It’s important for students to receive the best high school education possible so that they are prepared to transition into college or the workforce. Unfortunately, the District of Columbia doesn’t have the best reputation for education overall, ranking 41st among the states with the best school systems. Some public high schools within D.C. are better than others, though, and these discrepancies may have grown wider due to the way the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted schooling.
In order to determine the best public high schools in the District of Columbia, WalletHub compared 36 institutions across 27 key metrics. In addition to academic performance, our data set also considers factors like the school’s social environment, diversity and staff. This helps to give a clear overall picture of how each school supports its students with more than just knowledge.
2021’s Best Public High Schools in D.C.
Teacher & Staff
|1||School Without Walls High School||72.04||1||16||12||4|
|2||Washington Latin Public Charter School Upper School||66.21||3||3||9||29|
|3||Benjamin Banneker Academy High School||64.00||2||29||14||5|
|4||Ellington School of the Arts||62.68||6||19||11||6|
|5||Wilson High School||59.05||7||31||1||14|
|6||McKinley Technology High School||58.95||5||20||16||11|
|7||Paul Public Charter School International High School||56.71||17||6||6||8|
|8||E L Haynes Public Charter School Kansas Ave High School||56.27||14||14||2||12|
|9||Friendship Pcs Technology Preparatory Academy High||55.80||16||2||28||1|
|10||District Of Columbia International School||55.33||11||15||7||16|
|12||Capital City High School Public Charter School||54.49||9||10||3||33|
|13||KIPP DC College Preparatory||54.30||8||12||24||2|
|14||Seed Public Charter School of Washington DC||52.41||15||1||22||20|
|15||Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School||51.93||13||9||27||7|
|16||Friendship Public Charter School Woodson Collegiate Campus||51.64||18||11||23||3|
|17||Columbia Heights Eductional Campus||51.32||10||22||4||30|
|18||Phelps Architecture Construction and Engineering High School||50.84||12||18||18||19|
|19||Idea Public Charter School||47.80||23||4||29||13|
|20||Washington Leadership Academy Pcs||46.96||19||8||17||31|
|21||Cardozo Education Campus||46.89||26||21||5||26|
|22||Richard Wright Pcs For Journalism And Media Arts||45.97||20||7||25||24|
|23||Coolidge Senior High School||45.88||25||23||10||23|
|24||Cesar Chavez for Public Policy Parkside High School||45.28||22||17||21||15|
|25||Roosevelt High School at Macfarland||43.84||28||24||8||28|
|26||Woodson H D High School||43.69||21||25||30||18|
|27||Ron Brown College Preparatory High School||41.09||31||13||19||21|
|28||Dunbar High School||40.09||24||33||26||25|
|29||Eastern High School||39.77||27||32||20||27|
|30||Anacostia Senior High School||37.40||30||26||32||17|
|31||Ballou Senior High School||33.82||29||35||31||22|
|32||Maya Angelou Public Charter School Evans High School||32.53||32||5||35||34|
|33||Roosevelt Stay Hs||29.79||33||34||15||35|
|34||Luke Moore Alternative High School||27.80||35||36||34||9|
|35||Kingsman Academy Pcs||25.33||36||27||36||10|
|36||Ballou Stay Hs||20.85||34||30||33||36|
*Note: With the exception of “Total Score”, all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of high schools, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.
** Note: Some high schools were excluded from our sample due to data limitations. If you would like to have your public high school included in the 2022 ranking please contact us at: [email protected]
Ask the Experts
In order to shed more light on what makes the best public high school, as well as what steps we can take to deliver quality schooling to everyone, WalletHub turned to a panel of experts. Click on the pictures of the experts below to see their bios and responses to the following key questions:
- Does per pupil expenditure bear a significant relationship to educational quality?
- How important is the quality of the school for a fruitful development and future opportunities, compared to other external factors?
- What are the biggest educational challenges the pandemic has brought to light and what are the steps to overcome them?
- What would it take to deliver educational equity of resources to all students (from various backgrounds, income groups etc.)?
- In evaluating the quality of high schools, what are the top five indicators?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the best public high schools in D.C., WalletHub compared 36 public high schools across four key dimensions: 1) College Readiness, 2) School Experience, 3) Diversity and 4) Teacher & Staff.
We evaluated those dimensions using 27 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the best high school performance and the most favorable conditions for high school students during and after attendance.
Finally, we determined each high school’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
In constructing our sample, we selected public schools that had a 9th through 12th grade enrollment of 20 students or greater and that offered 12th grade as the highest grade during the 2019-2020 school year.
Some institutions were excluded from our sample due to data limitations. In some cases, data was not available for grades 9 through 12 only, and thus overall data was used. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we used overall data which does not apply to high school students exclusively but evaluates the overall quality and performance of institutions in our sample.
College Readiness – Total Points: 40
- 4-year High School Graduation Rate: Double Weight (~5.93 Points)
Note: Graduation rates reflect how many students graduate from this school on time.
- DC State Assessment Exam Scores: Full Weight (~2.96 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations on state assessments in ELA, Mathematics and Science.
