The Best Schools in Boston 2013

Our exclusive ranking of the top cities and towns.

To assemble this year’s Best Schools list, we spent months compiling numbers—released by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education—from 147 municipalities in Greater Boston. The schools in the cities and towns that topped our proprietary ranking stood out across 20 different categories, including student-to-teacher ratio, average class size, expenditures per pupil, rate of college matriculation, and results on tests such as the SAT and the MCAS.

Below is a sortable list ranking the cities and towns in the Greater Boston Area. (For more on how we determined the rankings, see our methodology below.)


District
Rank
Enrollment
Avg. Class Size
Graduation Rate
% Attending College
Per Pupil Expenditures
% Scoring 3-5 on AP Exams
SAT Reading
SAT Writing
SAT Math
Student Teacher Ratio
Gr-10 ELA
Gr-10 Math
Gr-10 SCI
Gr-8 ELA
Gr-8 MTH
Gr-8 SCI
Gr-5 ELA
Gr-5 MTH
Gr-5 SCI
Gr-3 ELA
Gr-3 MTH
Dover152318.397.591.6$17,607 9659660262112.3100981009679768486808684
Sherborn240517.397.591.6$15,129 9659660262111.7100981009679768385858686
Lexington36,50619.395.986.5$16,358 96.161261763712.19995959787778689828686
Carlisle463819.892.986.3$15,908 96.458758660111.89892959894898486809189
Boxborough543719.794.285.2$14,222 96.961161265013.29694949584768489788890
Concord62,14017.192.986.3$16,637 96.458758660112.89892959676808586818686
Lincoln71,24116.297.387.3$20,776 92.65815776069.89996848961587879777582
Westford85,25918.798.592.5$11,179 91.758057360814.99996949689798486827880
Wayland92,7171896.487.5$15,198 91.559159461714.29995929984857579758078
Wellesley104,95417.498.388.4$15,421 95.162363163113.99896739681648375638677
Weston112,37422.696.685.1$19,352 79.260361763311.99995869472738277758480
Harvard121,2101996.386.9$13,476 92.160359460915.810098939773729384858577
Winchester134,39619.897.684.5$11,822 81.158959961414.810098929783808488828285
Sharon143,43318.195.190.3$14,151 95.758559060013.19794929375588278828387
Manchester1546521.195.780.9$13,274 91.556956358512.99797939684809085798987
Sudbury163,00620.597.387.3$12,359 92.658157760614.39996849480708986848478
Westborough173,51516.497.590.7$14,007 89.155655858913.39893969677757974788080
Holliston182,82016.697.886.3$12,089 94.255355657313.39996959374658283818173
Brookline197,11217.792.979.9$16,556 94.758759161413.89692849480668078647778
Newton2012,33519.394.979.9$16,397 92.558759561415.49694879380638482718078
Westwood213,16718.69686.7$13,999 9055054756615.09996939475598783838683
Boxford2277816.39783.7$12,006 76.153953656813.09998949481768176818380
Belmont234,06521.395.784.3$11,969 94.158659161217.19995959578778384718685
Acton242,51222.594.285.2$11,480 96.961161265018.19694949584768282768082
Cohasset251,58420.698.990$13,320 8355554956313.69798869778658183768087
Essex2627221.395.780.9$13,274 91.556956358512.99797939684807989708264
Middleton2780916.39783.7$11,762 76.153953656812.69998949481767774817680
Hopkinton283,41419.997.585.2$12,298 83.255656458314.19895969579637980738686
Bolton297671994.387.9$12,498 90.156355458115.59492889682718787907672
Southborough301,42218.795.487.8$13,831 90.256757058513.310096929164577870688389
Topsfield3159715.89783.7$11,862 76.153953656812.79998959481768573797468
Needham325,47619.395.488.6$13,602 9558158259415.49895919274718073658177
Andover336,22520.995.589.1$13,697 8156056258614.19592889676658482798382
Wenham3424919.197.884.2$14,644 83.257656757913.19995919867607463659595
Hamilton351,01219.397.384.2$14,644 83.257656757913.199959198676070.57671.589.587
Bedford362,51415.59485.4$16,963 92.657257159212.29589859572567370566868
Medfield372,78819.699.191.5$11,364 81.457758260214.79896969572687575687868
Hingham384,20219.994.487.8$11,213 94.255656656515.39895909472568483808382
Northborough391,89318.195.487.8$12,324 90.256757058513.810096929265707366757373
Marblehead403,25118.796.382.6$12,727 8655956757913.69994879474707669697977
