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U.S. News: These Tampa Bay area high schools are among the best in Florida

The annual rankings put a dozen high schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco in the state’s top 100.
Plant High in Tampa was one of 12 Tampa Bay area schools among the top 100 in Florida, as ranked by U.S. News & World. The rankings were released Tuesday.
Plant High in Tampa was one of 12 Tampa Bay area schools among the top 100 in Florida, as ranked by U.S. News & World. The rankings were released Tuesday.
Published Apr. 30, 2019

Twelve Tampa Bay area schools were ranked among the top 100 public high schools in Florida, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual “Best High Schools” rankings released today.

The highest-ranked area school was Tampa’s Plant High, which finished 36th in the state and 582nd in the nation. U.S. News, a digital news and information company, said this year’s rankings were the most comprehensive ever, as it now ranks 17,000 schools nationwide – up from 2,700 last year.

READ THE GRADEBOOK: The talk of Florida education.

“Our mission with the Best High Schools rankings has always been to educate families about the schools in their district,” Anita Narayan, managing editor of Education at U.S. News, said in a statement. “By evaluating more schools than ever before, the new edition expands that focus so all communities can see which schools in their area are successfully serving their students – including historically underserved populations.”

The company also ranks states based on the percentage of their high schools that finished in the top 25 percent nationally. On that score, Florida ranked 6th with nearly 37 percent of its high schools in that category, behind Massachusetts, Maryland, California, Connecticut and New Jersey.

The school rankings are based on several factors, including: college readiness as measured on Advanced Placement and IB exams; the breadth of a school’s college curriculum as measured by the percentage 12th graders who took and passed AP and IB exams; scores on math and reading tests; the graduation rate; and an analysis of how minority students are faring in the schools.

The education world is awash in numbers, so there are many ways to measure school quality. Intangibles like the talent level and engagement of teachers also come into play. But many look to U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings as one of the more respected barometers of academic success. They are highly anticipated each year and frequently used in promotional efforts by schools, school districts and elected officials.

Aside from Plant High, the other Hillsborough County schools in Florida’s top 100 are Steinbrenner (43), Newsome (46), Sickles (53), Brooks Debartolo Collegiate (59), Robinson (68) and Tampa Bay Tech (95).

Brooks Debartolo stood out as one of the top-ranked charter high schools in the region, along with St. Petersburg Collegiate High, which ranked 140th in the state.

Four high schools in Pinellas County also made the top 100: East Lake (76), St. Petersburg (97), Palm Harbor University High (98) and Osceola Fundamental High (100).

Pasco County’s Land O’Lakes High ranked 54th.

U.S. News & World Report ranked 555 high schools in the state.


  1. More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK]
  2. Hudson High student Kaitlyn Helzer introduces herself to a curious corn snake during the Nature Coast Envirothon, held Feb. 19 at Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Sumter County. Students from Pasco, Hernando, Sumter and Citrus counties tested their knowledge on aquatics, forestry, soils and wildlife while vying for a spot at state competition. [MICHELE MILLER  |  Times]
  3. Incoming Superintendent Addison Davis (center) and School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) sign Davis' contract with the Hillsborough County School District after it was unanimously approved by the school board on February 18, 2020. [JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ  |  Times]
  4. Teacher Dequita Parker guides youngsters to lunch from the playground Sept. 20 at the PromiseLand Early Childhood Education Center in Tampa.
  5. Associate professor of biology Caitlin Gille leads the Pasco-Hernando State College faculty union, which challenged the school's public comment rules.  (Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Gille)
  6. Sen. Audrey Gibson, leader of the Florida Senate Democrats, introduces a bill in January to refocus the $900 million proposed for teacher pay into salaries for all public school employees. It's just one of many ideas still floating around Tallahassee relating to educator raises. [The Florida Channel]
  7. A small group of students were rushed inside a bus at dismissal at AMIKids on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 in Pinellas Park.  [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  8. School employees Jarvis Delon West, left, and Dontae Antonio Thomas, right, were both arrested in connection with the assault and injury of a 12-year-old boy who attended AMIkids in Pinellas Park. The state shut the school down. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  9. First Lady Casey DeSantis talks with students during the Hope for Healing a mental and substance abuse initiative held Roland Park K-8 School in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said state officials worked closely with DeSantis to craft the new rule. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
  10. In this Feb. 14, 2018, photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland after a shooter opened fire on the campus. [MIKE STOCKER  |  AP]
  11. Pinellas County School Board member Carol Cook, left, celebrates her reelection to her fifth term in 2016. If ultimately approved, a term limits proposal would force Florida's school board members out after two consecutive terms.
  12. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini fields questions on the House floor on Feb. 19, 2020, about his proposal to ask voters to limit school board member terms. [The Florida Channel]