Below are profiles featuring the top 11 high schools in the Los Angeles 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.
Students at California Academy of Math and Science benefit from college academics and university facilities while still enjoying many of the traditional high school experiences. The school, located on the campus of California State University at Dominquez Hills, draws students from 75 middles schools in the Los Angeles, who area selected through an application process.
Juniors and seniors have an opportunity to save college tuition by enrolling in college courses at no cost, and can graduate with as many as 22 college credits. Students also get the benefit of college caliber facilities, such as the expanded library. The school works to ensure that the students do not miss out on the typical high school experiences by offering sports, clubs and dances.
All students are required to take four years of math and science, which are the two main focuses of the school. In addition to physical science, biology, and physics, all students also take AP English and AP Calculus to meet graduation requirements.
Dr Janice Filer, principal of CA Academy of Math and Science, said that students should have a certain amount of maturity to attend the school because the school is located on a college campus. “Our school has a strong academic focus and our students get accepted at very prestigious universities around the country,” said Filer.
Huntington Beach Union High School District
Fountain Valley High School provides challenging academic courses and unique vocational opportunities to its students. Students attend Fountain Valley High School through open enrollment in the district and some students from neighboring districts also attend. Principal Chris Herzfeld said that the high number of AP classes and high test scores has made the school an academic magnet in the area.
Many students participate in the nationally recognized vocal and instrumental programs at the school. The fashion design and culinary programs receive high marks from students and the teens works with many professional in the industry. The BBN, the school's broadcast production, is also a favorite amongst the students and contributes to school pride. The school has competitive athletic teams that often compete for championships.
The school hosts a student-teacher academy which creates a professional climate for teachers. The academy also exposes the teachers and students to the newest ideas in teaching techniques and technology.
“Our driving mission is to maximize learning for each child. We believe that every program that we offer ought to be top notch and that we are challenging every child,” said Chris Herzfeld, principal of Fountain Valley High School.
Because students enter Gretchen Whitney starting in seventh grade, the school provides academic continuity and a strong sense of community. Students are invited to attend the school based on their test scores, and students entering after seventh grade must apply for admission.
To prepare students for college, all classes at the school are either AP or honors level. While academics are important, the school does not concentrate on one academic area, and instead focuses on providing students with a well-rounded college preparatory education.
The staff at Gretchen Whitney focuses on giving students authentic learning experiences through volunteer programs, internships and studying abroad. Each student is assigned a counselor when they enter the school who follows them throughout their high school career. These counselors often help connect the student with available opportunities based on their interests.
The school offers a comprehensive sports program that includes all major athletic teams, except wrestling and football. The music program has won many awards and both the marching band and color guard have an exceptional reputation in the community.
“Since many of the careers of the future involve multimedia, the school is currently working to build a high-tech multimedia training facility,” said Bryan Glonchak, assistant principal.
Through community partnerships, challenging courses and winning athletic teams, the students are taught to be a “champion” through their four years at Mira Costa High School
Academics are a top priority and students can choose from over 16 different AP courses. The special needs program also receives good reviews from parents. Students gain real world experiences through participating in the award-winning student newspaper and Model UN. Principal Ben Dale said that one of the biggest games of the year is the Scholar Quiz, a school-wide academic competition that excites the whole staff and student body.
ESPN recently ranked Mira Costa as one of the top 15 best overall athletic programs in the country, while the visual and performing arts programs are given rave reviews. Additionally, students can participate in one of the top orchestra programs in the country.
“I can’t emphasize enough the love of the arts at Mira Costa. A lot of resources, both from the district and the community, go into ensuring that we not only have the programs, but that they are the best programs,” said Principal Dale.
Northwood High School operates on an eight-period schedule, which provides students with many opportunities to explore their interests through core academic courses and a variety of electives.
Student involvement is high at Northwood, where 38 percent of the students play a sport and 43 percent are involved in the performing arts program. The performing arts program, which includes instrumental music, chorus, and drama, is top-notch and students can perform in a professional theater on campus. In addition, the school offers a Boys Chorus that has almost 100 members.
The curriculum focuses on the humanities; English and history teachers team up in the 9th and 10th grades to integrate the courses of study. Students also write an anchor essay in their freshman and sophomore years to help them prepare for college.
The teachers and staff work to make a connection with each student through a teacher adviser program, which begins in the ninth grade.
Because Woodbridge is a neighborhood school, it also benefits from a high level of parent involvement. “The staff at our school –from the custodians to the teachers to the clerical staff are dedicated to the kids and that adds up to a great school, “ said Leslie Roach, principal of Northwood High School.
Because students attend middle school at Oxford and many teachers teach multiple grades, the teachers are able to give students an educational scope and sequence that builds on their knowledge.
Students apply for admission in the seventh grade and are accepted based on academic achievement. Because the population is drawn from a 35-mile radius, the school works to create social activities on campus to allow students to bond, such as talent shows and monthly dances. Friday is assembly day on campus, which promotes school spirit, and each class wears matching T-shirts that they designed.
