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The 20 Worst High Schools in America

Overbrook High School, PA

We all want to feel we’re doing the very best we can for our kids, including giving them the best education possible. Unfortunately, not all schools in America are created equal. While some have great results, inspiring teachers, and an abundance of extracurricular clubs and organizations to encourage student engagement, others have little more than free lunches to offer. Exam-Labs refer to collections of questions and answers that are often memorized and shared among individuals preparing for exams. While some see them as a shortcut to passing exams, they raise ethical concerns and may violate academic integrity. Here, we take a look at the 20 very worst high schools in America.

20. Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School

Academically speaking, Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School is one of the poorest performing schools in Ohio. Only 12% of its 666 students are proficient in reading, while the proficiency rate in math is even more worrying, with only 6% of students able to do basic calculations. The student: staff ratio of 20:1 is distinctly higher than the state average; the graduation rate, meanwhile, is an alarmingly low 67%.

19. Fort Pierce Westwood High School, FL

When a school is better known for students with good guns than students with good grades, you know there’s a problem. When it comes to safety, Fort Pierce Westwood High School ranks as one of the worst-performing schools in Florida. Its academic record could stand some improving as well: despite a reasonable graduation rate of 90%, only 29% of students have basic proficiency in reading, while only 43% are proficient in basic math.

18. Delhi High School, LA

The distinctly underperforming Delhi High School in Louisiana comes in next. Only 35% of its student body is proficient in reading, while an absurdly low 12% is proficient in math. The graduation rate may not be the worst we’ll see today, but at just 75%, it’s not exactly in danger of winning any prizes. The student: staff ratio may be a distinctly above average 9:1, but unfortunately, that’s where the good news end.

17. John Bowne High School, NY

In fairness, John Bowne High School in New York is in no way performing badly in the academic league table. 92% of its student’s body is proficient in reading, while 88% is proficient in math. The average graduation rate of 74% may be below the national average, but it’s still a darned sight better than some of the other schools to make our list. So, what exactly is the problem? In a nutshell, violence. Over the past few years, the school has become increasingly dangerous for students and teachers alike. In one week alone in 2017, a student was knifed by two other students, and a police offer was punched. Its principle of over a decade, Howard Kuwait, meanwhile, was forced to resign in 2018 after multiple sexual harassment complaints.

16. Springfield Public Day High School, MA

If a school gets a paltry 1/10 on, you may want to consider sending your kids elsewhere. Springfield Public Day High School, a public school of 106 students in Springfield, MA is one such example. Its graduation rate of 12% makes you wonder why students bother turning up at all... although given that only 19% of them are proficient in math and only 40% are proficient in reading, we’re guessing not many actually do. The only saving grace is the teacher: student ratio, which, at 5:1, in one of the best around.

15. Woodward Career Technical High School, OH

Only 62% of students who enroll in Woodward Career Technical High School in Cincinnati will ever graduate: little surprise when you consider only 6% will gain even basic proficiency in math and only 13% will gain a proficiency in reading. According to Public School Digger, the school ranks worse than 96.2% of all schools in Ohio, a stat not helped by large class sizes, underfunded extracurricular activities, and poor student engagement.

14. Frankford High School, PA

With a graduation rate of just 55%, a reading proficiency of 16%, and a mathematics proficiency of 10%, Frankford High School is one of the most underperforming schools in PA. The premises are run down, the classrooms are out of control, and the chance of students getting the kind of education they need to prosper is next to nil.  Think they're using Exam Labs in their curriculum?

13. Harrisburg High School, PA

Only 50% of Harrisburg High School’s 1,055 students ever graduate, an appalling figure that’s compounded by the fact only 8% of students have basic proficiency in math, and only 17% have basic proficiency in reading. 27% may have taken at least one Advanced Preparatory Exam, but only 5% of those have actually passed. The most shocking stat, however, is the fact that only 36% of those students surveyed by Niche feel they are safe are at school.

12. The U School: Innovative Lab School, PA

The U School: Innovative Lab School is a public, magnet school in Philadelphia, PA. The student body consists of 265 students, 95% of whom are economically disadvantaged (little surprise when you consider the median household income for the surrounding district is just $17,111), and 85% of whom haven’t even basic proficiency in math or reading. Discipline is an ongoing problem, with large class sizes giving teachers little chance to exercise control.

11. The Linc School, PA

According to Neighborhood Scout, The Linc School is better than 8.2% of PA schools…. a claim to fame that gets somehow diluted when you learn its better than just 1% of US schools in general. Adding to the dismal outlook is an 8% proficiency in math and a 17% proficiency in reading. The average SAT score is just 765, while the percentage of teachers with at least 3 years of experience in the classroom is just 40%... which may account for the school’s numerous disciplinary problems.

