By Haddon Libby

It is hard to believe but the new school year is upon us.  That means some 5,300 college or universities will be back in action.  Nearly 19 million students attend these schools.

There are nearly 27,000 high schools in the United States of which 21,500 are public with the remainder private.  Approximately 16 million students attend high school.

The National Center for Education Statistics shows that we have more than 130,000 Kindergarten through 8th grade or middle school in the United States.  There are an estimated 35 million K-8 students.


In total, more than 50 million people attend school with 7 million learning here in California.  Roughly 23 million identify as Caucasian, 14 million Hispanic, 7 million Black and 3 million Asian.  Approximately 4 million teachers educate these students.   The American taxpayer spends more than $13,000 on average for each student at a public school.

According to US News, the highest rated high school in the country is located in Alexandria, Virginia.  The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology has a STEM-focused curriculum.  Courses include DNA science, robotics, marine biology and more.  With 15 research labs including astronomy, astrophysics, and geophysical systems, It is clear that this is not your normal high school.  100% of the 1,800 students graduate this four-year school graduate with 100% ready for college.

Academic Magnet High School in North Charleston, South Carolina comes in second with a similarly perfect score.  As the schools have only 700 students, it came in second.  With 400 students, Signature School in Evansville, Indiana is the only over school to post perfect scores.

Here in California, Whitney High School in Cerritos is nearly ‘perfect’ with a 99% graduation rate and 98.4% of its 700 students ready for university.  Students at Whitney can earn higher placements in the University of California admissions index with certain academic honors and courses.

Here in Riverside County, the Riverside Stem Academy was the highest rated high school.  Ranked tenth in the state and 100th in the nation, 100% of this school’s 243 students graduate with 81% ready for college.   What makes this school’s performance particularly strong is that 70% of its students are classified as minorities with 41% from poor families.

In the Coachella Valley, Desert Sands Unified School District has the highest rated high school with Palm Desert High School.  With a 98% graduation rate, 40% of the 2,100 students are prepared for college.  La Quinta High School has a 97% graduation rate with 26% college readiness score while Shadow Hills in Indio graduates 96% with 37% ready for college.

In the Palm Springs Unified School District, Palm Springs High Schools’ 1,600 students have the best graduation rate at 97%.  Preparedness for college is weak at 34%.  85% of the school population are minority with 95% from poor families.  Math and Science proficiency is 33% and 22%, respectively. Rancho Mirage High School graduates 96% of its students with 33% ready for college.  Cathedral City High School has an 88% graduation rate with only 1 in 4 prepared for college.

The top high school in the Coachella Valley School District is West Shores High School at the Salton Sea.  95% of students are classified as minority as well as coming from poor families.  With these challenging statistics, 85% of its students graduate with 1 in 2 ready for college.  Coachella Valley High School graduates 84% with only 1 in 5 ready for college while Desert Mirage in Thermal graduates 81% but has 1 in 3 ready for college.

While our local results are hampered by a large low-income population, we do not have a high school with the learning labs of the best schools in the country.  As such, families looking to live in places with access to the best possible education would look toward communities other than our own.  As a community, we should demand more.

Haddon Libby is the Founder of Winslow Drake Investment Management.  For more information on their award winning services, please visit