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Best K-12 private school in every state

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Best K-12 private school in every state

How does one define student success? Educators, administrators, parents, and even students themselves have tried to pin down a neat definition over the years, with mixed results. From GPAs to eventual job placement, the factors that contribute to an institution's effectiveness are often subjective. Therefore, when ranking schools, it can be difficult to determine what makes a school “the best.”

That said, there are traditional hallmarks of academic excellence that can be used to measure the quality of an institution. College admission rates, AP test scores, the number of students who go on to colleges, and the quality and rigor of the curriculum are all factors that may be considered when determining which schools come out on top.

To see how the best of the best compared in every state around the country, Stacker gathered data from Niche on private primary schools in every state. According to Niche, the rankings are “based on rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents. Ranking factors include SAT/ACT scores, the quality of colleges that students consider, student-teacher ratio, private school ratings, and more.”

Even within this framework, a closer look at the schools that made up the 50 best (not counting the District of Columbia) reveals as much about the states in which they are based as they do about the nature of academic and educational excellence. From schools with a religious grounding in the comparatively religious American South to schools with alternative health practices and viewpoints in the alternative Southwest, each school’s traditions and history are often tied to local culture.

Financial aid is a significant factor many families must consider when looking to send their children to schools that are considered the best. Some schools have notably generous financial aid policies—with one even offering a sliding scale—while others are less generous.

From Alabama to Wyoming, Stacker takes a look at the best K-12 private school in each state. Check out this slideshow to find out which school in your state stands out among the rest. 

You may also like: Best value colleges in America

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Alabama: Randolph School

- City: Huntsville
- Enrollment: 967
- Student to teacher ratio: 10:1
- Yearly tuition: $19,490
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

The Randolph School may be in Alabama, but the school’s alumni have gone on to make impacts far and wide. Notable alums include the White House director of digital strategy during the Obama administration, opera singers at the Metropolitan Opera, and even the co-founder of Wikipedia. Thanks to a recent grant from the Ford Foundation, the school is also actively expanding its tuition assistance program.

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Kzenon // Shutterstock

Alaska: Holy Rosary Academy

- City: Anchorage
- Enrollment: 147
- Student to teacher ratio: 9:1
- Yearly tuition: data not available
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

Holy Rosary’s curriculum is unique and relatively rare in its focus on the classics, including Greek, Latin, and philosophy instruction, along with its reading, writing, and math curriculum. The school has been recognized as one of the leading Catholic schools in the world.

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Arizona: Phoenix Country Day School

- City: Paradise Valley
- Enrollment: 750
- Student to teacher ratio: 7:1
- Yearly tuition: $25,000
- Students receiving financial aid: 23%

With a 40-acre campus, Phoenix Country Day School has the room to offer amenities like swimming pools, tennis courts, multiple athletic fields and gyms, science labs, art studios, and a music building. The school supports many extracurricular activities, including debate and robotics clubs that have won awards statewide.

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Arkansas: Pulaski Academy

- City: Little Rock
- Enrollment: 1,393
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: data not available
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

Pulaski Academy has the distinction of being the only independent, non-sectarian college preparatory school in Arkansas. But the school comes with controversy, too: It was founded in 1971 by a businessman who was upset about racial integration and school busing programs. “I even hope we’ll be able to play 'Dixie' if we want to without having a riot about it,” he said. Although the school eventually opened up to students of all races, its population is still 78% white.

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California: Polytechnic School

- City: Pasadena
- Enrollment: 859
- Student to teacher ratio: 7:1
- Yearly tuition: $37,500
- Students receiving financial aid: 22%

Founded in the early 20th century in a former orange grove, Polytechnic School is widely considered one of the leading academic institutions in the world. The school often has the highest percentage of students score a 3 or higher on Advanced Placement tests compared to all other schools that administer the test, and was named by the Wall Street Journal as the #4 feeder school to elite colleges in the country.

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Colorado: Colorado Academy

- City: Denver
- Enrollment: 979
- Student to teacher ratio: 6:1
- Yearly tuition: $28,090
- Students receiving financial aid: 19%

Colorado Academy hosts a unique program each spring called Interim, in which students get out of the classroom for a week for trips to Denver and beyond to build relationships and develop other skills. Options include flyfishing, glassblowing, yoga, and woodworking. Those skills seem to serve the students well—notable alumni include two Olympic figure skaters and a former ambassador to Sweden.