The school only offers AP and honors courses and each student must take 5 AP courses to graduate. The small school allows the staff to create a comfortable and welcoming environment for the students. To balance the academic rigors, over 2/3 of the students participate in the visual and performing arts programs. The school also offers students the chance to play in one of the few full high school orchestras in the area.
Since academics takes top priority at the school, students who would not make the athletic teams at other high schools have the opportunity to play at Oxford Academy. “I like to say that our athletics are sports at their purest form- for pure enjoyment,” said Kathy Scott, principal of Oxford Academy.
While classroom work is a high priority, students at Temple City High School also get many opportunities to learn through real world experiences. Each student must complete 100 hours of community service to graduate, which helps students realize the importance of volunteerism.
In addition, the Peer Listener Program, which is offered in five languages, provides students with an opportunity to help other students and to find an empathetic ear. A highlight of the school year is the annual musical, held at a local playhouse, which is acted in and directed by students and staff. Students can choose from over 46 clubs and 39 athletic teams, and the school also offers a number of musical groups ranging from marching band, orchestra and vocal.
In the classroom, top academic performers can enroll in over 15 AP courses and students needing extra help can look to the “Between the Bells Intervention program.” The English Learner program and Special Education program have high success rates of integrating students into mainstream classrooms.
Mary Jo Fosselman-King, principal of Temple City High school, said that over 30 percent of the staff graduated from the high school. “Our parent and community support is also a huge asset to the success of our school. TCHS is not only a great place to go to school – it is also a great place to work – we are very fortunate in many ways,” said Fosselman-King.
To ensure the success of its students, Tesoro High School has worked with the community to create partnerships that allow students to pursue their passions and explore new ideas.
In addition to an academic environment that produces high test scores, the school has one of the highest percentages of students taking AP courses in the area. Students have access to iPads and the school is continually updating its technology. When students come up with an idea, such as creating an iPhone application, the school has the resources through community partnerships to help the students take their project to the next level.
In addition to the academic focus, the school has an outstanding music and band program. The choral program is often invited to sing at both local and national events. The athletic program often competes for championships and is a source of pride for the school. The student government (ASB) works to get all students involved on campus and reaches out to each student.
“We are a great school because we have a very supportive principal and administrators care to stay long after the office hours because they believe in the school,” said James Paulis, assistant advisor to the activities director at Tesoro High School.
Fullerton Joint Union High School District
Academically focused students will find many challenging programs and courses at Troy High School. The school is a magnet school for junior high schools in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties. Close to half of the students at Troy High School are enrolled in one of the two academic programs at the school: Troy Tech and the International Baccalaureate Program. Troy Tech is an accelerated program that focuses on math and technology. Many honors and AP courses are offered to provide a challenge for students not in the magnet programs.
In keeping with the academic focus, the science Olympiad team has won many national championships and the Science Bowl Team has also been competitive on the national level. The NJROTC (Navy Junior Reserve Offiers' Training Corps) program has also received local and national recognition for its program.
To balance the academics focus, the school provides a wide array of athletic teams and extracurricular activities. The school boasts a championship winning basketball and dance teams.
The mission statement for Troy High School sums up the school well – “At each stage of their development and in each pathway of study, students are being shaped into critical thinkers, effective communicators, good citizens, and lifelong learners. As such, they are encouraged to articulate and pursue a personal and professional vision for their own futures. Troy's educational community is committed to helping its students actualize these visions.”
With high academic expectations at San Marino High School, the teachers and staff work to make sure that all students perform at their highest level. Since there are many high achieving students, the school has made a special effort to reach out to all students and to ensure everyone's needs are met.
In addition, high performing students are trained to help English Development and special needs students by tutoring and attending classes with them. The Special Education program is very successful and works to include these students in the school activities and other students.
While the school has an emphasis on math and science, most students participate in the many school sponsored activities and athletics, such as the popular Robotics Team. The performing arts program provides many opportunities for students and is highly regarded in the community. The school also boasts many sports championship and has a history of producing high performing athletes.
“We try to live out our slogan at San Marion - Our job is not to just prepare kids for more school but to prepare them for life,” said Principal Loren Kleinrock.
Woodbridge High School strives to provide a well-balanced high school experience for its students by creating a friendly and inclusive environment. School pride is emphasized throughout the school year from school wide competitions to ball games.
One of the goals of the school is to help students apply classroom learning to other environments, and the school achieves this through many activities and contests. The academic teams, such as the robotics, science team, and mock trial, are very popular with students and have won many awards. In addition, many students participate in the local History Day Competition and Holocaust Essay & Arts Contests.
While over 55 clubs are available for students to choose from, they can also start their own special interest club. School pride is evident in the support for the sports teams, especially the basketball program. The Entertainment Core, which includes the marching band, color guard, and dance team, is a popular activity at the school and has over 300 students participants.
“It is great that our students learn in the classroom, but it how they apply that knowledge once they leave the school that makes Woodbridge stand out,” said Jason Viloria.
Please note that only schools in the following California counties were considered for this article: Los Angeles County and Orange County.