For the second year in a row, Utah charters have dominated the rankings for the best high schools in the state.
Of the top 10 schools here, charters nabbed six spots. They also got the No. 1 nod overall — as well as No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 in the listings released Tuesday.
“We’re just thrilled,” said Royce Van Tassell, executive director for the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools. “Education is about whether a student is finding their place. And this shows we’re meeting that goal at our charter high schools.”
The annual lists, released each spring by the U.S. News and World Report, are one of the most competitive and highly regarded statistics in education. The scores are based on how well each high school’s students perform on year-end tests in math and reading, how many graduate and how prepared they are for college.
The high success of charters here, though, makes Utah a bit of an outlier when compared to the rest of the country.
Nationwide, charters make up about 18% of the top 5% of all schools, said Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News. In Utah, they’re 63%.
It’s also now two years running where that’s been the case here — with top-ranking charters outnumbering traditional high schools in what appears to be a shift in how students prefer to learn. Last year, too, they nabbed six of the top 10 spots in the state, though the order has shuffled a bit for 2020.
The state’s top high school this year was Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy, a charter in Lindon. Last year, that school was No. 5 (though it has held the top spot before, as well).
Director Robyn Ellis credits the success to the school’s classical model where students learn under the Socratic method and study Latin.
“We’re really heavy in the classics,” Ellis said. “There’s a lot of reading and writing and researching. And that expectation and engagement is there from day one.”
She added: “It’s validating to see what we’re doing is resonating and working.”
The academy ranked No. 1 in the state among 161 schools and No. 334 when up against all 17,792 public high schools nationwide. It was followed in Utah by InTech Collegiate High School, the Academy for Math, Engineering and Science (AMES) and the Northern Utah Academy for Math, Engineering and Science (NUAMES).
Beyond the majority of charters, the best Utah high schools were spread out geographically from Logan to Kaysville to Lindon. Half of the top 10 were in Salt Lake County.
Skyline High School in Granite School District is the highest-ranking traditional school in the state, coming in at No. 5 — up from No. 9 last year. Spokesman Ben Horsley said they’re “glad to have that recognition for the hard work by students” and staff.
Meanwhile, Timpview High School in Provo School District has cracked the top 10 for the first time. Principal Fidel Montero said he’s watched as his school has crept up higher and higher in the rankings each year. Just last year, it was No. 11. Now, it’s No. 8.
“That was a really pleasant surprise,” he said. “To be able to perform among the best high schools in the state with the diverse community we have, it’s a source of pride. We’re helping all students achieve.”
The school has one of the highest percentage of minority students among the top 10 for Utah, though the U.S. News rankings do account for how schools support those individuals and low-income populations, who are traditionally underserved. At Timpview, 30.4% are minorities.
The highest is at AMES with 52.9% students of color. The lowest is at Davis High with 8%.
Montero said his high school has focused on teaching students to embrace growth and inclusivity, alongside language arts and science. He believes that makes them better prepared for life outside of education.
Additionally, he points to teachers at the school who have been there for 30 years, including a math teacher and chemistry teacher. “They’re career teachers,” he said. “Not having that turnover makes a huge difference.”
With Timpview High jumping three spots, Montero said, it’s been about slow adjustments and “trying to turn around a big cruise ship.” U.S. News says that even small movements in data can result in big changes.
Most of the high schools in the top 10 for Utah stayed the same, but shifted around a bit. Last year, InTech Collegiate High School was No. 1. This year, it’s No. 2.
“We’re not too particular about which number we are,” said Jason Stanger, the charter’s principal, as long as the school consistently does well. “I imagine the deck will get shuffled a bit each year.”
Last year, the top traditional high school was Davis High in Kaysville, at No. 4. This year, it’s No. 10. Beehive Science and Technology Academy, a charter in Sandy, also dropped out of the top spots. It’s currently transitioning to cover all of K-12. Meanwhile, Corner Canyon in Draper stayed at No. 6.
“We have a lot of choices that are available to us,” Van Tassell said. “Our charter schools are thrilled to be a place where families can find a great education that is well tailored to meet the needs of Utah’s children. But it’s kind of like saying which is better: Harvard or Yale? All of our public schools are great.”
Here are the 2020 rankings for the top 10 high schools in Utah:
1. Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy; charter, Lindon.
2. InTech Collegiate High School; charter, Logan.
3. Academy for Math Engineering and Science; charter, Salt Lake City.
4. Northern Utah Academy for Math Engineering and Science; charter, Layton.
5. Skyline High; Granite School District, Millcreek.
6. Corner Canyon High; Canyons School District, Draper.
7. Itineris Early College High; charter, West Jordan.
8. Timpview High; Provo School District, Provo.
9. American Preparatory Academy; charter, Draper.
10. Davis High; Davis School District, Kaysville.