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Connecticut: Greenwich Academy

- City: Greenwich
- Enrollment: 784
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $41,890
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

The alma mater of no less than Jane Fonda, Ethel Kennedy, and "Girls" actress Allison Williams, Greenwich Academy is the oldest girls school in Connecticut. With a mission to counter the gender imbalance in these fields, the school has a heavy focus on STEM and robotics. Its literary magazine, Daedalus, has won numerous awards, including 21 gold medals from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

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Delaware: Tower Hill School

- City: Wilmington
- Enrollment: 722
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $30,126
- Students receiving financial aid: 28%

Situated at the highest point in the city of Wilmington, the Tower Hill School is a nationally recognized leader in secondary education. However, a recent controversy shook the school’s reputation. In 2014, its former headmaster was sentenced to 50 years in prison for dealing in child pornography.

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Florida: Pine Crest School

- City: Fort Lauderdale
- Enrollment: 2,636
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $33,500
- Students receiving financial aid: 18%

While routinely ranking among the top schools in the nation for its academics and performing arts, the Pine Crest School recently added another feather to its cap in a new field. On the hunt for investors, 15-year-old sophomore lacrosse team member Rachel Zietz pitched her idea for a new kind of lacrosse equipment on the nationally broadcast television show “Shark Tank.”

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Georgia: The Westminster Schools

- City: Atlanta
- Enrollment: 1,874
- Student to teacher ratio: 7:1
- Yearly tuition: $29,275
- Students receiving financial aid: 13%

The Westminster Schools’ illustrious alumni list is also notably diverse—it includes “Gone with the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell, a bassist for Old Crow Medicine Show, and two alumni of "The Daily Show." More than $5 million is awarded annually in financial aid.

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Hawaii: Punahou School

- City: Honolulu
- Enrollment: 3,768
- Student to teacher ratio: 11:1
- Yearly tuition: $23,850
- Students receiving financial aid: 20%

Other schools on the list have their notable alumni, but it is difficult to top the Punahou School’s former pupil—President Barack Obama was a member of the class of 1979. The school is so dedicated to its environment and instilling dedication in its students that its robust sustainability program is ranked top in the nation, as the country’s greenest school.

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Idaho: Riverstone International School

- City: Boise
- Enrollment: 371
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $19,985
- Students receiving financial aid: 30%

Idaho may be ranked low in population density (coming in 40th nationwide), but students at the Riverstone International School come from all over the world. The student body is notable for its international element—roughly 25% of students are international, hailing from countries like Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Ukraine. But wherever students are from, when they get to Idaho they are immersed in its outdoor culture, with activities including canoeing, rafting, and skiing, serving as a bedrock of Riverstone’s curriculum.

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Illinois: University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

- City: Chicago
- Enrollment: 2,051
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $33,558
- Students receiving financial aid: 10%

With almost half the student body having a parent on faculty at the academic powerhouse University of Chicago, it’s no surprise the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools is considered an intellectual leader in its own right. And while the school has its notable alums, the faculty are equally as impressive: Early childhood researcher and author Vivian Paley, who received a Macarthur Fellowship in 1989, taught at the school for 25 years (Paley died on July 26, 1929, at age 90).  

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Indiana: Canterbury School

- City: Fort Wayne
- Enrollment: 1,030
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: data not available
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

Canterbury School has an array of excellent academic and extracurricular options, but what really sets the school apart is the positivity of its athletics program. The school is part of the Positive Coaching Alliance and has a no-cut policy, meaning that everyone who tries out for the team will be accepted.

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Keithbob // Wikimedia Commons

Iowa: Maharishi School

- City: Fairfield
- Enrollment: 179
- Student to teacher ratio: 6:1
- Yearly tuition: $19,500
- Students receiving financial aid: 75%

One of the many fascinating distinctions the Maharishi School boasts is including Transcendental Meditation in its curriculum. Students also study subjects like the science of creativity along with traditional subjects like math, English, history, and science.

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Kansas: Wichita Collegiate School

- City: Wichita
- Enrollment: 973
- Student to teacher ratio: 11:1
- Yearly tuition: data not available
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

Wichita Collegiate School has been recognized by other leading institutions and organizations around the country for its academic excellence. Among these is Duke University, which has partnered with Wichita Collegiate School as part of its Talent Identification Program. With roughly 60 students in each graduating class, the average class size is only 15.

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Kentucky: Louisville Collegiate School

- City: Louisville
- Enrollment: 587
- Student to teacher ratio: 7:1
- Yearly tuition: $23,650
- Students receiving financial aid: 40%

Founded in 1915 as the state’s first college preparatory school for women, Louisville Collegiate School has moved firmly into the modern era by offering a program completely unique for the state. Students can take Global Online Academy classes, which connect them with students in 60 countries around the world who also participate—course options include positive psychology and investments.

