Below are profiles featuring the top 12 high schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. In order to be featured as a Top High School, the school must have a 2010 Education.com TestRating of 10 out of 10. The TestRating compares a school's standardized test scores for a given year with scores from other schools in the same state. Find your school and see how it compares.
Oakland Unified School District
Since the American Indian Public High School serves a large free and reduced lunch population, the public charter school provides personal support and all the resources students need to attend a post-secondary school after graduation. The school focuses on college preparation and has a rigorous curriculum including an extended school year.
Free SAT prep classes are provided for each student and the school covers the test registration fees for the SAT and PSAT tests. Each student is provide with all the tools needed for success, including AP prep books, calculators, and school supplies. The school also pays for college application fees for each student and provides free tutoring whenever needed.
Personal support and mentoring is a priority with the staff. An on campus counselor walks the students through college application and financial aid processes, and many students receive full scholarships to top schools. After graduation, the school keeps in contact with graduates and provides support through college. The school hopes to have sports in the future, but currently only offers extracurricular activities, such as student government, chess, and scrabble.
“Our kids work incredibly hard and come into school knowing it will be difficult. By setting high expectations for our students and giving them the resources, our students are successful,” said Rebecca Cisin, Administrative Assistant to the Director.
San Ramon Valley Unified School District
Parental and community involvement at California High School helps the school provide excellent programming and support for the students. During the recent budget shortfall, the parents banded together to supplement the allocated budget. In addition to an athletic booster club, the school also has booster clubs to support Academics, Choral Music, Drama, Instrumental, and PTSA programs. Community and business partnerships are also integral to the success of the school.
Students benefit from new and renovated athletic facilities, including an aquatic center, tennis courts, and a softball/baseball complex. Other new building projects include a new main building, Fine Arts building, theater, and gymnasium. The school offers winning athletic and academic teams. For those who aren't feeling athletic, other campus activities include clubs and the performing arts program.
An academically rigorous environment is provided through many AP courses and honors course. Dual enrollment options are also available at nearby colleges. Students can pursue future careers through the Regional Occupational Program. Two academies are offered for interested students – Biomedical Academy and Biomedical Sciences Academy.
Acalanes Union High School District
Campolindo High School uses a challenging curriculum and the latest technology to create a high performing school. The administration is impressive and the principal received the honor of California Principal of the Year in 2009.
The AP program offers an extensive selection of courses and attracts many students. Through the Learning Skills program, high performing students tutor struggling students.
One of the highlights of the school is the integration of technology into the school and instruction. The school has an on campus architecture, digital photo, and video production lab. The students have access to iPads, smart pens, digital cameras, and computers, and many classes are equipped with Smart Boards that teachers actively use in instruction.
Athletics are competitive and Bob Wilson, Campolindo's Athletic Director, received statewide recognition in 2010. The school is known for having a first rate swimming pool that is used for many competitions on a high level. The school also places on an emphasis on the arts and has over 30 art classes for students to choose from.
Palo Alto Unified School District
The community members living near Henry M. Gunn High School, even those without children enrolled at the school, provide incredible support through volunteering, voting for funding, and donations. The school gives students advanced opportunities through many educational partnerships, including working with Stanford and San Jose State for instruction. Local companies also provide equipment to enhance the classroom studies.
Technology education is also emphasized through courses in computer science, virtual animation, robotics, and automotive technology. iPads are currently being piloted at the school and technology is integrated into the curriculum.
The school offers many AP classes and many academic teams take top honors in events. To promote the whole child, the school provides many opportunities for exposure to the arts including choir, several bands, ceramics, theater, and video production. Athletics are popular and competitive on campus, and a high percent of students playing a sport. While some 135 clubs available are focused on fun, the majority of the clubs focus on service.
“Because our school is in Silicon Valley, there is definitely a feeling here and an environment that supports and permeates of feeling of inquiry, knowledge, and drive,” said Katya Villalobos, Principal.
San Francisco Unified School District
Students at Lowell High School are focused on post-secondary education and over 97 percent of them are college-bound. The school is a magnet school for San Francisco residents and students are admitted based on an application process.
Lowell uses modular scheduling with 21 modules each day so students can schedule in activities and free time. When students have a free module, they can use one of the resource centers on campus. In the second semester of the ninth grade, students begin self-scheduling their classes.
Student participation in activities is one of the hallmarks of the school and over 80 clubs are offered. Top honors are often taken home by the Speech and Debate Team and Mock Trial. The Junior ROTC is also very active on campus.
The school holds the record for city championships among San Francisco public high schools and currently has 27 sports teams. Dances throughout the year and the Cardinal Carnival are popular on-campus events.
The school's philosophy, as detailed on their website, reads: "Lowell endeavors to create a just and equitable society where individual responsibilities are clearly defined and personal rights guaranteed. It endorses the concept of an integrated school where cultural and social diversity enrich the lives of all students."
Fremont Union High School District
School spirit runs high at Lynbrook High, from students showing up to cheer on athletic teams to participation in school activities. The students are also very involved in the community and complete many service hours, even though there is no community service requirement for graduation. The teachers base their classroom instruction on research and participate in extra professional development.
