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Choosing Amongst the Los Angeles High Schools

Finding a “Good” High school for your teenager in Los Angeles is a challenge. The challenge is that there are very few good public high schools and private schools are expensive. If money is not an issue, then there are plenty of great private & religious high schools in Los Angeles to choose from. The average tuition cost for a private school is $40,000 a year. Religious Schools are more reasonably priced at $20,000 a year, and provide valuable extra choices for parents that have multiple children, or who also have college tuition to consider.

Public schools are Free. Locating your family in a neighborhood with a great public school district can mean significant savings.

My ranking of the Top 20 public high schools in Los Angeles.  

If you viewed the list you will notice, most of the top Public High Schools are located in multi-million-dollar neighborhoods: Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Pacific Palisades, Palos Verdes, La Canada, and Pasadena. Keep in mind that if you cannot afford to buy in these neighborhoods, you may also rent.

There is a common story. Many of the neighborhood highschools in great LA neighborhoods, that you would expect to be great also, are not. A few examples that come to mind are: Hamilton High School (Beverlywood), Hollywood High (Hollywood), Fairfax High(West Hollywood), Los Angeles High School (Miracle Mile), Venice High School (Venice), University High (West LA), and John Marshall High School (Silverlake). None made my top 20 public school rankings. I am not saying all public high schools in Los Angeles are bad. Or that these high schools are bad. Los Angeles has some of the Top 100 high schools in the country. Every school will have great students, great teachers, great parents. When a school has large numbers of students not graduating (I consider anything below 90% drop out rate bad), or large numbers of students not meeting state standards (only about 30% of California students meet state standards in math, 50% in English and science), and the socioeconomic disadvantage level is more than 25%- these schools need to improve if it is possible.

Tanya Anton of the gomamaguide.com recommends that you always visit your local school in your neighborhood first and judge for yourself. Don’t listen to what other people say, go and see for yourself. See if you feel comfortable.

Here are some resources to do some research online

-California Dept of Education: School Accountability Report Card (SARC)


-Los Angeles School Report Cards


-Visit the schools website and take a tour

Factors that contribute to Great High School education:

Teachers: Teachers are the front line. They interact directly with students. Inspire, educate, inquire. Schools are made up of teachers. Good teachers bring out the students true potential. If I were evaluating any school, I would pay the most attention to its teachers.

High Expectations: A school that challenges its students creates it’s own recipe for success. I like to see at least 20 Applied Placement (AP) classes. AP classes are nice because you can earn college credits while in highschool! Homework expectations of students- 1 hour/ night minimum for the average school, and an average 2-3 hours each night from the best schools.

Parents: Parent involvement is closely linked to students success in school. Parents set the stage by providing a stable home environment, where the student gets regular sleep, good nutrition, and is reasonable free from stress. It’s corney but bears mentioning. Hunger is a barrier to education. You can’t focus or listen when you are hungry and you put your head down.

Diversity: I feel like the world we live in is becoming ever more adaptable, and more global. Change is happening faster, and the walls are coming down. Exposing children to diversity allows them to socialize. Private schools sometimes struggle to have diversity. Public schools are typically more diverse.

Discipline: Technology has brought the most distracting thing into the classroom- The cell phone. Schools need to keep student behavior in line as more and more things compete for our attention.

Extra curricular activities- I believe that extracurricular activities are a key component of a well balanced education. For physical sports, they encourage life long fitness and the enjoyment of exercise, and for team sports (also academic), working well in groups. Students should have reasons to enjoy school. Just one afterschool activity can be the difference. High schoolers get into the most trouble in the time between when they get out of school (3pm) and when their parents get home (5 or 6pm). After school Activities give children something constructive to do during this time. Unfortunately, when the legislature is cutting budgets, these are the first programs to go.

Public Schools Vs Private Schools

Some parents wonder which kind of high school is right for their young adults: public high school or private high school?

There are some key difference between private High schools and public high schools. Public High Schools are usually much larger than private schools. Big LA Public High schools have 2,000 – 3,000 students. Private School enrollment is usually between 500 – 1,000. That means graduating class size on a private school is about 100-200. For public schools its 400-500. The student teacher ratio is 30 to 1 in public schools and 20 to 1 in private schools. Some private schools are co-ed and others are Boys or Girls only. Some private schools have a traditional education approach while others are progressive. In a private school, you might see a celebrity dropping off their kid in the school’s parking lot- won’t ever seen that in a public school- except maybe Malibu High. Private schools can be a lot more “cliché” because they have smaller class sizes and student bodies. If you are an outsider coming from a public school into the private school system, it might take a year or so to adjust. People who haven’t been in the private school system since kindergarten, will not have any longterm relationships with other students in the class. After one year, the student will have made their group of friends and fit in. Private schools have less diversity than public schools because they cater to upper class and upper middle class, whereas public schools must educate students of all means- including students that are handicap or disabled. Some private schools offer scholarships to help diversify their school. Private school teachers usually have high degrees of education- masters and phd’s. 

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