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Louisiana: Metairie Park Country Day School

- City: Metairie
- Enrollment: 720
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $19,980
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

Metairie Park Country Day School’s formidable academic and athletic reputation finds an excellent counterbalance in its campus. Built in 1929 to resemble a home, the beautiful breezeways, courtyards, and walkways encourage students to balance the rigor they bring to their work with the communalism of a home.

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Maine: Waynflete

- City: Portland
- Enrollment: 560
- Student to teacher ratio: 6:1
- Yearly tuition: $31,715
- Students receiving financial aid: 41%

The Waynflete School has a number of distinguishing features, among them its curriculum inspired by the British educator William Waynflete and influenced by the teachings of philosopher and psychologist John Dewey. The campus is made up of historic homes that have been re-done for academic purposes.

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Maryland: Holton-Arms School

- City: Bethesda
- Enrollment: 660
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $40,150
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

One of the toniest schools for girls in the broader Washington D.C. area, the Holton-Arms School has a list of notable alumni ranging from International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde to former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. As befits this range of trailblazing women, the school’s motto is, “I will find a way or make one.”

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Massachusetts: Milton Academy

- City: Milton
- Enrollment: 1,020
- Student to teacher ratio: 7:1
- Yearly tuition: $51,460
- Students receiving financial aid: 35%

Milton Academy’s list of illustrious alumni include the likes of T.S. Eliot and Robert F. Kennedy, but that hasn’t kept the school from scandal. In 2017, a controversial report was released finding a pattern of employees sexually harassing students in the 1970s and ‘80s, including a drama teacher who was alleged to have harassed as many as 12 students.

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Michigan: Cranbrook Schools

- City: Bloomfield HIlls
- Enrollment: 1,659
- Student to teacher ratio: 7:1
- Yearly tuition: $34,200
- Students receiving financial aid: 33%

The tony Cranbrook Schools have a number of traditions that make the school unique, including a dress code that does not allow students to wear jeans or sweatpants, and requires boys to wear ties on Wednesday. The code likely does not apply during the 10-day wilderness expedition everyone participates in during the spring of their sophomore year.

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Minnesota: The Blake School

- City: Hopkins
- Enrollment: 1,380
- Student to teacher ratio: 11:1
- Yearly tuition: $29,025
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

The Blake School’s incredible alumni list defies the school as preparatory for only one type of career. The range of notable alumni includes CNN reporter Poppy Harlow, former Sen. Al Franken, philosopher Robert M. Pirsig, and Olympic hockey player Dani Cameranesi.

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Mississippi: St. Andrews Episcopal School

- City: Ridgeland
- Enrollment: 1,172
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $18,620
- Students receiving financial aid: 31%

St. Andrews is the only school in Mississippi to receive a $2 million Malone Family Foundation grant to provide aid to academically gifted students with financial needs. These students go on to be part of the 23% of the St. Andrews student body that becomes National Merit Semifinalists each year.

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Missouri: The Pembroke Hill School

- City: Kansas City
- Enrollment: 1,153
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $24,960
- Students receiving financial aid: 24%

The origins of the Pembroke Hill School lie in the 1870s, when prominent Kansas Citian Vassie James Ward Hill inherited her husband’s fortune upon his death and was simultaneously faced with the prospect of sending her children to East Coast boarding schools for an elite education. Hill wanted her children to be able to receive an elite education right in Kansas City, so she gave the money to found the school that would be able to provide just that.

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Montana: Helena Christian School

- City: East Helena
- Enrollment: 160
- Student to teacher ratio: 10:1
- Yearly tuition: data not available
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

Although the Helena Christian School is technically oriented around a Christian educational model, the values it instills are more secular. The school has mandatory service hours for students and parents alike, encouraging families to come together to help others.

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Nebraska: Brownell Talbot School

- City: Omaha
- Enrollment: 441
- Student to teacher ratio: 9:1
- Yearly tuition: $19,950
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

The original iteration of the all-girls Brownell Talbot School was located in a former resort called the Saratoga Springs Hotel. It is now located in the middle of Omaha and admits both boys and girls. Open since 1863, it is the oldest continually operating school in Nebraska.

