South Carolina is the #29 largest school system in the United States, serving 777,228 students across the 1,264 public schools for the 2021 school year. As someone who was born and raised in South Carolina, I have always heard the jokes and slights about my beloved state of birth, and sometimes I can understand why some think the way they do. Sure we have our share of undesirable metrics and low scores the public sees on the “news”, but truthfully most of it is inaccurate. Like all states, there are of course some areas, some communities, and regions where data points can be alarming, but by in large that is not the case and especially in the metropolitan areas and cities. If you have small children picking the right school district is extremely important especially if you don’t want to move every time your children move up. Check SC best School Districts.
VIEW THE BEST SCHOOL DISTRICTS in SC in the order below. (ones in blue are the larger city/housing markets of SC)
- Fort Mill – The top right of SC near Charlotte ranks #1
- Lexington District 5 – #2 (in Columbia region)
- Clover SC – #3 Again near the Fort Mill area
- Spartanburg District 1 – Upstate of SC Ranks #4
- Lexington District 1 – Columbia SC Midlands Ranks #5
- Spartanburg District 6 – Spartanburg Upstate
- Spartanburg District 7 – Spartanburg Upstate
- Anderson District 1 – The Spartanburg Upstate
- Dorchester District 2 – Includes Summerville SC
- The Entire Charleston County School District #11
- Horry County #12 (makes up all Myrtle Beach)
- Greenville County #13
One of the biggest misconceptions about South Carolina is the education system. Yes, we do usually rank at the bottom of many statistical categories (45th in math & reading) however, those are overall scores which include the scores of rural & poor regions. This can be said for all states, every state has those types of towns., but it doesn’t represent the state in its entirety. As a parent myself this is something I take VERY seriously.
I grew up in Columbia SC, specifically Irmo SC a suburban town in the capital city of Columbia, and all three of my schools from elementary to high school were all highly ranked both locally, and nationally. My high school Irmo HS had the best band in the United States, the best soccer team in the country, our debate team was amazing as were the math programs, national honors society, and more. Irmo was a large AAAA public high school with 3000 kids in a graduating class.
I now live in Charleston SC, since 1999, in a town called Mount Pleasant, and ALL the schools in my surrounding area are some of the best in not only SC but the nation comprised of public schools, private, charter, and magnet schools. I think it probably comes as no surprise most of the best schools in SC on this list are in the Charleston area, as Charleston is the most popular and wealthiest region in the state. So the tax dollars and income are there to support the educational systems.
Magnet schools are available to all students within a school district or designated metro area, regardless of address. Their curriculum centers around a particular specialization, such as STEM, performing arts, or world languages. Magnets are accountable to the local school board and to the state, just as traditional public schools are, and are held to the same academic standards.
Here are some of the best high school systems and schools in the state of SC by region and according to US News & World Report’s latest 2021 study. There are of course other ranking systems and metrics by other institutions and publications so do your research.
BEST HIGH SCHOOLS IN SC BY LARGEST MARKET REGION
#1 Academic Magnet in North Charleston – Oddly, North Charleston is considered locally to be one of the worst sides of town in all of Charleston to live. Most of these kids are almost certainly bused in or brought by parents and do not live in N. Charleston. CLICK HERE to see the school details.
#2 Charleston School of the Arts – Ranked #208 Nationally. Also in North Charleston, this school is focused on fostering the arts in addition to a traditional curriculum. CLICK HERE to see details.
#3 Wando High School in Mt Pleasant SC – Is a large class AAAAA public high school. CLICK HERE to see details from USNEWS. Mt Pleasant is considered the most desirable suburban town in all of Charleston SC if not the whole state.
#14 Palmetto Scholars Academy – Again like Academic Magnet, also located in North Charleston, this school is ranked 14th within South Carolina. Is the #1 public Charter school in SC. CLICK HERE to see details.
#20 James Island Charter School – James Island is an island town in between the city of Charleston and Folly Beach. Known for a traditional “Low-country” lifestyle James Island is one of the more popular suburban towns of Charleston only behind Mount Pleasant. CLICK HERE to see details.
#35 Ashley Ridge High School – In Summerville SC, one of the outer towns of the Charleston SC coastal region it is about 30 – 40 mins drive to the beach and city of Charleston. As a whole Summerville is considerably more affordable than the towns closer to the city and beaches. CLICK HERE to learn more.
#36 Fort Dorchester High School – located in North Charleston,
#39 Charleston Charter School for Math & Science –
#43 Summerville High School – Obviously in Summerville SC a “blue-collar” town mostly, Summerville is a great high school and one of the better school districts systems in the Low-country tri-county area according to Niche.com Dorchester District #2 ranks #10 in all of SC for their assessment.
