Boston’s Best Schools 2012: Top of the Class

By Patrick Doyle (ed) | Boston Magazine |

Highest Per-Pupil Spending (by District)

1. Minuteman High School $28,962
2. Cambridge Rindge & Latin School $25,737
3. Blue Hills Regional Technical School $20,948
4. Norfolk County Agricultural High School $20,380
5. Waltham High School $18,960

The old educational equation was simple: Spend more money—on teacher salaries, technology, administration, sports, clubs—and students will perform better. But after reviewing the data from Massachusetts high schools, our statistician, George Recck, found no significant correlation between a school’s level of spending and its final ranking. In other words, it seems likely that higher spending doesn’t automatically equal better results.


Highest Percentage of Students Achieving Proficiency (Scoring 3-5) on AP Exams

1. Concord-Carlisle Regional High School 98.7%
2. Acton-Boxborough Regional High School 97.4%
3. Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School 95.8%
4. Lexington High School 95.2%
4. Newton South High School 95.2%

Be warned: Not all universities are granting college credit for AP classes anymore. Harvard, for the most part, doesn’t offer credit, and neither does MIT. In general, the schools don’t think an AP class is the equivalent of college learning, though you have to wonder whether it’s also a business decision, since the credits could rob universities of tuition dollars. Still, when students ace AP tests, it shows that the teachers are strong and the kids are motivated—great indicators of a high-performing school.


Lowest Student-Teacher Ratio

1. North Shore Technical High School 8.7 : 1
1. Minuteman High School 8.7 : 1
1. Salem Academy Charter School 8.7 : 1
4. Greater Lawrence Technical High School 9.1 : 1
5. Cambridge Rindge & Latin School 9.4 : 1

A landmark Tennessee study in the 1980s launched America’s class-size debate. Reducing the number of students in a class, it found, increases academic performance, since teachers can give more attention to each student. Subsequent studies have shown varying results, but the consensus among education researchers is that smaller class sizes help, especially in earlier grades. Massachusetts doesn’t have a law capping class sizes for high schools, but almost all of our top 50 fell into a middle range, with 12 to 16 students per teacher. Of course, there was a high-profile exception: Boston Latin, where the ratio is 23.1 to 1, ranked number 20 on our list.


Highest Ranked Charter Schools

1. Salem Academy Charter School
2. Foxborough Regional Charter School
3. Mystic Valley Regional Charter School
4. Pioneer Charter School of Science
5. Boston Collegiate Charter School

Among the 230 high schools we evaluated were the region’s 22 charter high schools. Though none of them cracked our top 50 list, it’s clear that there’s some fine learning going on at many of these schools, especially given that they’re often operating in areas with socioeconomic challenges you won’t find in most of the municipalities that did make our list.


Check out more of our Boston’s Best Schools 2012 coverage.

  • J. Devereux

    We’re curious to know what measure you used to rank the top 5 charters. Community Charter School of Cambridge’s 10th graders scored 100% advanced or proficient in both math & English in 2012, earning them #1 rankings in both subjects. We’re in Cambridge but 52% of our students come from Boston this year.