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Nevada: The Meadows School

- City: Las Vegas
- Enrollment: 865
- Student to teacher ratio: 9:1
- Yearly tuition: $27,500
- Students receiving financial aid: 20%

Widely considered the most competitive school in Nevada and one of the most excellent in the country, the Meadows School has a 100% pass rate for AP exams. The school also boasts a 100% acceptance rate for its graduates to four-year colleges.

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New Hampshire: Portsmouth Christian Academy

- City: Dover
- Enrollment: 458
- Student to teacher ratio: 10:1
- Yearly tuition: $14,900
- Students receiving financial aid: 40%

Sitting on a 50-acre campus in Dover, Portsmouth Christian Academy is the largest non-denominational Christian school in New England. In a unique model for a high school, students decide on a “track” that will give them either a GED, STEM Diploma, Fine Arts Diploma, or Diploma of Distinction.

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New Jersey: The Pingry School

- City: Basking Ridge
- Enrollment: 1,125
- Student to teacher ratio: 6:1
- Yearly tuition: $42,493
- Students receiving financial aid: 15%

Long considered the best school in New Jersey, the Pingry School faculty is exemplary of the kind of academic excellence they instill in their students. The faculty has over a dozen Ph.D.s on staff, and even more with master’s degrees. But the students are required to tend to concerns outside of academics, as well—the curriculum requires them to complete 10 hours of community service every year.

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New Mexico: Santa Fe Waldorf School

- City: Santa Fe
- Enrollment: 218
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $18,000
- Students receiving financial aid: 55%

Despite its sterling reputation, controversy has surrounded the Santa Fe Waldorf Schools in recent years. Over half the student body has received government exemptions from vaccinations. The Department of Health weighed in on the matter, calling it a “threat to public health.

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New York: Trinity School

- City: New York
- Enrollment: 1,001
- Student to teacher ratio: 6:1
- Yearly tuition: $47,965
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

The competition to be the most prestigious high school in New York City is stiff, but Trinity pulled ahead with approximately 40% of the student body accepted to Ivy League universities. The school is the oldest in New York City and the fifth-oldest in the country.

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North Carolina: Durham Academy

- City: Durham
- Enrollment: 1,227
- Student to teacher ratio: 9:1
- Yearly tuition: $26,950
- Students receiving financial aid: 11%

Durham Academy is more devoted to diversity than many other elite institutes, with a third of its student body made up of students of color. The school is dedicated to experiential education, with trips including hiking, camping, and rock climbing.

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North Dakota: Oak Grove Lutheran School

- City: Fargo
- Enrollment: 455
- Student to teacher ratio: 10:1
- Yearly tuition: $8,480
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

From its origins as a school for Norweigian schoolgirls, the Oak Grove Lutheran School is now considered the best school in North Dakota. In 2009, the nearby Red River flooded, relocating the students off-campus for the remainder of the school year.

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Ohio: Hawken School

- City: Gates Mills
- Enrollment: 1,082
- Student to teacher ratio: 5:1
- Yearly tuition: $29,900
- Students receiving financial aid: 42%

Hawken School alumni have gone on to successful careers across a wide variety of disciplines. Prominent alums include iconic "Saturday Night Live" actress Molly Shannon, economist Arthur Laffer, and former Amherst College President G. Armour Craig.

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Oklahoma: Casady School

- City: Oklahoma City
- Enrollment: 939
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $20,750
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

The Casaday School’s class of 2016 was considered so academically gifted that it was collectively awarded an astonishing $5.1 million in collegiate scholarship money. The school has a curriculum including online contributions from a Stanford University virtual seminar model.

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Oregon: Catlin Gabel School

- City: Portland
- Enrollment: 763
- Student to teacher ratio: 9:1
- Yearly tuition: $32,700
- Students receiving financial aid: 28%

Although the Catlin Gabel School is considered academically excellent all around, the school is most famous for its accomplishments in the sciences. The robotics team—“The Flaming Chickens”—has qualified for the FIRST World Championships Competition almost every year.

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Pennsylvania: Germantown Friends School

- City: Philadelphia
- Enrollment: 1,017
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $38,450
- Students receiving financial aid: 32%

The school’s roots go back to the Quaker community of Pennsylvania in the 1840s when a number of Quakers decided they wanted a school that would provide equal education for boys and girls. The school’s progressive ethos continues to this day, with each student required to complete a “Junior Project” in which they pursue an independent project out in the wider world.

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Rhode Island: The Wheeler School

- City: Providence
- Enrollment: 768
- Student to teacher ratio: 6:1
- Yearly tuition: $33,865
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

In the 19th century, the Wheeler School taught young women how to paint, along with a bit of Greek literature and early American history. The school’s worldly and interdisciplinary approach to education continues to this day, with a student-run radio station broadcasting Spanish language programming in the morning and oldies in the afternoon.

