Below are profiles featuring the top 17 high schools in the Phoenix Metropolitan 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.
Arizona Agribusiness & Equine Center Inc. District
Students at the Arizona Agribusiness & Equine Center charter schools can earn college credit and participate in unique science and agriculture experiences while in high school. Depending on the campus, student can focus on robotics, engineering, agriculture business, and medical science. All members of the highly-qualified teaching staff hold at least a Master's in their field of instruction.
Starting freshman year, students take their first college class, followed by several in their sophomore year. By junior year and senior years, the students are fully immersed in college classes (which are tuition free!) at either Maricopa Community Colleges or Yavapai Community College. Over 30 percent of the students graduate with an Associates of Arts degree and an average of 48 college credits, which saves around $40K in college tuition.
To provide a unique agriculture experience, each campus has horses and active equine program. Students interested in obtaining their Vet Tech certificate or attending Vet school can participate in a Vet Science program with an on campus Vet. All students must participate in intensive science projects and several campuses have advanced microscopes for students to learn on.
“By stimulating our students to think, act, and perform on a community college level while in high school, it causes them to be success on college level when they get to college,” Dr. William Conley, Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services.
Two of the AAEC schools made the Education.com list of top ranked schools – Paradise Valley and Red Mountain.
Students at the Paradise Valley campus work with the Arizona Game and Fish and Arizona Zoo on an extended project involving DNA sequencing for an endangered frog. Students have become experts on the topic and have even had the opportunity to present their work at international conferences. In addition to academic projects, students can participate in extracurricular activities, such as National Honor Society and Future Farmers of America. The campus is also newly renovated and has impressive labs and classrooms.
Due to its proximity to high-tech colleges, students at the Red Mountain Campus engage in specialized engineering programs. Students have opportunities in robotics, engineering, math, and science, in addition to exposure to a host of activities, such as prom, interest clubs, and a student newspaper.
Arizona School for the Arts School District
Arizona School for the Arts provides a challenging curriculum in an expressive and creative environment. Admission to the charter school is through a lottery and there is no selection criteria for acceptance.
A typical day includes studying core academic subjects in the morning, followed by two arts courses in the afternoon. At the end of their sophomore year, students select a major in music, dance, or drama. The school provides students with connections to the arts community through partnerships with Ballet Arizona and Phoenix Theatre, and students have access to an on campus music conservatory.
In core subjects, students focus on writing and critical thinking. While the academics are challenging, many project-based activities are incorporated into the curriculum. The school focuses on college preparation and 94 percent of students head to a post secondary school after graduating. Students explore other interests through activities such as Mock Trial, NHS, and traditional high school events, such as homecoming and prom.
“As an art school, people think that we simply focus on the arts, but our kids have a dual focus and are very well prepared for any and all possibilities after high school,” said Principal Leah Fregulia-Roberts.
Basis Scottsdale graduated 25 students in 2011, all of whom headed to some of the country's most prestigious universities. The school begins in fifth grade, and as students progress through the grades they become mentors to younger students. In addition to challenging courses and many AP classes, students take board exams that are factored into their final grade. Because of the rigorous academic requirements, students can graduate early, and those who stay for their senior year spend most of it focusing on projects.
Many of the teachers at Basis Scottsdale are professionals in their field, and all teachers attend a Basis bootcamp to learn about polices, philosophies, classroom management. Teachers are given freedom to design their curriculum and are also required to go to ongoing professional development. The teachers also participate in Basis Best Practices, where they shadow other teachers or a group of students to learn how students interact in other classrooms. The staff also has regular staff meetings to keep tabs on the students and help make sure that students who are struggling get extra help.
“The academic excellence at our school revolves around interaction between teachers and students,” said Arwynn Gilroy, Communications Director.
Scottsdale Unified District
Chaparral High School describes itself as a college preparatory school and 92 percent of the students head to a post-secondary institution after graduation. The school uses an interactive learning style and individualized attention to help each child succeed.
Over 1/3 of the student take an AP courses and the school holds an 87 percent pass rate on the exams. Students also have the option of taking online courses through Chaparral, which is a new development for the school. Sports are popular and have a long history of success, especially in baseball, football, badminton, and lacrosse. Students can choose from over 40 clubs, including Robotics and National Honor Society. The Speech and Debate Club has recently taken home top honors at competitions.