Littleton411,5762092.684.4$12,692 89.956556356914.29892939481647872668074
Medway422,48218.396.782.4$11,641 71.453855156415.19996889374628379818084
Norwell432,33120.896.591.3$11,524 72.853754255316.59894929674678482868281
Duxbury443,24220.796.983.6$11,729 79.454155056814.09997969674637977758271
Arlington454,90318.588.579.9$12,942 84.656455956514.89789839476658178808069
Scituate463,22018.991.485$11,381 75.753755055514.79590789678628485857879
Stow4786920.594.387.9$12,498 90.156355458115.59492889372457884817175
Lynnfield482,261219885.8$11,475 7653554155814.69690949370588367778790
Berlin4922316.395.792.5$15,240 6554454855612.29794919350476974658573
Reading504,48320.496.684.5$10,976 88.554754556214.69793869474607575627576
Lancaster5175019.594.387.9$12,498 90.156355458115.59492889066576876646578
West Newbury5246220.992.683.4$11,189 72.454253754414.39690889057518584738176
Norfolk5392621.691.886.5$12,203 72.154154355414.39890939260548179748277
Natick545,0652094.379$12,649 80.453653256414.79488909270647270748283
Braintree555,54918.595.181.5$11,176 91.853352955014.39591888973547572697880
Boylston5637916.395.792.5$15,240 65.354454855612.29794919350477864726967
Chelmsford575,13819.993.887.2$11,049 80.155054857715.19690789166666763667575
Wrentham581,15520.491.886.5$10,506 72.154154355415.59890939260547472828583
Plympton5924215.898.179.4$11,671 72.251550655013.49389799061497275887087
North Reading602,60621.694.784.3$11,842 66.754252756212.99688859263547478737980
Walpole614,0152194.887.9$11,692 84.953353152614.99587869263608071767872
Franklin625,86821.392.883.9$10,708 79.953754056115.49591869372657977667373
Canton633,26219.996.885.9$13,414 61.651051554814.29383869062637976677779
Foxborough642,75317.29973.9$12,855 84.252253054313.49486819167586868627373
Milton653,93418.693.885.8$12,613 65.651450752814.39587829071488282647176
Swampscott662,2832195.778.8$12,592 67.352252952113.19793889161587062707779
Newburyport672,34920.293.682.2$13,369 84.655155856313.59793908369486958597259
Ashland682,57319.696.280.1$12,007 84.354352657815.29896908970506570556763
Rockport6993114.790.578.2$14,618 5851852451211.39283819471676556566878
Plainville7080221.491.886.5$11,873 72.154154355416.09890939260546765687062
Georgetown711,55822.892.176.9$9,961 92.354754756114.59586859253507282557474
Dedham722,82616.888.367$15,459 67.949449351212.38989788961477576707774
West Bridgewater731,34419.795.179.5$10,395 49.348950250314.39695889159677378678372
Ipswich742,04819.895.387.6$11,369 65.953552953114.79893869264467068625766
Newbury7561418.690.274.9$12,399 58.650650454113.99285778867628269836568
Burlington763,60618.88982.2$15,008 73.152752753912.89688758660567049646561
Halifax7758219.298.179.4$11,023 72.251550655015.89389799061497265757570
Mansfield784,49720.594.482.7$10,554 81.652352055318.99793878862487975627568
Merrimac7935620.992.683.4$11,189 72.454253754414.39690889057516450397367
Wakefield803,38819.389.581.7$12,009 78.652452553713.99287818762517163646966
Hanover812,68421.397.591.4$10,965 5149749150615.79789888857597060738279
Marshfield824,48323.495.384.5$10,776 70.851451452713.99688839058338071737471
Easton833,88019.893.187.5$10,922 60.953352754115.39587729167626565547371
Wilmington843,55919.591.485$12,330 8451051354313.29692768554367070556964
Stoneham852,40116.591.286.1$12,449 71.550851451513.49381788656457467626667
Nahant8618527.295.778.8$10,886 67.352252952116.89793889161589060807279
Groveland8760721.592.683.4$11,189 72.454253754414.39690889057517055376267
Cambridge886,22215.983.276.5$26,305 80.950249750910.48683657150385954456465
Rowley8954718.690.274.9$12,399 58.650650454113.99285778867627363816251
North Andover904,7662293.186.9$11,503 7752852554516.39583888760477164557265
Kingston911,13422.998.179.4$10,200 72.251550655018.39389799061497563717976
Melrose923,67922.794.184.4$10,588 66.251251251514.99381648763527571667971
Millis931,45119.296.686$10,645 72.751951652616.39878848651387179585167
Pembroke943,32920.393.876.7$10,375 73.450349751316.39690828668556566606868
Norwood953,54718.188.777.5$13,616 8547847950713.19177678754526863556567
Amesbury962,33719.783.980.1$12,966 74.452950652415.29086738355556449537674
Watertown972,68817.185.876.9$16,008 76.348748351312.48980728959375851466768
Maynard981,35216.881.377.9$13,545 85.151952251713.39382857744486853546550
Salisbury995291890.274.9$12,399 58.650650454113.99285778862624758445963
Danvers1003,59319.39078.7$12,590 65.250750752814.08985768561426357447365
Norton1012,62920.685.182.1$11,762 62.651549651914.59283838652436372596765
Carver1021,73719.783.275.2$12,144 7852450951714.29687738056396969606355
Hanson1031,31622.792.672.5$10,527 6749049952419.49085838660487063627478
Plymouth1047,9751886.569.3$13,448 62.749848951513.39382788258486462596563
Hull1051,06719.388.469.1$14,019 51.251051752612.59586778053346154476769
Stoughton1063,75317.291.382.7$11,729 54.146346049413.19078758359536861576360
Tewksbury1073,80520.691.579.7$12,068 6550749851115.99186728755496054506872
Waltham1085,09816.181.563.8$19,741 83.548548250211.68878688351346253505050
Framingham1098,20118.685.363.3$15,769 90.351451755412.99087857746395445455250
Billerica1105,5132088.475.9$12,628 8349849853715.18983788751435851396259
Bridgewater-Raynham1115,44123.493.476.1$11,221 68.549448651016.79071668465516357636866
Hudson1122,89617.78279.7$12,551 60.948949350912.69786698049405660356260
Woburn1134,76617.485.374.1$13,413 70.348447950613.48873528046427061656563
Milford1144,1671985.172.9$12,212 53.448347549913.28982708857465954635958
Avon11574616.274.172.5$12,225 5043842244412.38782708859436766547873
East Bridgewater1162,24628.291.778.9$10,559 53.349049751118.29382758758527467776153
Winthrop1171,97518.883.173.2$11,627 48.748147950612.89183628556446350485562
Beverly1184,335218171.6$12,719 56.249750051515.39077758356476456495961
Whitman1191,76223.392.672.5$10,527 6749049952419.490858380473756.555.54063.572.5
Quincy1209,26619.489.770.2$13,584 75.946446352314.58778688045415657545858
Weymouth1216,89720.784.869.6$11,528 81.349848651016.79179817743366252546667
Gloucester1223,01617.786.161.3$13,818 74.249948652112.49071637537305854556656
Peabody1236,10319.283.267.9$12,729 61.849349150913.98776667950426348526861
Medford1244,67716.380.570.6$13,093 78.648748948812.58979667843445449485151
Bellingham1252,45719.681.368.9$11,550 40.349647949414.79181697959496143676960
Marlborough1264,5891880.171.2$13,949 67.350249452213.48278637845316051545546
Abington1272,03124.384.384.3$11,415 54.349048050816.48674758663406360475654
Rockland1282,19919.384.182.5$12,895 47.948148949214.89183527544255846545660
Saugus1292,85019.885.177.5$12,744 49.147547749513.58375637538225760475862
Taunton1307,6812177.469$10,824 79.649247749515.28164567344375450425962
Revere1316,64820.176.866.5$13,347 59.444143145814.28475608148395450475254
Holbrook1321,23819.471.282.8$13,937 4242740645914.78669467327127065626261
Salem1334,39515.67867.4$14,628 62.147846848710.87760507041264643364547
Middleborough1343,29527.290.568.7$11,426 52.748646449715.78561608136345752516259
Malden1356,57321.177.273.2$12,358 43.244844547815.08577667750344344374448
Somerville1364,92217.878.166.2$16,108 68.745145647312.47459556532304643394945
Wareham1372,82217.379.252.4$12,241 40.845945246412.98655447440315348385454
Haverhill1387,05218.569.668.7$11,528 61.650248351514.77965477133274134385350
Methuen1397,05523.578.777.5$11,722 44.447747049015.27959597141254443334947
Lowell14013,87919.273.373.7$12,780 69.645644949013.97768496439183937233947
Randolph1412,95727.870.772.7$14,912 38.542742046212.37465537036214240285556
Boston14255,11417.765.966.2$16,902 49.343142746412.97365466335153839173538
Brockton14316,59519.974.574.4$12,540 54.742641944414.87966556832193732203637
Lynn14414,13919.573.756.1$12,693 39.443542145414.78067555928174841324146
Everett1456,67219.875.460.9$12,040 40.143541944313.77757366828144437234455
Chelsea1465,89121.258.358.3$13,708 33.940138643514.16854395732203035193446
Lawrence14713,14520.660.677.8$13,463 27.340039640913.65534225419113327193639


