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30 Of The Smartest Public High Schools In The US

SimiOctober 4, 2018
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3. Walter Payton College Prep

Walter Payton College Prep in Chicago, Illinois, has an average SAT score of 1390 and an average ACT score of 31. It has a student enrollment of 887 and a student-teacher ratio of 16:1. Proficiency in mathematics and reading is 99%. Located on Chicago’s north side, this high school is an internationally recognized science, math, and world language academy founded in 2000. It is a selective-enrollment public high school that fosters student discovery, intellectual curiosity and international exploration. The four Cs embraced at this school are character, courage, curiosity and compassion.


Students at Payton eagerly embrace the rigors of an all honors and advanced placement curriculum. They work with their teachers, peers, and national authorities to solve real-world problems. Students video conference with sister schools around the world. This school is an international model for global learning and teaching. In 2017, Walter Payton College Prep was ranked as the best public high school in the U.S. by Niche.


2. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology

This school in Alexandria, Virginia, has an average SAT score of 1510 and an AP test pass rate of 34. It has an enrollment of 1,820 and a student-teacher ratio of 17:1. Proficiency in mathematics and reading is 100%. Established in 1985, this regional STEM magnet school has more than ten specialized research labs, ranging from oceanography to astrophysics. In a challenging environment, students can pursue their passions in a comprehensive program that goes beyond STEM courses. With a large enrollment, it’s impressive that the student-teacher ratio is 17:1, meaning students have the benefit of attending a large school without losing the advantage of individual attention.

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Problem-solving and critical thinking skills are regarded as crucial in order to address the complex ethical and societal issues of the times. Students are also believed to learn best when academic disciplines are integrated, allowing for an understanding of how they interact. These students also regularly give back to the community through humanitarian programs.


1. Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA)

This school in Aurora, Illinois, has an average SAT score of 1450 and an average ACT score of 33. It has an enrollment of 649 students in grades 10-12. The student-teacher ratio is 12:1. The mission of the academy is to develop creative, ethical leaders in mathematics, science, technology, and engineering. It enrolls academically talented Illinois students in an advanced residential academic program. By design, the school is not part of the K-12 education system but acts as an independent state agency governed by a Board of Trustees.

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Students are challenged to explore, discover, and apply their knowledge to solve real-world problems. They learn to take risks and innovate to arrive at solutions. Ethical, creative, scientific minds are nurtured and ignited to advance the human condition through problem-solving. IMSA is also a laboratory for the advancement of STEM teaching statewide, with a responsibility to stimulate excellence for all Illinois schools. It advances education through strategic partnerships, groundbreaking ventures, and research.