The school's Mission Statement details, “Chaparral High School is committed to developing the leaders of tomorrow by providing a safe and respectful educational environment, developing the potential of each individual, encouraging community awareness and fostering a tradition of excellence.”
Tempe Union High School District
Community service is a priority at Corona Del Sol High School. Many students participate in service-oriented clubs, and each year they raise thousands of dollars for charity. In recent years, the school's had 100 National Merit scholarship finalists and many other national awards and scholarship.
Fine and performing arts programs are popular, including the choir, various bands and ensembles.
“At Corona del Sol, we provide students with a comprehensive, diverse and challenging curriculum. Students enjoy the safe and friendly atmosphere of a beautifully designed and maintained campus. Our Mission is, 'The Corona del Sol community is committed to educational excellence and to the development of honorable, contributing member of society,'” said Jim Bell, Assistant Principal.
Scottsdale Unified District
The academic standards are high at Desert Mountain High School, where over 97 percent of the students head to college after receiving their high school diploma. The campus stresses green living and boasts recently-installed solar panels. Parent involvement is high and the PTO is very active.
The school's International Baccalaureate program has the highest diploma rate in the U.S. , and students can also select from a wide number of AP courses.
While academics are the focus, the school is also very active once school's out. During the past five years, the school has taken home 17 different state titles in a variety of both boys' and girls' sports. The performing arts are a source of pride at the school as well - the chorus recently sang at Carnegie Hall, the band marched in a London parade, and the theater program performed in Scotland.
“We have a beautiful campus which overlooks the Phoenix Valley,” said Greg Milbrandt, Principal. “Last year alone (2010), our graduating seniors earned over $25 million in scholarship offers.”
Visitors to Desert Vista often tell staff that the culture and climate of the school reminds them of a college campus. The curriculum provides college level opportunities and students are able to earn an AA degree to accompany their high school diploma.
All Desert Vista teachers hold advanced degrees, which ensures that classes count for college credit. Students also benefit from a high level of technology on campus that is used in classroom instruction.
Students can enroll in the nationally-recognized Fine Arts academy, the high-level Bio Science program and an extensive variety of foreign language courses. Other top performing groups include the Speech and Debate Club, Marching Band, Orchestra, Math Team, and the Health Occupations Students of America. The football, girls’s volleyball, and track and field teams have also done well regionally and nationally.
“I serve an amazing community. Desert Vista has the very best teachers that understand what it means to continue professional growth to assist student centered learning. Without the parent support and enthusiasm about education, all that DV has accomplished would not be possible,” said Dr. Anna Battle, Principal.
Foothills Academy School District
With a student body of 250, each student benefits from personal instruction and small class sizes at Foothills Academy. The school includes grades 6 through 12 and admission to the charter school is through lottery. The curriculum is based on an interactive online learning program that includes discussion, homework and videos. The school has a peer judiciary committee, which provides students with an opportunity to weigh in on issues, such as breaking the code of conduct.
Technology is integrated throughout the school and used in everyday instruction. Each student is encouraged to bring their laptop to school to access the wireless network, and loaner laptops are available for students to borrow.
To supplement the curriculum, the school sponsors field experiences such as overseas trips, visits to local museums and events, team building activities, and athletic events. Both competitive and intramural athletic teams provide opportunities for students, and the student council is also very active on campus. Students wanting extra experiences or needing help can attend one of the many summer programs offered through Foothills.
The website states,“The Academy achieves four major program objectives Academic excellence, Personal and social development, Leadership, and Sense of community on and off campus.”
The students at Gilbert Classical Academy High School go on to prestigious universities, and the 29 students in the 2011 graduating class earned over 2 million dollars in scholarships. To help instill the principals of rigor, relationships, and relevance, students take only AP classes. Graduation requirements also include two years of Latin and two years of Spanish.
Gilbert Classical Academy High School is the only 1 to 1 computing school in Arizona, and each student is issued a lap top that stays with them during the school year. The school is working towards a paperless system in which teachers post lesson plans and students turn in assignments online.
The school offers varsity sports and an array of clubs. Reach Out Spartans, one of many popular service clubs on campus, organizes food and toy drives, while the Ambassador Club connects students with community members who need help.
