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The 50 Smartest Public High Schools In America

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Tanza Loudenback

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clockNov 29 2016, 13:55 UTC

Princeton High School is among the smartest in the US. Wikimedia Commons

Despite popular belief, the best high-school education doesn't always come from a private school. In fact, several of America's best public high schools offer top-level academics — without the five-figure tuition cost.

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Niche, a company that researches and compiles information on schools, recently released its 2016 ranking of the best public high schools in America, from which it also ranked the schools with the best academics — the smartest public schools in America.

Niche ranked the schools' academics by key factors like graduation rates, performance on SAT/ACT and Advanced Placement tests, and student and parent reviews for 23,861 public high schools across the US. You can read the full methodology here.

Read on for the 50 smartest public high schools in the US.

 

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Wikimedia Commons

50. Monta Vista High School

Location: Cupertino, California

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Average SAT score: 2130

AP test pass rate: 87.2%

"Very hard academics in terms of teacher standards, so that inevitably pushes you to become a better student," said one alum. 

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"There is a very huge presence of AP/honors classes, and a huge student-preference towards math and science-type classes," commented another.

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49. Carroll Senior High School

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Location: Southlake, Texas

Average SAT score: 1940

AP test pass rate: N/A

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"Carroll is academically challenging at first but you get used to the workload," said one Niche user. "There are a lot of different elective options and its pretty common to get all the classes you want."

Indian Hill Schools 

48. Indian Hill High School

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Location: Cincinnati

Average SAT score: 1920

AP test pass rate: 83.2%

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Many Indian Hill students complimented the school's educators. "The teachers are amazing. Our counselors are always available to help us whenever a problem arises: teacher conflicts, schedules, or just general problems," said a senior. 

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47. Westwood High School

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Location: Austin, Texas

Average SAT score: 1950

AP test pass rate: 85.1%

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"Students learn a lot, maybe even more than they need but that doesn't hurt anyone," reported a Westwood junior. 

A Niche user added: "The academics are extremely competitive. Most students work hard academically. The curriculum is designed to make students work hard."

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46. San Marino High School

Location: San Marino, California

Average SAT score: 2020

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AP test pass rate: 67.4%

At San Marino, "there is high motivation to get good grades and strong emphasis on succeeding in school," said a Niche user. "The AP classes are very available to those qualified and the district has made many accommodations for AP classes."

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45. Miramonte High School

Location: Orinda, California

Average SAT score: 2030

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AP test pass rate: 82.9%

"Miramonte has a reputation for good academics, and really lives up to that reputation," commented a senior. "The school offers basic classes that anyone can take, but also a lot of APs, honors classes, and electives."

Wikimedia Commons 

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44. Mission San Jose High School

LocationFremont, California

Average SAT score: 2130

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AP test pass rate: 89%

"I came to college prepared to take on anything and managed to juggle a full course load while still maintaining a social life," an MSJHS alum reported.

And a Niche user added that "teachers constantly challenge students to go above and beyond in their studies, especially in STEM subjects for which MSJHS is highly acclaimed."

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43. Roslyn High School

LocationRoslyn Heights, New York

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Average SAT score: 1980

AP test pass rate: 91.4%

The workload isn't too intense at Roslyn, according to a sophomore. "There are many different courses available, with different levels of each course. There is a pretty heavy workload if you take multiple AP courses, but it is usually manageable."

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"The academics offered are amazing. The teachers are available to help and support the students," said a Niche user. 

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42. Montgomery High School

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Location: Skillman, New Jersey

Average SAT score: 1970

AP test pass rate: 91.4%

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Despite the heavy workload at Montgomery, "the special study options are great," commented a Niche user. "There are teachers available to stay after school with any student, there are other resources the school offers for students who are in need of academic help."

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41. Blind Brook High School

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LocationRye Brook, New York

Average SAT score: 1910

AP test pass rate: 95.3%

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"Classes are engaging, interesting, and challenging," said a Niche user. And the teachers at Blind Brook "are always available for help and do their best to create exciting lessons and get to know students."

Wikimedia Commons 

40. Great Neck South High School

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Location: Great Neck, New York

Average SAT score: 2000

AP test pass rate: 92.6%

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"Great Neck South High School offers many interesting classes. Students can join regents level classes, honors level classes, or AP level classes," said a senior.

According to one senior, "the curriculum for many classes is changing to become more common-core-based and generally they're created to parallel standardized tests." 

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39. Charter School of Wilmington

Location: Wilmington, Delaware

Average SAT score: 1960

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AP test pass rate: 79.3%

"The students are provided a challenging curriculum and they are well prepared for college after four years of study," said a Charter School of Wilmington parent. "The workload is tough but can be managed along with participation in after-school activities."