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South Carolina: Christ Church Episcopal School

- City: Greenville
- Enrollment: 1,107
- Student to teacher ratio: 10:1
- Yearly tuition: $20,515
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

The most acclaimed school in South Carolina isn’t one to rest on its laurels. The current headmaster announced a robust slate of initiatives upon his recent assumption of the position, including a $25 million endowment plan, and numerous diversity and inclusion initiatives.

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South Dakota: Freeman Academy

- City: Freeman
- Enrollment: 70
- Student to teacher ratio: 6:1
- Yearly tuition: data not available
- Students receiving financial aid: 40%

Once a junior college, the academically elite Freeman Academy is affiliated with the Mennonite Church, but has students of all denominations. The school prides itself on its foreign exchange program, which brings students in the middle of the country into contact with foreign cultures on a regular basis.

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Tennessee: University School of Nashville

- City: Nashville
- Enrollment: 1,068
- Student to teacher ratio: 9:1
- Yearly tuition: $24,894
- Students receiving financial aid: 21%

The Vanderbilt-affiliated University School of Nashville has such a formidable academic program that in 2011, both Presidential Scholars from the state of Tennessee were University School of Nashville students. But academics aren’t all the school prides itself on—in the 1970s, the school became the first in Nashville to become fully desegregated.

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Texas: St. Mark's School of Texas

- City: Dallas
- Enrollment: 863
- Student to teacher ratio: 9:1
- Yearly tuition: $29,496
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

St. Mark’s was originally the Terrill School for Boys, which was founded to explicitly rival East Coast prep schools, which the school did by in short order sending almost half of its graduates to Ivy League universities. The school today is heavily focused on science.

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Utah: The Waterford School

- City: Sandy
- Enrollment: 999
- Student to teacher ratio: 7:1
- Yearly tuition: $24,430
- Students receiving financial aid: 18%

The original Waterford School didn’t accept tuition and functioned as a research school that paired a liberal arts education with computer technology resources to rival that of a university. Today, the educational focus has become broader—and the school not only accepts, but requires tuition (except for those on financial aid).

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Vermont: Lake Champlain Waldorf School

- City: Shelburne
- Enrollment: 265
- Student to teacher ratio: 7:1
- Yearly tuition: $20,950
- Students receiving financial aid: 50%

Vermont's tony Lake Champlain Waldorf School operates on an unusual tuition model. The school adjusts its tuition requirements to fit a model percentage of a family’s income, which explains how an unusually high half of the student body is receiving that aid.

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Virginia: The Potomac School

- City: McLean
- Enrollment: 1,060
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $38,550
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

The academically rigorous and celebrated Potomac School was rocked by scandal in 2011 when a former student accused a former teacher of molesting her 40 years prior. An investigation was launched, and the teacher was found to have abused as many as 26 students, marring the school’s reputation.

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Washington: The Bush School

- City: Seattle
- Enrollment: 629
- Student to teacher ratio: 8:1
- Yearly tuition: $32,290
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

Seattle’s only private K-12 school, the Bush School has produced a wide array of notable alumni, who do not all work in the city’s famous technology scene. These alums include Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey and renowned political writer Meg Greenfield.

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West Virginia: Covenant School

- City: Huntington
- Enrollment: 151
- Student to teacher ratio: 9:1
- Yearly tuition: $4,780
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

The most academically challenging school in West Virginia is also a Christian school, with a curriculum that stresses its grounding in Christian teachings. The school’s tuition is notably lower than many others on the list.

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Wisconsin: University School of Milwaukee

- City: Milwaukee
- Enrollment: 1,113
- Student to teacher ratio: 9:1
- Yearly tuition: $27,922
- Students receiving financial aid: 22%

The University School of Milwaukee was originally called the German-English Academy. But it decided to change its name in World War I, thanks to a surge of anti-German sentiment. Now, diversity and inclusion are a priority at the school, worked into the curriculum at every level.

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Wyoming: Journeys School of Teton Science Schools

- City: Jackson
- Enrollment: 209
- Student to teacher ratio: 6:1
- Yearly tuition: $21,750
- Students receiving financial aid: data not available

In a completely unique partnership, Journeys School of Teton Science Schools operates in partnership with Grand Teton National Park. The majestic campus includes two lodges set against the dramatic landscape nearby—a whopping 900 acres of it—for students to learn from and explore.

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