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best schools in san francisco

Best Schools in San Francisco, CA | 🏫Top Private Schools and High Schools

Last Updated on: 10th November 2022, 03:20 pm

San Francisco is one of the 30 most beautiful cities in the nation, according to Forbes. Located in San Francisco county, and coming in at number seventeen on the Forbes list, San Francisco is the commercial, financial, and cultural center of Northern California. Known for historic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the world-famous Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco is also oozing with cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity in a way that few cities replicate. Living in San Francisco Bay offers ample fortuity for international trade and distribution while the tech industry dominates much of the office spaces downtown. There is no shortage of employment options or career advancement opportunities for somebody looking for a chance or a change!

Unsurprisingly, we’ve found the housing market to be just as robust as the job market. Median household income is an astounding $121,000 as of the last census!  That’s a good thing because the median value of homes is over a million dollars at this point, which seems to be a result of San Francisco being the tech center of the west coast. With so many high paying employment opportunities, beautiful weather, no reason to worry about natural disasters like hurricanes, and the heavy influx in population, houses can hardly be built quick enough to satisfy the rapid influx in population. Trust us – San Francisco moving companies can barely keep up with the demand!

The population influx has put a lot of pressure on the school systems in San Francisco. Both public high schools and private schools in San Francisco have to meet the demands of rising enrollment. Some schools have split up and made multiple locations just to keep up with the rising demands, rather than having too many pupils in each class. California has a robust education system, certainly compared to most states. The state has exit exams for all of their graduates to pass before getting a diploma. The exams come with different levels of prestige and academic acknowledgment, but every graduate must pass the base level of exams for a high school diploma which is why it’s a top 20 state for education.

Some of the best San Francisco high schools and private schools rank highest in the entire state but because there are so many of them, it can be confusing trying to figure out which would be best for the students in your life. We’ve compiled a list of the best schools in San Francisco so as you’re looking for safe neighborhoods in San Francisco to move to, you can also check the schools in the area to make sure they meet your needs. 


Best High Schools in San Francisco

We’d consider the public high schools in San Francisco to also be among the best in the entire state, which puts them as some of the best in the entire country since we’ve already established that California is pretty good in the education area! Many of the schools in San Francisco, both public and private, have grades pre-k through 12 but for the purpose of this guide, we’re going to focus solely on high school grades which are almost always considered grades 9-12. 

Many of the public schools in San Francisco fall under the same governing and administration body; The San Francisco Unified School District. Consisting of dozens of schools, the district does its best to allocate resources evenly and define the lines for taxpayers to understand where their school taxes are going. Not all the schools are equal though. Let’s take a look at the top four public high schools in San Francisco:

Lowell High School – Best Public High School in San Francisco

What Makes Lowell High School great?

  • Programs with paths into some of the most coveted colleges in the state
  • Staff is well trained in student safety
  • Low student:teacher ratio allows for plenty of 1 on 1 time
  • Bilingual staff (English/Spanish)
  • More focus on ESLRs (Expected Schoolwide Learning Results) than other local schools
  • 4 times as a National Blue Ribbon School
  • 8 times as a California Distinguished School
  • 1 time National Gold Ribbon School
  • Consistently ranked #1 in the Western Region for the number of Advanced Placement Exams given

There simply is no better public school in all of San Francisco. Lowell has been recognized by a number of publications over the past decade for its continued academic and student safety excellence. Even after the pandemic, the school continues to dominate the city, state, and much of the country.

Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts – Audition-based, Alternative High School in San Francisco

What makes Ruth Asawa High School great?

  • Programs with paths into the best collegiate arts schools in the country
  • Staff is committed to equity and excellence in the arts and academics
  • Bilingual staff (English/Spanish)
  • Dedication to teaching the values of Respect, Openness, Safety, and Engagement
  • Unique opportunities for students to experience programs reflecting the city’s cultural diversity
  • Regularly recognized as the best public arts school in the state
  • Opportunities with locals museums

According to the admissions office, “the school offers visual and performing art classes daily in addition to a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. Students audition for placement in one department only. Auditioning students are admitted based on audition results; no academic criteria are used.”  From the moment of admission, students are taught much of the same history, science, math, and writing skills as the other public schools but tend to incorporate the arts into the curriculum!  Children interested in the arts will greatly benefit from this leg up as colleges will be impressed with the early dedication.

Galileo Academy of Science and Technology – Best Science Specialized School System

What makes Galileo High School great?