“This is place would not be as successful without the incredible faculty and staff. Their talents and staff keep everything at the level that it needs to be so students can obtain levels of success,” said Principal Jodie Dean.
Great Hearts Academies
Veritas Preparatory Academy School District
Great Hearts Academies is a charter school system with multiple campuses in the Greater Phoenix area which provide a classical education using the Socratic Method for students in grades 6-12. All students take the exact same courses and sequence without leveling or elective choices. Because there is no differentiation between students, students get to know each other well and develop a common rapport with one other.
With a 15:1 student teacher radio and a low drop-out rate, students receive individual attention that helps them thrive. The curriculum focuses on the Great Books of Western Tradition, including Greek and Roman Authors. Four years of a single foreign language, or two years of Latin combined with two years of Greek, is required.
While each of the 12 academies follow the same philosophy and curriculum, each campus has the freedom to offer extracurricular activities, athletics, and other programs that meet the needs of their campus. Three of the Great Hearts Academies are on Education.com's list of top-ranked schools – Chandler, Veritas and Mesa Prep.
Veritas Prep: At the Veritas Prep campus, music plays a big role and many students participating in choir after their required credits in ninth and tenth grade are met. The campus also hosts an Old English Linguistic Club that is very popular.
Athletics are important on campus and the Girls' Volleyball team has won two state championships in recent years. The Varsity boys' basketball team is also very competitive. All teams on campus are non-cut, and all interested students will have some role on the team.
Chandler Prep: The Chandler Prep campus is the only campus where the facility is owned by Great Heart and designed with the school in mind. The facilities include athletic fields, a theater, and a gym. In addition, this campus has a larger student body than the other campuses.
To ensure that the campus retains the small school feel despite the number of students, the school focuses on a student mentor program. The teachers also make a conscious effort to know the name of each student.
“Since getting our own campus, the students have a sense of home base that we didn’t have before. We are able to say this is our home court and our field. It has been a wonderful transformation,” said Helen Hayes.
Mesa Prep: At the Mesa Campus, the staff and faculty use the Love and Logic Discipline philosophy to help instill the standards of Great Hearts Academies. The staff helps students look at how their actions affect others, and learn lessons about possible consequences. The caring nature and teacher/student relationship that the school works to instill helps make this method a success on campus.
The school's philosophy applies to the athletic program as well; All students who try out make the team and get reasonable playing time. “If they left it on the field and did everything they could to prepare, then you have done the best you can do and then the score can’t be the measure of success,” said Robert Wagner, Principal Robert Wagner.
Hamilton High School has a reputation of being a friendly school with high achieving academics. Students can take challenging courses such as three levels of Calculus and a Science Research course. The school has the largest selection of Advanced Placement courses in the state of Arizona and teams with University of Arizona to offer a dual-enrollment Engineering 101 course.
Specialty academies are available to students in Bio-Tech, Engineering, and American Studies. The Athletics Academy is available to members of certain sports teams and allows them to incorporate training into a specialized course schedule.
The school has been ranked by Sports Illustrated and CNN as having the top high school athletic program in the state. The football, boys' and girls' soccer, baseball, boys' and girls' golf, and volleyball teams have all earned national rankings. The performing arts program, especially theatre and marching band, have also received outside recognition. The schools also offers 67 after school clubs.
“Visitors usually comment on how friendly our students are. They say the kids look at them, smile, and greet them. They also comment on how clean and attractive the facilities are,” said Fred DePrez, Principal of Hamilton High.
Hamilton Prep is a small school that provides rigorous college preparation to students. The school is open to all students in Chandler Unified School district, and interested students go through an admission process based on testing and an interview. The school also has a discipline policy and students wear uniforms to school each day. The school opened in 2007 and has been adding a grade level each year. As of fall 2010, the school will include grades 7 through 12.
In high school, students take mainly AP courses, including Calculus and Spanish. Students can choose from some electives, including the Hamilton High Sports Academy and Orchestra. The school offers athletic teams and the Hamilton Prep Social Committee organizes events, such as dances, for students to participate in outside the classroom.
“Founded on academic rigor and strong discipline, students receive the personalized education that many families yearn for and some students need in a smaller academic setting. Students can look forward to quality and dedicated instruction from highly qualified teachers who specialize in the subject area they teach,” writes Director Rob Bickes on the website.