#45 Oceanside Collegiate Academy – Mt Pleasant SC‘s charter school – children have an opportunity to earn four (4) years of a solid honors/college core curriculum, a high school diploma, up to 60 credits of college coursework. The school website offers more information. CLICK HERE to see details.
COLUMBIA / MIDLANDS REGION
#5 Chapin High School in Chapin SC – Is a large class AAAA public school. CLICK HERE to see details. Chapin SC is near Lake Murray, a large reservoir popular to everyone who lives in the Midlands of SC. Chapin High School website. Known for an exceptional soccer program.
#9 Dreher High School in Columbia SC – Dreher High is ranked #1,524 in the National Rankings. Schools are ranked on their performance on state-required tests & graduation. In the 60s & 70s this used to be one of the premier high schools of the midlands region but as the area grew other surrounding towns of Columbia began to grow and Dreher’s status as one of best began to decline. CLICK HERE to see details.
#11 Blythewood High School – Blythewood is a town outside the city of Columbia and has grown substantially since even the early 2000s as the Midlands began to expand outside the city more.
#15 Spring Hill High School in Chapin SC – As Chapin began to grow quickly in the 2000s, the need for another high school arose, and out of that came Spring Hill. Lexington District 5 is one of the better school districts of the Columbia area. CLICK HERE to see more.
#16 Lexington High School in (you guessed it) Lexington SC – One of the best school districts in the Midlands Columbia region, and near Lake Murray Lexington High School grew much as Irmo High did in the 1990s and 2000s before River Bluff was constructed to take some pressure off.
#19 Dutch Fork High School in Irmo SC – First opened in 1993, Dutch Fork was built to help alleviate the ever-growing area of Irmo at the time, as Irmo High had become too large. Originally started as a AAA school it quickly grew into AAAA shortly thereafter. Very popular neighborhoods for this school include Ascot Estates.
#22 Spring Valley High School in Columbia. Once centered around Spring Valley Country Club community, Spring Valley high school turns out great students and quality teachers. Now a magnet school it once was a large standard public high school. CLICK HERE to learn more.
#32 Ridgeview High School in Columbia
#34 River Bluff High School in Lexington –
#50 A.C. Flora High School – Located in the city of Columbia, A.C. Flora in the 60s & 70s was one of the better schools in the city of Columbia, but like Dreher High it too has seen a decline in performance as the tax dollars left for the suburbs, and private schools. CLICK HERE to learn more.
GREENVILLE / UPSTATE REGION
#7 Wade Hampton High School in Greenville SC – This high school is ranked #1 in Greenville and is a large AAAA public high school. Unfortunately, it is named after an unsavory historical figure of the pre-civil war era. CLICK HERE to learn more.
#12 D.W Daniel High School in Central SC – This high school is in the upstate near Clemson University. CLICK HERE to learn more. Located in Pickens County,
#18 Riverside High School in Greer SC –
#25 Greenville Senior Academy High School –
#27 Chapman High School –
#31 Woodruff High School –
#37 Spartanburg High School in Spartanburg –
#38 Walhalla High School –
#40 Powdersville High School – in Anderson SC –
#45 Wren High School – in Piedmont SC – Anderson County
#46 Mauldin High School – Located in Greenville County, Mauldin is a fast-growing town in the Greenville market.
#47 East Side High School –
#49 Greer Middle College Charter School –
MYRTLE BEACH / PEE DEE REGION
#18 Carolina Forest High School in Myrtle Beach SC – Located in Horry County
#24 St James High – Located in Murrells Inlet SC a small coastal town between Myrtle Beach and Pawley’s Island.
#33 Socastee in Myrtle Beach –
#42 Aynor High School –
#48 North Myrtle Beach High School –
Florence SC (Florence is a small town way outside of the Myrtle Beach market but since Mayo is ranked #4 it should be noted)
#4 Mayo High for Math Science and Technology – Mayo High for Math Science and Technology (Darlington SC) is ranked fourth within South Carolina. Students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement® coursework and exams. The AP® participation rate at Mayo High for Math Science and Technology is 49%. Florence SC is a less economically diverse smaller town with few opportunities for economic growth. CLICK HERE for more details.
Other Recognized Schools of SC
(According to Publicschoolreview.com)
HCS Early College High School in Conway SC which is the Myrtle Beach SC “Pee Dee” region of South Carolina. Magnet School.
Bashier Middle College in Simpsonville SC – in The Upstate of South Carolina Charter School.
Buist Academy in Charleston SC – Magnet school
Greenville Technical Charter School –
Meeting Street Academy in Spartanburg –