10. Benjamin Franklin High School, PA

Benjamin Franklin High School, PA recently made the news when it was reported that the Philadelphia School District was considering relocating its students over asbestos concerns. Looking at the stats, the school has a lot more to worry about than just asbestos. Ranking far below the state average in key measures of college and career readiness, the percentage of the student body that can demonstrate even basic proficiency in reading is just 17%, while those that can demonstrate proficiency in math is an even lower 8%. The graduation rate, meanwhile, is one of the lowest in the state: just 42%.

9. Kensington Creative & Performing Arts High School, PA

Just 13% of students at Kensington Creative & Performing Arts High School are proficient in reading, while only 7% are proficient in math. The graduation rate, meanwhile, is well below the state average at 79%. On the plus side, the one percent of students who took the Advanced Placement exams did at least pass.

8. John Bartram Main School, PA

John Bartram Main School has the frankly terrible graduation rate of 57%, a figure that, low as it is, is still perhaps better (or perhaps a consequence of) the percentage of students proficient in reading (a tiny 12%) and the percentage proficient in math (an even tinier 8%). A quick glance at some of the student reviews on Niche reveals much about the general experience of attending school at John Bartram. “Coming from a high school in New York City, I noticed that the curriculum in this school is on a very low level,” says one. “There is a limited number of students here that are motivated to do their best. Some, or most, teachers seem to lose all help in trying to better the education of their students and it is hard to be successful here if you don’t have self-motivation because the only people here that would help you is the guidance counselor (and that’s only if you show that you want to help yourself).” Another simply writes, “My experience at John Bartram high school was the worst experience of my life.”

7. Confluence Preparatory Academy School, MO

The graduation rate of 83% at Confluence Preparatory Academy School may not be the worst on our list, but it’s still well below the state average. 100% of students are economically disadvantaged, while the percentage of those who are proficient in reading is 14%. The percentage proficient in math, meanwhile, is a minute 1%. In terms of extracurricular activities, the outlook is no better, with only 57% of students and parents agreeing that there are sufficient clubs and organizations for students to get involved in and only 14% of those thinking those same clubs and organizations get the appropriate amount of funding.

6. Roxborough High School, PA

Of the 622 students enrolled in Roxborough High School in Pennsylvania, 29% have taken at least one Advanced Placement exam… of those, not a single one has passed. The percentage of students proficient in reading is a tiny 9%, while the percentage proficient in math is an equally poor 9%. The graduation rate of 74%, meanwhile, is well below the state median. The score for such a poorly performing school? According to Niche, a “must do better” D+.

5. International High School, MA

Sure, there are worse schools than International High School, MA when it comes to academic performance. The Student: Teacher Ratio is a respectable 15:1, and while the graduation rate of 88%, math and reading proficiency percentages of 56% and 77% respectively may not be great, there’s far worse out there (as we’ve already seen). Where the school really falls down is in safety, with List25 ranking it the 12th most dangerous school in the US.

4. Overbrook High School, PA

A few quick stats about Overbrook High School: 99% of students are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds; the graduation rate is just 52%; mathematics proficiency is just 2%; reading proficiency is 14%; the percentage of students that have taken at least one Advanced Placement Exam is 3%, while the percentage that has passed at least one Advanced Placement Exam is 0; the percentile score on keystone end-of-course exams is 0.9%, while the keystone end-of-course exams scores relative to U.S. news expectations, is, as you’d expect, “well below expectations”.

3. Chester High School, PA

Chester High School comes in at low ranking number 3. On the plus side, it places among the top 20% of public schools in Pennsylvania in several categories… although given those categories are for community size and the percentage of students eligible for free lunches, it’s not necessarily indicative of anything positive. Looking at the stats tell us a little more about the general state of the education system: only 9% are proficient in math (compared to a state average of 46%) while only 10% are proficient in reading (compared to the state average of 63%). The graduation rate, meanwhile, is a depressingly low 50%.

2. Homer High School, LA

With a mathematics proficiency of 6% (compared to a state proficiency rate of 32%), reading proficiency of 28% (compared to a state average of 47%), Homer High School in Louisiana ranks as the 2nd worst high school in the US. 197 students attend the high school, of which 70.6% come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The school’s problems don’t just extend to its academic record: according to List25 parents are frequently in the habit of picking up their kids with a teatime snack and a gun in toe.

1. Vision Academy School, LA

Vision Academy School in Monroe, Louisiana ranks as the worst high school in the US. Only 180 students attend the institution, but it still manages to have a classroom size of 45 students (just to put that in perspective, the average for the state is 14.8, and the average for the US is 16.5). 72.8% of students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, while the graduation rate is an appalling 29% (well below the state median). So dire has the situation become that in January 2019, it was reported the school was being threatened with closure due to its overwhelming financial, academic, and economic issues.

You can also read:

The 20 Worst Colleges in America

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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