Wikimedia Commons 

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38. New Trier Township High School

Location: Winnetka, Illinois

Average SAT score: 2030

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AP test pass rate: 85.8%

A Niche user said the academics are wide ranging at New Trier, with a variety of AP classes offered. Plus, "the school has a policy that teachers can only give tests on certain days depending which department you work in, this spreads out all the test taking throughout the week," they added.

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37. Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School

Location: Bethesda, Maryland

Average SAT score: 1890

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AP test pass rate: 73.3%

One senior touted Bethesda-Chevy Chase as above average. "There are plenty of teachers who really want you to succeed and will meet you more than halfway," the person said. 

"The curriculum is pretty rigorous and the workload is a lot, especially in the IB program," shared another. "They're more focused on you actually learning than simply doing 'busy work.'"

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36. Westlake High School

Location: Austin, Texas

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Average SAT score: 1960

AP test pass rate: N/A

"Classes are college prep level. Instructors are highly qualified and motivated to inspire students. A large portion of the school are taking multiple AP classes," commented a Westlake senior.

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"Everyone is super competitive. Students sometimes correct the teachers because they are that smart," claimed a Niche user.

Wikimedia Commons 

35. The Early College at Guilford

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Location: Greensboro, North Carolina

Average SAT score: 2080

AP test pass rate: 85.3%

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"At the Early College at Guilford (ECG) we speed up our curriculum so as to complete two years of high school in one year," explained a senior. Then, "after we have completed our high school curriculum in two years, we are allowed to take college classes at the affiliated college, Guilford College."

Wikimedia Commons 

34. Saratoga High School

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Location: Saratoga, California

Average SAT score: 2080

AP test pass rate: 78.7%

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Niche commenters agreed that while the workload is intense, Saratoga teachers are top-notch. "Most of the teachers genuinely care for the student's learning and are very friendly. There is a good mix of regular and AP/honors classes. There is usually a big workload for advanced classes," reported one Niche user.

Facebook/Whitney M. Young Magnet High School 

33. Young Magnet High School

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Location: Chicago

Average SAT score: 1970

AP test pass rate: 77.1%

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"Academics are held to an incredibly high standard. ... Rather than trying to outsmart the student next to us, we work together to outperform other schools," said a Niche user. 

"The workload can be stressful but it is preparing you for college," added another.

Facebook/Fremont Union High School District 

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32. Lynbrook High School

Location: San Jose, California

Average SAT score: 2130

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AP test pass rate: 83.5%

Multiple commenters touted the competitive but rewarding nature of Lynbrook. "My school is extremely competitive, and students really drive the school to the top," shared a senior. "Teachers are always there to supplement our learning, and it makes for a great high school experience."

Wikimedia Commons 

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31. Lexington High School

LocationLexington, Massachusetts

Average SAT score: 2030

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AP test pass rate: 89.3%

"What is unique about LHS is the students' ability to take the highest level of classes each year. Students have options of taking Level 1, Honors, and AP for every year of high school," said a Niche user.

"Classes are designed to prepare students for college," added another.

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30. Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics & Engineering Technologies (MCASMET)

Location: Edison, New Jersey

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Average SAT score: 2200

AP test pass rate: 82.4%

Students who attend MCASMET are preparing for careers in STEM-related fields. "We are all hardworking and intelligent (in our own ways), and we overall do well in classes," said a Niche user. "The engineering classes (judged solely on curricula) are very good and set us apart from other schools."

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29. Academic Magnet High School

Location: North Charleston, South Carolina

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Average SAT score: 2030

AP test pass rate: 84.8%

Two seniors reported that Academic Magnet High School's curriculum is challenging. "The classes offered are all either honors or AP level. This school focuses on the AP program and requires all students to complete at least four AP courses," explained a Niche user. 

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28. Pine View School

Location: Osprey, Florida

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Average SAT score: 2030

AP test pass rate: 66.3%

"The students at this school are very hardworking, motivated, and intelligent. The teachers and administrators stress academic excellence and expect a lot out of the students," reported a Niche user. They also said the academic Olympics at Pine View "became our version of a sporting event since the school doesn't have any sports teams for high schoolers."

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27. Oxford Academy

Location: Cypress, California

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Average SAT score: 2040

AP test pass rate: 96.9%

Many Niche users tout Oxford Academy as the top high school in California, citing its rigorous academics and hardworking teachers. "The school is nationally recognized as a Blue-Ribbon School and competes with the best of the best," said a senior.

