Best High Schools in New Jersey

August 21, 2012

Not long ago, students learned welding and other trade skills at New Jersey’s county vocational-technical schools while college-bound kids got the best academic training at their local high schools.

Oh, how education is changing in the Garden State.

Sure, wealthy districts still produce the best test results, on balance. No surprise there. ZIP codes matter.

But nipping at the heels of the state’s rich are a host of vocational-technical county magnet schools. It’s the self-selecting way of testing into New Jersey’s academic elite.

The best two high schools in Middlesex County, according to Inside Jersey’s rankings on the following pages, are both county-wide vocational magnet schools — Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies in Edison and Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences in Woodbridge. Following them are the usual achievers from Metuchen, Edison and East Brunswick.

The same pattern holds for Morris and Monmouth counties. The Academy for Mathematics, Science and Engineering out-scored Chatham, West Morris and Mountain Lakes, the other top schools in Morris County, as well as Morris Hills High School, where the vocational academy is housed.

The excellent schools of Rumson-Fair Haven, Holmdel and Marlboro in Monmouth County were bested by five schools classified by the state as vocational: High Technology High School, located in Brookdale Community College; Biotechnology High School in Freehold; Communications High School in Wall; Academy of Allied Health and Science in Neptune; and Marine Academy Science and Technology housed at Fort Hancock Historic District on Sandy Hook. Similarly in Ocean County, the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Sciences ranks number one, (see story, Page 22.), higher than Jackson and Brick high schools.

The scores are based on the most recent High School Proficiency Assessment released by the New Jersey Department of Education. However, Inside Jersey weighted the test results to give advanced scores greater value.

For the first time, charter schools also are included in the rankings, although they don’t perform nearly as well as the magnets.

It’s easy to see how rich a district is by looking at median residential housing values. Those figures, pulled from the U.S. Census are included, too. County-wide schools list no property values because they don’t draw from a particular municipality.

And here’s a big caveat: These vocational schools, as well as the more discussed charters, educate far fewer students than the districts. A few hundred students is considered a large enrollment, compared with regular schools that can accommodate 1,000 kids or more.

Local schools still do the heavy lifting. But that picture is changing.

Below, we list all the high schools in each New Jersey county. Schools are listed by our Inside Jersey ranking. You can compare individual counties or check out all the state's school's together.

A school’s three proficiency scores for each subject may not total 100% because of rounding. 

Visit website to see list of New Jersey's best high schools: