Best Public School Districts in the DMV
Wendy Kedzierski
August 8, 2022 — Read in 4.6 mins · 929 words
Alexandria, VA is home to the #1 ranked high school school in the state and country

One great thing about living in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia is that overall, local school systems achieve high ratings.

A state-by-state performance comparison by U.S. News and World Report ranks Maryland’s school systems at #5 in the nation, Virginia at #11, and D.C. at #16. These rankings are calculated based on the proportion of each state’s schools in the top 25% of the news outlet’s “2022 Best High Schools” rankings. 

And what factors are taken into consideration when ranking the best high schools? They use a comprehensive formula with six ranking factors including math, reading, and science scores; number of students who earned a qualifying score in college-level exams; and graduation rates. Here’s a more specific breakdown of the ranking system:

  • 30% – College Readiness
  • 20% – State Assessment Proficiency
  • 20% – State Assessment Performance
  • 10% – Underserved Student Performance
  • 10% – College Curriculum Breadth
  • 10% – Graduation Rate

For families who are searching for the best school district in the DMV area, here’s a list of the top high schools in each region. In addition to how they rank in their region, we’re also listing each school’s graduation rate and college readiness index (based on Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate participation).


Fairfax County has eight schools listed in the state’s top 10 ranked schools

A standard Virginia diploma requires completion of 22 credits. “Standards of Learning” or “SOLs” in Virginia’s public school systems are the minimum expectations for what students should know at the end of each grade or course for subjects including English, math, science, and history/social science. Virginia public schools also ensure that students develop competencies in the “five c’s” which include critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration, and citizenship. For more information on Virginia’s graduation requirements and SOL testing, visit the Virginia Department of Education website.

If you have kids and live in Fairfax County, Va., they’re in good company – at least academically speaking.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria currently ranks #1 in Virginia AND #1 in the nation. This magnet public high school aims to “foster a culture of innovation based on ethical behavior and the shared interests of humanity.” The school’s graduation rate is 100%; the college readiness rate is also 100%.

Further, out of the 333 public high schools in Virginia, Fairfax County Public Schools has eight of the top ten:

#2 – Langley High School in McLean

  • Graduation – 99%; College Readiness – 77.6%

#3 – McLean High School in McLean

  • Graduation – 99%; College Readiness – 78.9%

#5 – Marshall High School in Falls Church

  • Graduation – 95%; College Readiness – 77.4%

#6 – Oakton High School in Vienna

  • Graduation – 98%; College Readiness – 73.2%

#7 – W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax

  • Graduation – 98%; College Readiness – 66.6%

#8 – Madison High School in Vienna

  • Graduation – 97%; College Readiness – 73.5%

#10 – West Springfield High School in Springfield

  • Graduation – 98%; College Readiness – 55.9%


Bethesda has the top ranked high school in the state

A standard Maryland diploma requires 21 credits. Students must also complete an Environmental Literacy Program. They also require students to complete 75 hours of student service or a locally designed program approved by the state Superintendent. Students take Maryland High School Assessments (MHSAs). The Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program tests high school students in English language arts and math, the Maryland Integrated Science Assessments tests high school students in science. Learn more from the Maryland State Department of Education.

The Maryland portion of the DMV region has six out of the top ten highest ranked high schools (out of 269):

#1 – Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda

  • Graduation – 95%; College Readiness – 87.3%

#2 – Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville

  • Graduation – 95%; College Readiness – 78.9%

#4 – Poolesville High School in Poolesville

  • Graduation – 95%; College Readiness – 84.9%

#5 – Winston Churchill High School in Potomac

  • Graduation – 95%; College Readiness – 84.1%

#8 – Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda

  • Graduation – 93%; College Readiness – 70.7%

#9 – Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville

  • Graduation – 94%; College Readiness – 72.8%


DC has 21 public high schools

To receive a District of Columbia diploma, students must earn a total of 24 credits in specific courses and complete 100 hours of community service. Many high school students in the District take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Career – which covers English language arts and math – as well as the D.C. Science Assessment. For more information, visit the District of Columbia Public Schools website.

The District of Columbia Public School district includes 21 public high schools. 

Here are the top five, in order of ranking:

#1 – Benjamin Banneker Academy High School

  • Graduation – 95%; College Readiness – 85.1%

#2 – School Without Walls High School

  • Graduation – 99%; College Readiness – 97.9%


  • Graduation – 95%; College Readiness – 93.5%

#4 – McKinley Technology High School

  • Graduation – 98%; College Readiness – 56.3%

#5 – Duke Ellington School of the Arts

  • Graduation – 99%; College Readiness – 49%

In addition to the DMV region’s public schools, there are hundreds of private school options. You can find schools that are foreign-language based, parochial, single-gender, special needs, Montessori, Waldorf, day, or boarding. Perhaps the best known private school in the D.C. area – and maybe the nation – is Sidwell Friends School, whose graduates include celebrities, politicians, and other prominent people.

But if you’re thinking about private school for your children, be prepared to pay. The average tuition for a private school in D.C. is about $30,000 per year. For information about private schools by region, visit the Private School Review online.

Search available homes in your desired school district here.

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