factors
While a number of news outlets have attempted to rank school programs over the years, U.S. News is probably the best known and most consistent, producing its list annually.
Coordinating with North Carolina-based RTI International, a global nonprofit social science research firm, U.S. News examined indicators in six areas: college readiness, reading and math proficiency, reading and math performance, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth, and graduation rates.
“College readiness” measured participation and performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams. “Underserved student performance” focused on students who are Black, Hispanic, or from low-income households. For the first time, science proficiency and performance also factored into the methodology for states where science assessment data was available.
“The Best High Schools rankings take a comprehensive approach to evaluating schools,” said Eric Brooks, principal data analyst at U.S. News. “Looking at factors like graduation rates and underserved student performance, families can use this information to learn more about their local schools.”