METHODOLOGY

We gathered the most recent available data on area schools from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (doe.mass.edu). We also consulted town and school websites if necessary. Our rankings were then computed by statistician George Recck, who is the director of the Math Resource Center at Babson College. Recck calculated the mean scores for each category, and then ranked the towns based on a weighted average of each school data point’s difference from the mean. Only schools whose districts lie all or partially within the Greater Boston I-495 boundary were included. To calculate rankings for towns within regional school districts, we used data for regional high or middle schools where applicable. Additional research by Natalie Covate, Alexandra Graziano, Damon Hatheway, Patrick Lauppe, Zoe Marquedant, and Molly Mirhashem.

 

  • Heather Bigler

    Why was Tyngsboro left off of this list?

    • Luigi Del

      “Only schools whose districts lie all or partially within the Greater Boston I-495 boundary were included.”

  • Ally

    why are school districts split up? Concord-Carlisle, Lincoln-Sudbury, Acton-Boxborough are highschools with combined towns, but are split up on this list. It is misleading to say Boxborough has great SAT scores when the town does not have a highschool.

    • Guest

      This is not just high schools but towns, including the middle school and elementary levels. Each regional high school counts toward all the towns in its region, and the scores from middle and elementary measures are also added. There is more to the methodology of doing this than is explained, and keep in mind that this is Boston Magazine that has finely honed the art of shallow.

    • Anonymous

      That’s because high schools serving more than one town are considered their own districts. For example, Lincoln-Sudbury is a REGIONAL high school. Sudbury is its own district, as is Lincoln. Each have their own primary and middle schools. Lincoln-Sudbury, Dover-Sherborn, Concord-Carlisle etc.. are all their own districts.

  • MarkinArl

    Unfortunately the state data is inaccurate. Does cost per pupil always include all costs like administration, buildings, special ed, and early ed? Does not look like it. How many students in each district take the MCAS, and SAT? Do special ed students take it? How many don’t? How much money is spent on students on normal tracks and how much for special ed? Teacher-student ratio for each? Surely, parents of children in both categories want to know what services to expect for their children. Other demographic data would be useful. What is the median income, family size, and education levels of parents (as opposed to residents, where many might be single professionals) in each district? Median home price and rents in each district?

    • ohio man

      There may well be issues with the data, but you hit on the real issue at the end. We don’t have much ability to gauge the performance of these schools based on these rankings. We do know that these towns vary quite a bit with regard to who lives there. Without controlling for massive variables such as income and even whether English is a student’s first language, these statistics just show you where the advantaged tend to live in Massachusetts (or perhaps where the disadvantaged tend not to live), not which schools are doing the best jobs of educating their students. If you sort by lowest Grade 3 test scores, you’ll note that some of the schools that start with the worst performing students end up with much higher scorers by 10th grade. For the average student, those schools may be “better” than a school that takes kids from say 85 to 95.

      • ohio man

        The only somewhat fair apples-to-apples comparisons that you can really make are student-teacher ratio, average class size, and per-pupil spending, and you’ll see that these don’t correlate with the ratings, as they are vastly outweighed by the 15 out of 20 categories that are based on test scores. If your school’s test scores are low, even if it produces tremendous gains over the years, it will score low. Really, they could probably just include one of the three spending-related categories and one of the 15 test-score-related categories (the other two are graduation rate and college rate) without losing any predictive value. They should replace Grade 3, 5, and 8 scores with a measure of improvement between grades 3 and 10.

