In the San Francisco Bay Area, 15 exceptional high schools are educating students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds fairly and equally. Across the U.S., there’s a large achievement gap between low income students and their more affluent peers. But some schools break the mold, preparing all kids to succeed after high school. These 15 schools are laudable institutions where students from low-income families score higher on state tests, graduate at higher rates and, upon graduation, have completed the requirements needed to enter the University of California or California State University. GreatSchools commends these 15 exceptional Bay Area schools.

At these schools, students from low-income families:

  • Graduate at rates that exceed state averages.
  • Have high college ready graduation rates, meaning they are more likely than average to have completed the necessary requirements to enter the U.C. or C.S.U. system schools.
  • Score higher on state tests, meaning that students perform higher than 80% of all California students on achievement tests.
  • Out of 213 Bay Area high schools, only 15 meet the criteria for this list. For a complete explanation of the methodology, see below.

GreatSchools applauds the dedicated teachers, administrators, staff, students, and parents who work together to make these schools so successful.


Top 15 Bay Area High Schools for students from low-income Families

(All school information comes from the school website, information provided by the principal, or reviews provided by parents and students on GreatSchools.org)

 

1: Oakland Charter High School

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Charter high school, Oakland, CA

Recognized by Innovate Public Schools as a Top Performing Bay Area Public School for Low-Income and Latino Students and a California Distinguished School award-winner, Oakland Charter High School aims to give students the skills, knowledge, and work ethic they need to succeed after high school. OCHS is located in the heart of downtown Oakland, nearly 80% of students come from economically disadvantaged families, and student scores for math, English, and college entrance exams exceed statewide averages.

  • Total number of students: 158
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 78.9%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 10
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 10
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 85%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 91%

2: American Indian Public High School

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Charter high school, Oakland, CA

American Indian Public High School’s curriculum is designed to support socio-economically disadvantaged students by building academic skills in a collaborative effort between school, family, and community. AIPHS focuses on excellent student attendance (97%) and each year 100% of AIPHS’s seniors are accepted into a 4-year college, including U.C. Berkeley, MIT, Columbia, Princeton, University of British Columbia, and more.

  • Total number of students: 192
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 81.2%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 10
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 10
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 84%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 91%

3: Oakland Unity High School

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Charter high school, Oakland, CA

At Oakland Unity High School, all students have advisors who work with students and families as advocates and mentors. These advisors help guide students through graduation and college admission. Unity students are given opportunities to learn inside and outside the classroom and to develop as leaders, creative critical thinkers, compassionate human beings, and effective participants in a multicultural society.

  • Total number of students: 252
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 77.7%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 8
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 8
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 84%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 95%

4: KIPP San Jose Collegiate

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Charter high school, San Jose, CA

KIPP San Jose Collegiate, located in East San Jose, graduated its first class in 2012 with 95% of seniors admitted to at least one 4-year college. Many of those students are the first in their family to attend college. KIPP San Jose Collegiate provides a rigorous college preparatory program building skills and character with a goal of developing poised, confident, and articulate leaders. One student reports about KIPP San Jose Collegiate, “All my teachers have always been there to push me, to help me, to inspire me during my path as a student. … I’m proud to say that, as a student, I truly feel prepared … to apply to college.”

  • Total number of students: 450
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 74.3%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 9
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 9
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 88%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 73%

5: Leadership Public Schools – Hayward

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Charter high school, Hayward, CA

Leadership Public School in Hayward has high expectations for all students and offers a campus culture that is supportive and familial. LPS offers innovative instructional strategies to provide frequent interventions for students and to develop self-directed learners. The decision-making process at LPS — hiring teachers, developing curriculum, etc. — is grounded in their mission to prepare students to be extraordinary critical thinkers, passionate lifelong learners, and leaders who embody the virtues of wisdom, courage, justice, and humanity.

  • Total number of students: 450
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 63.7%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 10
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 9
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 93%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 64%

6: KIPP King Collegiate High School

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Charter high school, San Lorenzo, CA

A KIPP King Collegiate High School student sums up her experience this way: “Although their goal is to get us to college, I personally find that along the way they help us make our dreams come true.” At KIPP King Collegiate, every student is paired with an advisor who meets with them four times per week to provide proactive and reactive academic, social, and emotional support. The advisor, or “Pride Leader,” builds a deep relationship with students and families and facilitates team-building activities and social-emotional learning circles to develop a strong sense of community.

  • Total number of students: 451
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 70.9%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 9
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 8
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 93%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 74%

7: Galileo High School

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Public district high school, San Francisco, CA

At Galileo, students have a unique option to choose an academic pathway or academy in Biotechnology, Environmental Science, Health Science, Information Technology, Digital Media Arts, or Hospitality and Tourism. Galileo offers rigorous academic courses including a wide range of AP and honors classes, and the FUTURAMA afterschool program and SUMMERFUN provide students with the opportunity to broaden their knowledge through work at school and around the world.

