ORANGE COUNTY SCHOOLS

 TOP ORANGE COUNTY PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS

1. Oxford Academy (Cypress, CA 90630) is a college preparatory public school, which opened in September of 1998. Recognized as a California Distinguished School and as one of the top ten high schools in the U.S. by Newsweek and US News and World Report, Oxford Academy draws students from the entire attendance area of the Anaheim Union High School District.

Oxford, a magnet school for Anaheim Union, tops the Register’s “Orange County’s Best High Schools,” a first-ever ranking of the county’s comprehensive public high schools.
“It’s a wonderful compliment to our students, staff and families to be considered No. 1,” Scott said. “It puts a lot of responsibility on us not to get complacent and continue to strive for greater things. We are proud, but we are not a perfect school.” When leaders of the Anaheim Union High School District came up with the concept for the college-preparatory school in 1998, they envisioned a campus where top students would be challenged and groomed for the country’s top universities.

A decade later, Oxford Academy – which teaches students in grades seven through 12 – is surpassing nearly all expectations.

Last year, 99 percent of eligible students took the state’s primary college-entrance exam – the SAT – and an equal number qualified to enter a California State University or a University of California level school. The school was recognized this year by Newsweek magazine as the fourth best school in the nation.

Located on a 20-acre campus in Cypress, Oxford has no attendance boundaries. Instead, it is open to the top 25 students from each of the district’s eight junior high schools – candidates who must still pass an admissions test and, once in, maintain a minimum grade-point average.

The school is also about more than academics. In recent years, Oxford has gained attention for its music, choral and theater programs. The school now competes in nearly ever major sport, except football.

Still, the focus is academics. Oxford this year boasted the highest API score in the county.

So with so many high achieving students, teachers here must be spoiled?

“Wrong,” said history teacher Fabiana Maench-Casanova.

“I’ve never worked so hard as I have here,” she said. “You’ve got to work hard to keep up with these students and continue to challenge them.

“We may be spoiled in the sense that we don’t have discipline problems like other schools, but we have other challenges so that we don’t lose their attention.”

2. Troy High School (Fullerton, CA 92831)
When Troy High School held its recruitment day this year, guidance counselors capped participation at 80 universities. That’s Troy’s reputation for success.
“Students here know they are going to college,” said Maria Williams, Troy’s guidance technician. “Our biggest task is letting students know that there is life outside the Ivy League.”
Troy has won national acclaim, most notably for its Science Olympiad team, which for seven of the last 14 years has captured the national title in an event that tests written and practical knowledge of chemistry, engineering and other sciences.

But Troy also has won acclaim for its dance team – national champions, too. And for its NJROTC military studies program, and for numerous athletic titles.

“We take pride in the Four A’s at Troy – academics, athletics, arts and activities,” said Priscilla Cheney, student adviser at Troy. “It’s all important to our students.”

The origins of Troy’s reputation can be traced back more than two decades, when a study commissioned by President Ronald Reagan presented a gloomy picture of a nation failing to properly train its students for the future.

Troy, located in the heart of a city that calls itself “The Education Community,” responded by applying for a grant and starting The Troy Tech program. The magnet curriculum set out to train students in math, science, engineering and high technology.

Only a handful of kids enrolled when the program began in 1986, and it grew slowly during the first decade. When the school started winning national recognition in the late 90s, interest in the program “spread like a wildfire,” Cheney said.

Today, nearly half of Troy’s 2,550 students come from outside of its attendance boundaries. Students must test to get into the Troy Tech program.

“It’s not cut-throat here,” said senior Saumya Gurbani, 17. “But with some of the smartest kids around you, there’s going to be friendly competition.”

The technology magnet program has attracted young, enthusiastic teachers who want to be part of an exciting new concept in education, Cheney said.

Engineering instructor Kent Goodman came to Troy to teach after 12 years as a professional engineer. He said he’s constantly tweaking his curriculum to ensure students are challenged.

 

University is not a magnet school or a charter school; in fact, virtually all students live within its attendance boundaries, and the only way for a student at another Irvine Unified school to transfer into the school is if a University student transfers out.
The school consists of a collection of one-story, tan-brick buildings spread out across 55 grassy acres in a mostly residential enclave of Irvine’s Turtle Rock community. The school’s motto is “Unity through diversity” – reflecting its multicultural student body and its role as host to a county program for about 115 deaf and hearing-impaired students.
The concentration of academically talented students has created a highly competitive environment.

“There are so many intelligent kids in your class that the teacher can’t give everyone an A, so it’s about striving for the good grade,” said 17-year-old senior Jacob Choi, who will attend Vanderbilt University this fall. “But the competition definitely causes you to strive for excellence – it’s not a negative environment.”

While the school’s curriculum is designed to appeal to all students, including those less academically inclined, tremendous resources have been invested into helping the best and brightest excel, Principal John Pehrson said.

Classes are taught at a higher intellectual level than average, and teachers are encouraged to constantly find ways to challenge their top students.

“My teachers are able to go way beyond the standards and have really engaging activities and discussions in class,” Pehrson said. “It’s a cycle – the kids allow the teachers to go deeper, and the teacher trains the kids to be better thinkers. It gets to the point where there’s no limit to what the kids can learn and do.”

The competitive environment also encourages average and struggling students to achieve at higher levels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


4. Middle College High School (Santa Ana, CA 92706) at Santa Ana College, is a collaborative venture between the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) and Santa Ana College(SAC) which opened its doors in 1997. It has a handful of portable buildings near the back of the campus, including an administration room and some classrooms. is a technology magnet that attracts students from across Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Some have even tried to make the commute from San Diego.

 

 

 

 

3. University High (Irvine, CA 92612) sits opposite UC Irvine in the heart of a city known for its top-notch public schools. It’s the oldest and most highly regarded of Irvine’s four public high schools, and it consistently earns its reputation through award-winning academic competition teams, dozens of National Merit Finalists each year, and top-notch arts and music programs.

 

 

 

 

 

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