- Share of Students Taking SAT or ACT During School Year: Full Weight (~2.96 Points)
- Share of Students Getting Median SAT Score or Above: Full Weight (~2.96 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the percentage of students who perform at a level that meets or exceeds the D.C. 50th percentile on the SAT, which is a score of 850.
- Share of Students Taking at Least 1 AP or IB Exam: Full Weight (~2.96 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the percentage of students taking at least one AP or IB exam by the time they complete their senior year. Advanced Placement classes are college-level courses students can take in high school. The share of students taking AP classes may reflect whether the school culture is focused on college.
- Share of Students Passing AP Exams and/or IB Exams: Full Weight (~2.96 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the share of students each year who score a 3 or above on an AP exam and/or a 4 or above on an IB exam. The AP exam pass rate reflects how many students at this school earned a passing score on at least one AP exam.
- SAT College and Career Ready Benchmark: Full Weight (~2.96 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the share of students who meet or exceed the College and Career Ready Benchmark on the SAT, which is set by the College Board. That score is 480 in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and 530 in Mathematics.
- Share of Students Enrolled in Dual Enrollment Classes: Half Weight (~1.48 Points)
Note: The dual enrollment participation rate reflects the percentage of students who are taking college courses while in high school. Credits for these courses apply both to high school diploma requirements and college graduation requisites.
- Share of Students Repeating a Grade: Double Weight (~5.93 Points)
Note: This metric refers to students who need to repeat the same grade rather than graduating to the next. In high school, a student who has not accumulated enough credits to be classified as being in the next grade is considered to be repeating a grade.
- Share of National Merit Scholarship Semi-finalist Students: Full Weight (~2.96 Points)
- Share of High School Graduates Enrolled in a Postsecondary Degree-granting Institution: Double Weight (~5.93 Points)
Note: The percentage of high school graduates who enrolled in a postsecondary degree-granting institution within 12 months after graduation.
School Experience – Total Points: 20
- Student-teacher Ratio*: Double Weight (~5.71 Points)
- Student-counselor Ratio*: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: “School Counselor” refers to a professional staff member assigned specific duties and school time for any of the following activities: counseling with students and parents, consulting with other staff members on learning problems, evaluating student abilities, assisting students in making education and career choices, assisting students in personal and social development, providing referral assistance, and/or working with other staff members in planning and conducting guidance programs for students.
- Share of Chronically Absent Students*: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This metric refers to students that miss attending 10% or more of the days in a school year.
- Share of Students Referred to Law Enforcement*: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: Referral to law enforcement Is an action by which a student is reported to any law enforcement agency or official, including a school police unit, for an incident that occurs on school grounds, during school related events, or while taking school transportation, regardless of whether official action is taken. Citations, tickets, court referrals, and school-related arrests are considered referrals to law enforcement.
- Non-personnel School Expenditures per Pupil*: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: Non-personnel school expenditures may include (but are not limited to) the following types of expenditures: professional development for teachers and other staff; instructional materials and supplies; computers, software, and other technology; contracted services such as distance learning services; and library books and media center learning materials.
- Sports Participation*: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This is a composite metric, which includes the interscholastic athletics participation rate and the number of interscholastic athletics teams for each high school.
Diversity – Total Points: 20
- Racial Diversity: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index method, a commonly accepted measure of market concentration that also works effectively as a general-purpose measure of diversity. The racial categories considered are the following:
- American Indian/Alaska Native
- Asian or Asian/Pacific Islander
- Hawaiian Native/Pacific Islander
- Economic Diversity*: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
Note: This metric refers to at risk students and is based on the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index method, a commonly accepted measure of market concentration that also works effectively as a general-purpose measure of diversity. “At risk” students are defined as students who possess one of the following characteristics at any point during the school year: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) enrollment, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment, identification as homeless by the student’s school or other community partners, under the care of the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), and/or overage (high school only).
Teachers & Staff – Total Points: 20
- Teacher Salary Expenditure*: Double Weight (~3.64 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted by the cost-of-living index.
- Share of Teachers with 2 or More Years of Experience*: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: “Experience” includes teaching in any school, subject, or grade; it does not have to be in the school, subject, or grade that the teacher is presently teaching.
- Share of Certified Teachers*: Double Weight (~3.64 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the share of teachers that hold a D.C. teaching certification, either Initial or Standard.
- Share of Teachers Teaching in Their Field*: Double Weight (~3.64 Points)
Note: “In-field” means the teacher has a college major, certification, or an effective teacher evaluation designation in the subject they are teaching.
- Presence of Nurse/Allied Health Professional on Staff*: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of a part-time or full-time registered nurse and/or allied health professional on staff.
- Presence of Psychologist on Staff*: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of a part-time or full-time psychologist on staff.
- Presence of Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker on Staff*: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of a part-time or full-time licensed independent clinical social worker on staff.
- Presence of Law Enforcement Officer on Campus and/or a Security Guard on Staff*: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: This composite binary metric considers the presence or absence of a part-time or full-time sworn law officer and/or presence of a part-time or full-time security guard on staff.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from The DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, The Civil Rights Data Collection, The National Merit Scholarship Corporation, The National Center for Education Statistics and AreaVibes.