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26. Thomas S. Wootton High School

Location: Rockville, Maryland

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Average SAT score: 1970

AP test pass rate: 82.8%

"The curriculum is challenging but greatly prepares you for the college environment," shared a Niche user. 

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A WHS senior added: "The teachers for higher level classes and AP level classes are very knowledgeable in their subject. The workload is pretty heavy, but various clubs and honors societies provide tutoring for anyone who needs it."

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25. Basis Scottsdale

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Location: Scottsdale, Arizona

Average SAT score: 2180

AP test pass rate: 63.9%

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"The students who go here are mostly highly self-motivated and smart. Most of them manage on their own," said a Basis senior. 

According to another senior, "many students achieve a much higher education than many of their peers from other schools," thanks to a large selection of AP classes.

Facebook/Princeton High School 

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24. Princeton High School

Location: Princeton, New Jersey

Average SAT score: 2020

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AP test pass rate: 92%

One Princeton High School senior praised the school's quality academic environment. "It's vigorous but you will easily be ready for college. I've talked with college friends and Princeton alums end up being the brightest. It also helps that everyone around you is very motivated," they said.

Facebook/Adlai E. Stevenson High School 

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23. Adlai E. Stevenson High School

Location: Lincolnshire, Illinois

Average SAT score: 2140

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AP test pass rate: 85.6%

"Academically, if you attend Stevenson you are set for college," declared a sophomore. "The courses are intense, difficult, and require a ton of work to succeed."

A Niche user said that "teachers care a lot about their students and can be understanding about other classes students are taking."

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Facebook/Highland Park ISD 

22. Highland Park High School

Location: Dallas

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Average SAT score: 1950

AP test pass rate: 77.2%

One Highland Park senior explained that the school's rigorous academics are "very cut throat and designed to mimic college curriculum as well as teach students how to be independent and function on their own."

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International School 

21. International School

Location: Bellevue, Washington

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Average SAT score: 1970

AP test pass rate: 77.5%

The academics are excellent at International School, according to several commenters. "AP classes, in particular, are highly encouraged, and often required to graduate," reported one Niche user.

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"International is a good fit for students who are academically inclined and are truly on a quest to learn," added another.

Byram Hills School District/Facebook 

20. Byram Hills High School

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Location: Armonk, New York

Average SAT score: 2010

AP test pass rate: 75.7%

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"Byram Hills has an incredibly competitive atmosphere and the workload is very intense. The teachers are great though and so are the courses," said a junior.

"Teachers are for the most part really passionate about what they do and helpful. The workload, especially for AP classes, is pretty tough but that is to be expected," a senior added.

Wikipedia 

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19. Bronxville High School

Location: Bronxville, New York

Average SAT score: 1970

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AP test pass rate: 93.5%

One Bronxville senior reported that students have an "extremely heavy workload, but a large variety of classes and options. Teachers are dedicated, and students are typically highly motivated to succeed."

Yelp/April S. 

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18. Winston Churchill High School

Location: Potomac, Maryland

Average SAT score: 1980

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AP test pass rate: 87.9%

"The academics at Winston Churchill HS are rigorous and interesting," said a student. Plus, "the school provides ample opportunity to succeed with free tutoring in the morning, at lunch, and after school, online grade management, and, teachers who truly care about your future success."

International Academy 

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17. International Academy

Location: Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Average SAT score: 2120

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AP test pass rate: N/A

Several Niche commenters touted International Academy's International Baccalaureate program. "The IB curriculum is incredible because it tests your knowledge and not memory, and the teachers do a great job of executing the program and teaching the material," explained one Niche user.

Wikimedia Commons 

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16. Scarsdale Senior High School

Location: Scarsdale, New York

Average SAT score: 2030

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AP test pass rate: N/A

"The workload is tough for the kids but it also prepares them very well for the future and their continuing education when they move on to colleges and universities," commented a Scarsdale parent.

"Kids around you care about their work and you will too. ... we take exams seriously," added a senior.

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15. Millburn Senior High School

Location: Millburn, New Jersey

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Average SAT score: 2010

AP test pass rate: 98.5%

"MHS is known for its impressive academic standing," said an alum. "The homework load at Millburn was extraordinarily heavy and the courses were challenging. However, as a current college student, I feel more than adequately prepared, thanks to my high school education."

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Wikimedia Commons 

14. Walt Whitman High School

Location: Bethesda, Maryland

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Average SAT score: 1980

AP test pass rate: 84.7%

Most Niche commenters praised Walt Whitman's teachers. "All teachers encourage students to do their best to push themselves," said a parent. "Most teachers are helpful and willing to help you if needed outside of class."

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A student added: "The academics offered at Whitman are great. There are so many AP classes available and teachers are very helpful."

Wikimedia Commons 

13. Henry M. Gunn High School

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Location: Palo Alto, California

Average SAT score: 2090

AP test pass rate: 86%

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"Great teachers and a real push by the entire school and student body of everyone trying to do their best," reported a Gunn High School senior. "[It] makes the environment very stressful however it is also a thriving learning environment."

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12. Walter Payton College Prep

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Location: Chicago

Average SAT score: 2070

AP test pass rate: 82%

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"Classes are interesting and eye-opening for the most part, though they are certainly demanding and consume much of a student's free time," said a junior. "Students come into Payton recognizing that they will be working hard for the next four years, and this is certainly no lie."

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11. Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science & Technology (GSMST)

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia

Average SAT score: 1980

AP test pass rate: 82.1%

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GSMST has a STEM-focused curriculum that many commenters called rigorous but top-notch. 

"You have to study, you have to ask questions, you have to prepared for your lessons," said a Niche user. "GSMST challenges you, it challenges all types of students whether you were a genius in middle school or not."

Poolesville High School PTSA/Facebook 

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10. Poolesville High School

Location: Poolesville, Maryland

Average SAT score: 2020

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AP test pass rate: 81.4%

Poolesville is a magnet high school with a "variety of programs including the Science Math and Computer Science Magnet, the Global Ecology Magnet, and the Humanities Magnet, as well as the Independent Studies House, everyone at Poolesville gets a rigorous and challenging education," said a senior.

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9. Horace Greeley High School

Location: Chappaqua, New York

Average SAT score: 1980

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AP test pass rate: 95.2%

"The academics are the best part about Greeley," according to one Niche user. "The teachers want you to do well and push you to try harder. There is a large workload, but most students keep up with the work."

Talented and Gifted Magnet/Facebook 

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8. School for the Talented & Gifted

Location: Dallas

Average SAT score: 2030

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AP test pass rate: 85.2%

One Niche user praised TAG's quality academic environment. "Although the stress sometimes is absolutely awful, you forget how smart you are because you're in an environment which is entirely made up of smart people and is very competitive," the person said.

Flickr/amorimur 

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7. Rye High School

Location: Rye, New York

Average SAT score: 1950

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AP test pass rate: 89.8%

"You are expected to do your best [at Rye]," said a Niche user. And the teachers are the key to students reaching their potential, said another user. "They always offered extra help on certain days after school, and some teachers were very accommodating in trying to work with students one-on-one for extra help."

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6. Jericho Senior High School

Location: Jericho, New York

Average SAT score: 2050

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AP test pass rate: 79.7%

"Jericho's academics are top tier, and it shows from all the students' hard work," commented a senior.

"The teachers really care about the students, and try [their] hardest to teach everything they can," a junior added.

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5. Northside College Preparatory High School

Location: Chicago

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Average SAT score: 2040

AP test pass rate: 94.8%

Northside academics are "amazing," according to a junior. "I always feel challenged in my courses, but also feel confident that I will succeed. Northside makes it so that as long as you are actively engaged in your learning you can achieve highly which I think is important."

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4. Bergen County Academies

Location: Hackensack, New Jersey

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Average SAT score: 2150

AP test pass rate: 82%

Challenging academics define BCA, according to commenters. The school is "rigorous and intellectually challenging," said one Niche user. "Some classes will leave you drained but inundated with knowledge, which is much, much more rewarding than it sounds."

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Facebook/Liberal Arts and Science Academy 

3. Liberal Arts & Science Academy (LASA)

Location: Austin, Texas

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Average SAT score: 2050

AP test pass rate: 77.4%

Several Niche commenters lauded LASA's difficult curriculum. "It is extremely tough but worth it because it prepared me very well for college," shared a user.

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"LASA's main draw is its academic intensity. If you want to be challenged, you will be," added a junior.

Twitter/High Technology HS 

2. High Technology High School

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Location: Lincroft, New Jersey

Average SAT score: 2240

AP test pass rate: 85.9%

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"The school is unique in that starting in freshman year and continuing onward students are required to take college level courses in Engineering (through Project lead the Way curriculum)," explained an HTHS senior.

"This school will transform almost anyone into an overachiever. The air is slightly competitive with high expectations," said another.

Facebook/TJHSST

  1. 1. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology

Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Average SAT score: 2230

AP test pass rate: 98.8%

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"The quality of STEM instruction at this school is incomparable," said a Niche user.

"Math, science, and tech labs are extensive. The hardest classes are well into the college range ... Seniors get to pursue subjects they are genuinely interested in, and finish projects by the end of the year," commented one senior. 

 

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