  • Reader297

    I’d really appreciate some +/- confidence intervals please! Do you have those in the raw data? It makes a big difference whether the spread in a statistic is big or small! For example, if a town’s average score in a particular category is small, but there’s a big spread, then that says there may be lots of students way above the mean.

  • Jack

    Westford was named the 11th best town in the country in which to reside by CNN and that claim is becoming harder and harder to dispute. Truthfully, I believe any town in the “DCL” area could argue that title- Concord, Sudbury, Wayland etc. are all beautiful places to live (with the exception of Acton, our rival town). The one thing to consider when talking about Westford is the average price of a home when compared to these aforementioned towns. You can find several 3000+ sq ft homes for <$650K and get amenities too numerous to mention- power-boatable lakes, town beaches, a ski hill, apple orchards, fantastic schools (as seen above) and extremely competitive athletic and theatre programs.

    • Skip Johnson

      <$650k…is this the new barometer for realistic housing prices? If that's the case, none of the teachers in these great schools could (can) afford to live in the districts in which they teach. Does anyone else see that as a bigger issue? Coakly wants to extend the school day; is she going to extend/expand the teacher salary base as well?

  • Alli

    Why was Shrewsbury left off of this list?..this town has one of the top schools in MA..very confusing list this year..

    • Kurt Hanson

      “Only schools whose districts lie all or partially within the Greater Boston I-495 boundary were included.”

  • farziran87 .

    Newton was ranked 21?? That is way too high. Newton has dilapidated elementary schools and badly overcrowded schools on all levels. Probably around 50 or 60 was fine for Newton who is seeing a freefall in terms of education standards and the city in general is going down the tubes.

  • 4AsianAmericans

    Any ranking is as good as its methodology and we know there is no perfect methodology to do this sort of thing.

  • http://www.aterriblehusband.com/about/ ATerribleHusband

    Interesting, although it seems like there are so many rankings it’s hard to keep up!

  • Geoffrey Ricks

    How does Lawrence graduate 60.6% and 77.8% attend college?

    • Dan

      I think it means that the 60.6% that graduate, only 77.8% of them go to college…. thats kind of sad, i live in westford… this is embarrassing to see.

      • Geoffrey Ricks

        Dan, I thought the same thing, then I looked at the numbers. Of the 147 schools, only 5 have % attending college higher than Graduation Rate. I think they have bad Data. Lawrence is 17% more going to college, Holbrook is 11.6% more going to college and Randolph, Lowel and Boston are negligible.

    • Skip Johnson

      77.8% of graduates.

      • Geoffrey Ricks

        Skip, see my below comment. I don’t think so.

        • Skip Johnson

          I’m aware you don’t think so, but that’s what the statistic is; that only 5 have a higher % attending college than graduating is irrelevant. Of the percentage of students who graduate, a certain percentage of them continue to higher education. It’s that simple.

  • Kris D

    Nothing west of Worcester deserves to be ranked as a Best of Massachusetts school??? Like with everything else the state stops at Metro-West.

    • Kurt Hanson

      It’s called the Best Schools of Boston – “Only schools whose districts lie all or partially within the Greater Boston I-495 boundary were included.”

      • bostonlou

        Reading is difficult ;)

    • Skip Johnson

      You’re an idiot.

  • Ken

    I’d like to see where the charter schools rank with these other public schools.

  • anna

    what does “% scoring 3-5 on AP exams” mean? % of students who took at least one AP and scored 3-5 on all of them? or something else?

  • Anshul Chadda

    Very impressed by this boston magazine study this year where the elementary and middle schools were also included in the rankings. Thank you.

  • salty

    Peabody for the high…baby!

  • Metrowst76

    Does Weston even have a school committee? The highest property values in the state, highest tax revenue per capita, highest per pupil expenditure–where is it all going? They have 23 students per class which is well above the state average. Their $20,000 per pupil expenditure means nothing if less than 80% of the students can’t get 3’s on AP exams. A lower number of students take AP courses when compared to towns with similar demographics. This is a wealthy town paying a premium for teachers who are not doing their jobs. I’m surprised Boston Magazine rated Weston as high as 11 when there are many towns outperforming them, including our fantastic schools in Sharon– a relative bargain when compared to Weston.