  • Programs with paths into the best local tech companies
  • Programs with paths into science and engineering majors in local universities
  • Staff is committed to equity and excellence in environmental science, health, hospitality and tourism, computer science, and creative media technology
  • Not afraid of specializing curriculum with three separate academies and 3 pathways
  • Offers an AVID Program (Advancement Via Individual Determination)
  • Galileo also offers a Chinese Immersion Program

According to the admissions office, “With a particular focus on science and technology, the school offers students six specialized academy and pathway choices beginning in 10th grade.” The school puts a lot of emphasis on hands-on learning experiences. 

Abraham Lincoln High School – Healthy Alternative to Lowell with Better Sports Programs

What makes Abraham Lincoln High School great?

  • Programs with paths into some of the most coveted colleges in the state
  • Staff is well trained in student safety
  • Lower expected annual spending on supplies as school provides most
  • Bilingual staff (English/Spanish)
  • Better extracurriculars and sports programs than rival schools
  • Lincoln offers a rigorous AP and honors program
  • Services for Special Education severely and non-severely impaired students
  • Environmental Service Learning Initiative promotes environmental and social justice

It’s safe to assume Abraham Lincoln would be the best all around high school in all of San Francisco if it weren’t for its major rival, Lowell. Both are a part of the same school system and resources are evenly distributed to both. Part of Lowell’s leg up is simply because it’s had a leg up. History can be difficult to overcome. If you’re moving to the area, Abraham Lincoln is still one of the best high schools in San Francisco for your kids – especially if they’re big into sports.

Best Private Schools in San Francisco

It probably doesn’t surprise you that if the public schools in San Francisco are so good, the private schools are even better. With some of the top private schools in the entire nation, San Francisco is home to the top private schools in the state of California. San Francisco’s best schools are private schools. (No, we’re not at all knocking the public schools listed above!)  It will interest many of our customers to know that San Francisco has 4 of the top 30 best private schools in the entire state!  Let’s take a look…

San Francisco University High School – For Gifted Students

What makes San Francisco University High School great?

  • Staff believes in the promise of every student, and together we work to build and sustain a community of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and talents
  • Heavy mentoring program, customized for each student
  • Reasonable tuition costs – roughly $44,750
  • Independent Study Showcase
  • Responsive education program to continue to grow and alter curriculum 
  • Inquiry, Care, Integrity, Agency, and Interconnection are main focuses
  • San Francisco University is sure to accept graduates

Students that have shown to be well ahead of their peers in elementary education can try to get into San Francisco University’s high school. The school combines collegiate and high school courses for early college credits so gifted students can get a head start on life. The school still encourages kids to be kids with extracurriculars and various clubs to participate in. The exceptionally low 6 to 1 student to teacher ratio ensures success for all enrolled.

Lick-Wilmerding High School – Gifted and Diverse Students

What makes Lick-Wilmerding High School great?

Wealthy families from around the globe send their children to Lick-Wilmerding High School to promote their student-athletes. These kids are encouraged to make commitments, set goals, and work to attain them. The goals are academic, in the community, and on the different ball fields or courts. If you want to expose your child to some of the most well-rounded students from around the globe, while getting the best education money can buy, Lick-Wilmerding High School is the best choice for you.

Urban School of San Francisco – Extremely Diverse Student Body

What makes Urban School of San Francisco great?

  • More exposure to students from other school systems
  • Ample opportunity to fast track into local colleges
  • Located in downtown San Fran – plenty of partnerships with local companies
  • More traditional classroom size
  • Less picky when it comes to academic approvals
  • The most diverse private school in San Francisco
  • Some of the best technology exposure in San Fran
  • Hybrid learning available

Urban is built around the idea that students should have access to local companies, opportunities with local colleges, and a more reasonable/traditional high school experience. Most of the urban students get financial aid to help with the heavy tuition burden. There are some academic criteria that need to be met but the most important thing is that you are from urban San Fran!  Scholastically, the Urban School of San Francisco is one of the best urban high schools in the entire nation.

San Francisco, CA Schools FAQ

Does San Francisco have good schools?

All of California has good education – especially compared to the rest of the nation. And San Francisco high schools rank among the best in the state!

What is the best high school in San Francisco, CA?

The best public high school in San Francisco is definitely Lowell High. That doesn’t mean the others are bad!  Somebody has to be recognized as the best.

What is the best school district in San Francisco, CA?

The San Francisco Unified School District is the best in all of San Francisco. It may even be the best in the entire state.

We know how important it is for your children to get the best education they can. We try to tell our customers the best they can do when they’re moving to San Francisco is to scope out the many school systems before they move and let the schools help guide their search for the best neighborhoods. While the city has some incredible schools, there are obviously those that are well behind the ones listed here. Don’t make the mistake of moving first and looking later. Plan first, then decide where you want to live. Then, when you’re finally ready, give a call to AMS Relocation or fill out our form. We’ll help you get a free quote today so you can move on to enrolling your child as a new student in the school of his/her/your choice!


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