Best High Schools

We gathered the data and compared 98 public & private high schools. See which schools excel at getting our kids ready for college, and what makes them stand out in the crowd.

Top of the Class

Public Schools:

Class 1 and 2
Class 3
Class 4
Class 5
Private Schools


Student Profiles

The Bullrider
The Ballroom Dancer
The Novelist

High School: It’s that four-year span that prepares your kids for what’s next: the rest of their lives. Parents often struggle with the decision of where to send their child, and often school-district quality determines where they decide to buy their home and raise their families. But out of the 100-plus high schools in southwest Missouri, how do parents know which is best for their kids and their needs?

Is it a public high school, such as Joplin High, where more than 2,000 students fill the classrooms? Or is it a smaller, private school, such as Joplin’s McAuley Catholic High, which sits just a little more than one mile away from the public institution? This size difference is far from rare; high schools in 417-land vary greatly in number of students. But whether the school is big or small, or public or private, they all have administrators working toward one ultimate goal: preparing students for life after graduation. How well do the high schools in 417-land do that? We did the research to find out. Read on for a little history and highlights from the top schools, then check out the charts to see why they ranked so high.

417 Web Exclusive!

Click here to see the numbers for every school we researched, including the ones that didn't crack the list in the magazine.

The Process:
We contacted more than 110 public high schools and 25 private high schools in 417-land and asked them to take a survey to take part in our story. After we sent each school information about the story and a copy of the survey via mail—plus made the survey available online and called and e-mailed each high school principal and/or superintendent to further explain the story—a total of 90 public schools and eight private schools chose to participate in our research. In order to be fair, we separated the private high schools from the public, and we divided the public schools by size according to the standard set by the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA).

Our goal was to find the schools that best prepared their students to gain admittance to and succeed in college, so we compared the schools using five factors, based on the 2007–2008 school year: the number of Advanced Placement classes offered, the number of dollars spent per student, the student/teacher ratio, the graduation rate and the percentage of students who go on to college. All of the public school information was fact-checked with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website ( and via phone, and the private schools information was fact-checked by phone. We ordered the schools based on their data and determined their rankings by their cumulative performance in our five categories. Wondering whether your child’s school (or your neighborhood school or your own school) stacks up? Read on to find out.

They Deserve a Shout-Out

Central High School, Alton High School, Gainesville High School, Fordland High School and Cassville High School may not have ranked high based on our specific research for this story, but these 417-land high schools were ranked as some of the country’s best high schools in a December 2008 U.S. News and World Report article, “America’s Best High Schools.” Also on the list were schools that ranked in our story as well: Joplin High School and Parkview High School.

The national magazine judged high schools across the country by assuring they serve the students by using state proficiency standards as measuring benchmarks and by measuring to what degree the schools prepared students for college-level work. Source:

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