Stanford Online High School named 6th “smartest” private school in America

March 15, 2015

New online school beats most of America’s finest independent schools.

It’s just like the classic Sesame Street song in which “One of these things is not like the other.” Of the “50 Smartest Private High Schools in the US,” reported by Business Insider, 49 have the manicured lawns and gothic buildings that we tend to associate with elite academia. One, however, has pixels.

Stanford Online High School, which has been around for less than a decade, is ranked number six on the list compiled by, a website that evaluates secondary schools, colleges and universities. It’s the only school on the list that’s online—and it’s unusual even for an online school.

Two-thirds of the instructors hold PhDs, which may not be surprising when you realize that the high school is a part of Stanford University. It’s also the only online high school in which all of the classes are held “synchronously”—the students, who are from all over the globe, and teachers meet electronically in live seminars that allow them to interact much as they would in a brick-and-mortar classroom. A vibrant student life program builds community through over 50 student-led clubs and activities, and students come together for an intensive two-week summer program on the Stanford campus.

“Our curriculum challenges the world’s most talented students. Students are placed by ability—and enriched by their academically passionate peers,” states Jeffrey Scarborough, PhD, Stanford OHS Director of Curriculum. “Our unique Core Sequence develops critical and creative thinking about scientific methodology, politics, philosophy, and ethics, and our course offerings extend beyond the AP to university level.”

Does it work? Students feel a part of a learning community where they take intellectual risks, demonstrate leadership, and develop a global perspective. Seniors this year received early acceptance letters into such colleges as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cal Tech, Harvey Mudd and Duke. SAT scores are among the best in the nation. Current students include published book authors and world-class athletes.

“We tried multiple schooling options for our sons from homeschool to a local private school, and ultimately found Stanford OHS,” says David Cordeiro, the father of current Stanford OHS senior and freshman. “We live and collaborate in a global society, and we wanted to expose our boys to the best of the best. We believe Stanford OHS is the optimal environment for our sons to develop into independent thinkers and to take their place in the global economy.”

And while some high schools have seemingly ferocious mascots such as cougars or marauders, the students at Stanford Online High School predictably take a different approach. They refer to themselves as pixels.

Stanford Online High School is an independent school for grades 7–12. Classes meet on a college-style schedule through live, real-time online seminars, using a highly interactive video-conferencing environment.  Dedicated instructors, 64% of whom hold PhDs in their disciplines, work closely with students to develop their talents and provide a truly exceptional secondary-school education.  The academic program offers a wide range of AP and university-level courses, and students are placed based on ability. All courses are advanced in academic content and develop the critical reasoning skills essential to academic success. Stanford OHS students participate in the school’s vibrant student life, which includes over fifty student-led clubs, research colloquium discussions, and a speaker series that has featured Nobel Laureates.  Students have access to academic counseling, and full-time students receive college counseling.

Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies produces fifteen programs for academically talented young students everywhere. The Pre-Collegiate Studies programs are available online and in-person, during the summer and year-round, and feature broad exploration or intense study in a single subject. Stanford Pre-Collegiate students are intellectually adventurous, highly motivated, and passionate in their desire to come together and accelerate their learning. With participation from every state and over 60 countries, the programs draw from the best and the brightest around the world.