  • Total number of students: 2,131
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 73.2%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 9
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 9
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 91%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 64%

8: Wallenberg (Raoul) Traditional High School

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Public district high school, San Francisco, CA

Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High Schools offers students a small, supportive environment with rigorous, personalized educational program and close student-staff relationships. Raoul Wallenberg teachers and staff get to know each student’s strengths and weaknesses and are able to reinforce student academic and social growth.

  • Total number of students: 638
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 66.1%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 8
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 8
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 94%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 69%

9: Middle College High School

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Public district high school, San Pablo, CA

Middle College High School offers a unique program for students in grades 9 through 12 to earn a high school diploma while concurrently taking college courses and earning college credits in collaboration with Contra Costa College. MCHS provides a nurturing and academically challenging environment for at-risk youth through a program that also allows them to build job skills through various internships.

  • Total number of students: 285
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 49.8%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 10
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 9
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 100%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 52%

10: Lowell High School

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Public district high school, San Francisco, CA

Lowell, a selective high school in the heart of San Francisco, offers a broad range of academic courses that include eight languages, all College Board AP courses, and electives such as geology, organic chemistry, Shakespeare, and robotics. The multicultural student population is highly motivated and is supported by a dedicated staff who teach, mentor, and tutor the students. As part of their success, Lowell touts a well-articulated governance with strong cross-departmental leadership, an inclusion of student voice in making school-wide decisions, and a strong and supportive parent and alumni community.

  • Total number of students: 2,696
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 43.1%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 10
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 10
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 98%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 42%

11: Impact Academy of Arts and Technology

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Charter high school, Hayward, CA

Impact Academy of Arts and Technology provides a rigorous academic program and puts an emphasis on building relationships between young people and adults. All students are part of a close community through the advisory program that supports students’ social, emotional, and academic growth. Students can also intern through the Workplace Learning Experience program.

  • Total number of students: 460
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 65.2%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 9
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 9
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 89%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 55%

12: Balboa High School

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Public district high school, San Francisco, CA

As one parent reports, “GREAT TEACHERS are what make Balboa High School a superb and sought-after program.” Balboa, a high school with more than 1,300 students, is organized into small learning communities that help build strong relationships with teachers and peers as students engage in rigorous academics. The heart of Balboa’s mission is “sustaining a culture of continuous improvement,” and to that end, students learn how to recognize and access opportunities both inside and outside the school environment.

  • Total number of students: 1,382
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 68.8%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 9
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 8
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 92%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 60%

13: Lincoln (Abraham) High School

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Public district high school, San Francisco, CA

The Lincoln High School community is committed to the core values of achievement, belonging, and enjoyment. The Lincoln Instructional Core includes an emphasis on authentic relationships, clear objectives and procedures, and student voice in the context of the core curriculum. Lincoln credits its strength to the many academic and extracurricular programs that allow students choice and agency in their experience.

  • Total number of students: 2,022
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 60.3%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 9
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 8
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 90%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 61%

14: Washington (George) High School

George Washington High School

Public district high school, San Francisco, CA

At Washington High School, they operate with the assumption that every student has the ability to have equal access to college and career. Ninety-two percent of graduates are accepted to college and students are encouraged to explore every academic opportunity available. Washington High School’s mission is to provide a learning environment that is safe and secure and promotes high academic and ethical standards, preparing all students to become successful lifelong learners in a global, multicultural society.

  • Total number of students: 2,129
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 59.8%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 9
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 8
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 91%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 49%

15: Summit Preparatory Charter High School

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Charter high school, Redwood City, CA

Summit Prep uses a personalized learning model that enables students to be self-directed and to learn at their own pace while working collaboratively with others on project-based learning. Summit teachers use an innovative technology platform — the Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) — to monitor students’ progress, provide real-time feedback, and make changes to learning plans. Summit Prep reports that last year, 100% of graduates were accepted to a 4-year university.

  • Total number of students: 425
  • Percentage of students from low-income families: 40.6%
  • GreatSchools Rating: 9
  • Rating of test scores for students from low-income families: 8
  • Graduation rate for students from low-income families: 87%
  • Percentage of college-ready (UC/CSU) graduates who are from low-income families: 46%

Methodology

How do we come up with the GreatSchools list of Top High Schools for Student from Low-Income Families?

We used the following criteria for the list:

  • The GreatSchools Test Score Rating for low-income students (defined as eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) is 8 or above (on a scale of 1-10). This means that low-income students in those schools, on average, perform higher than 80% of all students statewide. 42 out of 213 Bay Area high schools with sufficient data meet this threshold.
  • The graduation rate for low-income students at the school exceeds the statewide graduation rate of 81%.
  • The percent of graduates meeting eligibility requirements for entrance into University of California or California State University that are from low-income families exceeds 40%.
  • 15 Bay Area high schools meet all three criteria.

How do we rank the schools?

The low-income Test Score Rating is put on a scale of 100 (e.g. rating of 8 = 80), and added to the low-income graduation rate and percent of UC/CSU eligible grads that are low-income (both on a scale of 100) to create a score on a scale of 300 that equally weights the 3 metrics. Schools are ranked based on that score.

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Updated: May 18, 2016