Heritage Academy Inc. District
Students at Heritage Academy are asked to follow the Golden Rule of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” as a code of conduct. The school has a strict dress code and advises students to dress as they would for a job interview. The school uses a block scheduling that includes 95 minute classes and no Friday classes.
Field trips, such as an annual trip to Washington DC, are an important aspect of the school. Dual enrollment opportunities are available for Heritage Academy Students through online courses, and to help students stay on track, each student is assigned a personal advisor for their four years at the school.
In addition to core classes, students can choose from various electives such as art, orchestra, instrumental ensemble, choir and drama. Ballroom dancing is one of the most popular electives on campus. The school has a competitive athletic program, including basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, weight training, tennis, golf, dance, bowling, and kenpo.
Horizon High School is focused on college preparation and sends 96 percent of the students to college each year.
Horizon High School offers several signature programs that allow students to focus on a specialized theme of study, and students take a course sequence specific to each signature program. Signature programs include Engineering, Law-Related Education, Biotechnology, and Business Management. Students can also enroll in the Community Outreach Signature program, in which they can create their own program based on electives and community service.
Opportunities for fun and learning outside the classroom are offered through extensive clubs including NHS and Key Club. The school also offers fine arts programs including the Horizon Production Club, chorus, and band. Many athletic teams are available, and the school recently won state championships in volleyball and baseball.
The website states the “mission of Horizon High School is to provide the building blocks for the ABC’s in the 21st century – A Academic Excellence, B Belief in Self and Others, C Community Responsibility in Changing Society.”
Paradise Valley Unified District
At Pinnacle High School, the teachers and staff work to ensure the success of each student. Each student looking for a challenge can enroll in Advanced Placement classes, and the program looks for ways to include all students. The special education program works to meet the needs of each student.
As a freshman, each student develops a four-year Education & Career Action Plan (ECAP) that maps out their plan for high school. Students heading to college can either follow a College/University Preparatory curriculum or the Advanced Academic University Preparatory, which requires more foreign language and math.
Stands at sports games are always full and students participate in many clubs – there's no shortage of school spirit at Pinnacle! The popular theater department also puts on a number of productions each year. “We believe that it is our mission to provide each student the most rigorous curriculum appropriate to him or her. We have also worked extremely hard to make our community feel welcome on the Pinnacle campus and a part of the decision making process,” said Principal Jason Reynolds.
Phoenix Union Bioscience High School provides a student centered magnet school that is geared towards STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education.
With less than 300 students at the school, teachers develop relationships with each student and play the role of facilitators to encourage students explore. To balance the science focus, humanities programs are very prevalent on campus and give students a well-rounded view. Each year students host an Evening at the Arts to showcase the arts programs at Pheonix Union.
By their junior year, students select a focus in biomedical or engineering and take specific courses geared to their future careers. For example, a student who wants to be a medical practitioner will take anatomy, while a student headed towards a research career may take forensic science. Each senior completes an internship with a mentor in the field they hope to pursue.
While competitive sports are not offered, students can play intramural sports or sign up for one of the many extracurricular clubs, such as student government, chess, and animation.
“Our main goal is to teach the students how to think and reason. If you can teach students to reason and think, then they will perform.” said Quinton Boyce, Science teacher, acting Assistant Principal.
Tempe Preparatory Academy School District
Tempe Preparatory Academy differs from traditional high schools; The school follows the Great Books curriculum and exclusively uses the Socratic method in the classroom. In this teaching style, the teacher asks the questions, but does not give answers. Instead, the students discuss and debate with the effect of teaching each other.
With under 500 students in the school and maximum class sizes of 22 students, the kids form great connections with faculty and each other while gaining a clear understanding of the topics. Because each teacher only teaches 66-88 kids, they have time to prepare lessons and develop personal relationships with their students. Each student attends a two-hour seminar class called Humane Letters that combines history, economics, and literature.
The school has a full range of sports and was recently moved to a division for larger schools because of their winning percentage. The football team and track team recently competed for state championships. Those interested in the arts can participate in drama productions, play in the orchestra, or sing in the choir.
“The focus of our school is what we teach and the intensity of how we teach it,” said Principal Hugh Hallman, who is also the Mayor of Tempe.
Please note that only schools in the following Arizona counties were considered for this article: Maricopa and Pinal