Best high schools in California
Spending a school year in the USA in California participating in the VIP California program will give your child the possibility of being part of an American family in a safe environment and attending a high school in California. You will have the opportunity to improve your English level and cultural awareness and gain the necessary skills to succeed in the US school system and the future of the American university.
The schools and families have been selected under criteria that guarantee the best experience, and the School Year program in California is exclusive to this state.
Each year, lists come out highlighting the 100 “best” high schools in California. Look at them suspiciously. Whenever someone creates a “best” list, it is good to ask a basic question. In this case, that question is: best at what?
- The best to get your students admitted to the most exclusive universities?
- The best at educating children living in poverty?
- Best at educating children with special needs?
- The best at educating children whose parents attended college?
- The best at educating wealthy students?
Let’s take a look at the best schools from these listings.
The chart below digs deeper to examine the “best” schools from two major lists. I call them to school A and school B. That’s right. These listings selected very different schools. (The names of the schools do not appear in this article because these lists should not be cause for bragging.)
Both schools demonstrate academic excellence. There is no denying that children are doing very well. But each listing uses different selection criteria. It makes a big difference in terms of which schools are selected as the “best.”
- List A based on 60 percent of the score on academic factors and 10 percent on diversity
- List B considers the percentage of low-income students who tend to get lower scores on state tests to identify schools that exceed expectations statistics.
Take a moment to compare these schools. Then ask yourself: What are these schools “best” at?
|Student composition||Best school on list A||Best school on list B||California average|
|English students||1.3%||0%||twenty %|
|Of low resources||5.6%||23.9%||60%|
|With special needs||4.3%||1.5%||eleven %|
The above data comes from each school’s School Accountability Report Cards for the 2017–2018 school year.
We are number one!
So what did you see? First, of course, these “best” schools don’t reflect even a tiny bit of the student diversity of California schools. They represent a small portion of the schools, with few English Learners, few students with special needs, and relatively few students from low-income families.
- The first school on List A appears to be better at educating mostly wealthy students who are white and Asian, who is fluent in English, and who have very few disabilities.
- The first school on List B appears to be the best at educating students from diverse backgrounds, mostly Asian and Hispanic. Like List A, it reflects schools where students are fluent in English and have very few disabilities.
Comparison of listings
Let’s try another methodology. Instead of comparing schools, let’s compare the listings. Here are some high schools in San Francisco. I call them schools C, D, E, F, and G. (Yes, they are real schools. My children attended one of them.)
Is there a correlation between the listings? Definitely, in both lists, the rankings are strongly linked to the percentage of low-income students in the schools. Ultimately, however, less wealthy student communities perform better on List B than List A because the criteria were designed that way. Do schools get analogous rankings on Listings A and B? No way.
|School||Classification of list A||Classification of list B||% of low resources|
Income data come from each school’s School Accountability Report Cards for the 2017–2018 school year.
What did we learn? First of all, you have to examine what the ratings measure carefully. The issue goes beyond good results on state tests, graduation rates, and teachers. Who are the children who attend these schools?
- Are the best schools that educate mostly wealthy students without major learning challenges?
- Are the best schools the ones that help both wealthy and low-income students succeed?
Or is it that some of the best schools do not appear in these lists because the measures do not detect their successes? For example, what if a school is great at helping children who have suffered traumatic events? What if a school is great at helping children with special needs?
A better way to measure success?
Research reveals that students from wealthy and educated families often start school with an advantage. Students in these families tend to learn to read earlier. They learned the numbers before. They attend preschool and learn school rules earlier.
If a school enrolls many students with these advantages, it will do well on state tests. If the school serves as an effective filter, this does not necessarily mean that it is excellent. Can a school or district be considered the “best” if it starts with these advantages and stays ahead?
Another way to consider the excellence of a school is to consider the context. Hopefully, schools in upscale neighborhoods with many advantages will do well. But when schools in ordinary neighborhoods do well, this is Hollywood stuff.
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Which students advance the fastest? Rich people or poor people?
In 2018, a major study associated with the Getting Down to Facts projects compared student learning evidence in low-income and wealthy districts with some very interesting findings. Compared to the national average, low-income students in California start school at a disadvantage but improve faster. In contrast, wealthy students improve at the same rate as other wealthy students. According to the study:
California students have a greater rate of improvement than those in the rest of the country in median scores on state tests, and that growth rate is more evenly distributed. (The only exception is the wealthiest districts, which keep pace with the rest of the country.)
These findings do not indicate a disparity between low-income districts in California. The rest of the country results from students learning less, but rather suggest that children from low-income families have fewer educational opportunities in early childhood and, consequently, enter kindergarten with a deficit.
A school is not “bad” simply because its students start at a disadvantage. The result: a school is not the “best” simply because its students start with an advantage.
The California School Dashboard: Another Way to Measure Success
California once ranked schools the way these listings do. But the state has abandoned a single-number rating system in favor of a Dashboard that includes multiple measures. A word of caution for those who want instant winners and easy answers: There is no number one school.
The Dashboard examines performance over time. You can find out how each group of students is progressing. Here is an example from a high-performing school. Show how each group of students performs in Language Arts.
Look at the column on the left. It tells you that school performance is very high.
(A short guide to colors. Blue is excellent. Green means it is doing very well. But the direction of change matters. If performance drops, the color changes from blue to green.
The image below is part of a report called the five-by-five table, which can help you spot the patterns behind the average of your results. At this school, low-income, Asian, Hispanic, Filipino, and white students all collectively scored in Language Arts, putting them in the “very high” performance category. But these groups are displayed on the Dashboard with different performance colors depending on the direction of change in their scores.
White and Filipino students maintained or improved their performance, so the performance color for these groups is blue. In contrast, Asian, Hispanic, and low-income students had scores that showed signs of decline despite being very high.
Best high schools in California
To learn much more about the California School Dashboard, look at Ed100 Lesson 9.7 and follow the links to the blog articles.
1. Alta Loma High School
Friends, Alta Loma High School is one of the best options to complete the school year in the USA in California, as it is considered one of the top ten high schools in San Bernardino County. Alta Loma offers a strong academic, athletic, and performing arts curriculum. The school is located in the predominantly middle-class suburban community of Rancho Cucamonga.
In addition to core and elective courses chosen by our students, the school offers a comprehensive athletic program and instrumental, vocal music, drama, art, and dance.
2. Upland High School
Suppose the student wants to enjoy sports while doing their school year in the USA in California. In that case, this school is a great destination as it offers many sports available to students, including volleyball, soccer, baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, water polo—animation club, wrestling, athletics, cross country, soccer, and swimming.
In addition, this school offers many electives and sports. Graphic Arts, Art, Photo, Cooking, Choir, Band, and Ceramics are just a few. The school has a wide variety of advanced courses.
3. Claremont High School
This school offers you the opportunity to enjoy your school year in the USA in California fully. It is located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley in Claremont, California. It is a California Distinguished School and has twice achieved the National Blue Ribbon for academic excellence.
Claremont’s sports programs include soccer, basketball, volleyball, golf, baseball, softball, water polo, swimming and diving, wrestling, tennis, soccer, track and field, and cross country.
4. Bonita High School
Bonita High School is a high school located in La Verne, California, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. It has been rated the best school in America for 2017. Bonita has a long history of excellence, and its teaching staff works hard to create an environment where all students have the opportunity to excel. Without a doubt, one of the best destinations for the school year in the USA is California.
5. San Dimas High School
San Dimas High School has been named a California Distinguished School three times, most recently in 2009. It has been included in Newsweek magazine’s list of “America’s Best High Schools.” The Animation Program received a Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association in 2007. Another great option is to do the school year in the USA in California.
6. Glendora High School
Glendora is a California three-time distinguished school, and it is rated above average in school quality. The school has a bagpipe squad in its band program and has a good cross country team.
Glendora High School is a California Distinguished School, which means it is commended throughout the state for having a high API score, which measures student ability.
This school year, Chino Hills, Ayala, Carlsbad, Yorba Linda, Diamond Bar, Walnut high schools will join the program and many more schools!
What are the 100 best public high schools?
These top school rankings have some appeal. They produce a winning school, and that’s number one. They also suggest, whether on purpose or not, that if a school does not rank well on the list, it is not that good.
But just by looking at examples taken from these two “best” lists, we can see that there is no school number one, number ten, or number twenty. These listings disagree with each other, sometimes drastically. And they skip schools with other measures of success. If there is a moral, it is that there are many, many ways to view success.
So what should you do the next time someone talks about how well a school has ranked? First, congratulate the students, teachers, and parents. Much effort is required to achieve academic excellence. But then take it one step further. Use the occasion to discuss the many ways to measure success, what these listings reveal and what they miss.
Best high schools in California