Technology is utilized throughout the school and in the classrooms, and students have access 24 hours a day to online resources. A large selection of AP and Honors courses are offered and peer tutoring is also offered through the Star Program.
Many of arts programs are award-winning, including the dance team, music programs, and art and design programs. The school has over 75 clubs and many have received state and national recognition, such as the Math Club, Science Clubs, Future Business Leaders of America, Robotics Team, Speech & Debate Team, and Japanese Honor Society. Many students also take top honors each year at the Science Fair. The yearbook, newspaper, and literary magazine have also taken home awards in recent years.
“There is a great love of learning at Lynbrook High. Students are focused and involved in the school.” Said Principal Gail Davidson.
Fremont Union High School District
While Monta Vista High School is highly academically focused, the school also boasts a high level of school spirit. The school pays great attention to college preparation and sends 97 percent of students to college after graduation. The AP program is a source of pride on campus; over 1800 tests were administered in a recent year with an 89 percent pass rate. In 2010, the school had 53 National Merit Semi Finalists and 87 National Merit Commended Scholars.
On Challenge Days that take place throughout the year, students can participate in games, activities and discussions regarding bullying. Although the school does not require community service hours, the student body contributes many volunteer hours to the school and community. Many activities are available for students include musical groups, Mock Trial, Robotics, and NHS (National Honor Society). A full array of sports teams are available and the Dance Team is highly competitive on a national level.
Principal April Scott writes on the school website, “We are all about developing the whole child, helping students to develop academically, personally, and culturally. We try to maintain our stated goal constantly in mind: Educating the Whole Child and Educating Every Child.”
Acalanes Union High School District
While other schools cut back during the recession, the parent groups at Miramonte High School stepped in and allowed the school to continue providing top notch programs. Parents donated funds for the sports and arts programs, supplies, and funding for elective classes. Students are highly motivated and 99 percent are college-bound after graduation. In recent years, the school administered over 800 AP exams and boasts a high pass rate.
The media center offers over 20,000 books and over 30 computers for student use. Many audio books are also available for download. Participation in campus life is high; 900 of the 1200 students play on one of the 20 competitive sports team. The performing arts program is stellar and includes a renowned choir and drama program. Fine arts are also a priority with both 2D and 3D fine arts courses offered. Students have a high level of school spirit and can choose from an extensive list of extracurricular activities.
“We are student centered school, the curriculum and the programs don’t drive what we do. It’s the students that drive what we do,” said Principal Adam Clark.
Fremont Unified School District
If you attend graduation at Mission San Jose High School, you will notice that there is not a single valedictorian, but rather an astounding 28. Because the school has a very large population of high achieving students, the school awards all students who achieve a 4.0 for all four years (they don't weigh grades) the honor of valedictorian. To further help the students stay on equal footing with students from other high schools when applying for college, the school also does not rank students.
Parents are very involved and many students are the first in their family to be born in the United States. The school does not offer any basic level classes and the majority of the students take AP or honors classes; Mission San Jose boasts many National Merit Finalists and Semifinalist each year. To help students learn balance, stress reduction workshops are taught and there are stress-free weeks that include reduced homework during the year.
The academic teams, including the Ocean Bowl and Robotics Team, bring home many trophies. The dance team often wins top honors and the band has traveled internationally to perform. The school has many successful sports teams, including a nationally ranked Badminton team.
“We try to keep a balanced atmosphere at Mission San Jose. While we are very high achieving, it is still high school and the kids still need to have fun and be creative.” said Sandra Prairie, Principal.
Piedmont City Unified School District
The administration at Piedmont High School credits community support through financial contributions and volunteer hours to the school's success. Many people move to the area for the school system and the staff gives over 100 tours per year to families looking to relocate. The small student body (around 700 students) enables teachers to provide personal attention to each student.
While the school is known for its academic programs, students are also very involved in after school activities. Over 78 percent of students play on a sports team and many are involved in clubs. The creative arts are emphasized and the school offers over 20 different art courses. The Mock Trial team has been very successful at competitions and the school also has sponsored an Annual Bird Calling Event for the last 50 years that is attended by many community members.
“It is really about academic achievement. We have students extremely serious about their education and a staff that raises the cognitive demands of their students,” said Randall Booker, Principal.
Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District
With the a culture of high achievement at the school, the administration at Saratoga High School seeks to help students find balance while still working towards success. The school provides a college preparatory education and sends 95 percent of students to college after graduation.
Many of the students have cultural ties to another country, which means students are exposed to new ideas on a daily basis. Since many of the students are focused on getting accepted at top colleges, the school focuses on helping students not getting burned out before college and finds way for the students to be teenagers.
The music program has reputation for excellence and features a string orchestra, choral group, and wind ensemble. Musically-inclined students perform in the community at various events. The drama program puts on numerous productions in the state of the art campus theater that many community members attend. Athletics provide another outlet for students and teams are competitive in the league. Many clubs are available on campus to further student interests. Students interested in website design and game animation can attend the Media Arts Program, which is a school within the school.
“Our goal isn’t trying to bring up test scores, our goal is to help the kids to develop in all areas of their life,” said Principal Jeff Anderson.
Please note that only schools in the following California counties were considered for this article: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara.