FREMONT — Mission San Jose High School made U.S. News & World Report's list of top 100 public high schools in the country for the second year in a row, but it slipped 11 spots — to No. 60 — this year.

The Fremont campus also got bumped from first to second place among Bay Area schools, with San Francisco's Lowell High School taking over the top spot.

The No. 1 school in America — for the second consecutive year — is Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., according to the national survey, which debuted last year.

Competition increased this year, with more schools considered for the ranking. But that was only part of the reason for Mission San Jose's slip, said Paul Gazzerro, lead analyst for the project, which was conducted by Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services.

While Mission San Jose High was consistent in getting students to pass Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams compared with last year — about 71 percent of students passed at least one test — other schools improved their scores in this area, Gazzerro said.

"What's really changed is that other schools have moved up," he said. "There's nothing wrong with Mission's performance."

Campuses recognized as "top schools" met the following criteria:

  • Reading and math test scores for the entire student body exceeded statistical expectations, based on student demographics.

  • Their disadvantaged student groups posted higher proficiency rates than the state average.

  • They demonstrated a high level of preparing students for college, based on student participation and performance on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams.

    Sandra Prairie, principal at Mission San Jose, said it wouldn't surprise her if more schools are meeting standards and encouraging minority and at-risk students to pursue college.

    "The level of competition has probably increased, which I think is a great thing. What it says is that more and more schools are being successful," she said.

    And while she's happy that Mission San Jose High — also named a Blue Ribbon School by the federal government this year — continues to be recognized, rankings aren't "the end all, be all," she said.

    "I don't put credence to any of the rankings, whether it's U.S. News & World Report or any other ranking, because the criteria are different. ... I'm more concerned about what we're doing on a day-to-day basis and if we're meeting the needs of our students," she said.

    Other Bay Area schools that made the U.S. News & World Report's Top-100 list were San Francisco's Lowell High (No. 39), Piedmont High (No. 64), Cupertino's Monta Vista High (No. 73), Palo Alto's Gunn High (No. 74) and Saratoga High (No. 80).

    Amador Valley and Foothill high schools in Pleasanton, and Albany High, meanwhile, made the "silver" list, meaning those schools met all three criteria but didn't place in the top 100. Bronze and honorable mention lists also were compiled.

    With 209 California schools earning some sort of recognition, the Golden State led the nation with the number of schools mentioned in the report, according to the survey's author. Overall, 21,069 schools were evaluated, and 9 percent received recognition.

    View the U.S. News & World Report ranking at www.usnews.com/highschools. The magazine will hit newsstands Monday.

    Reach Linh Tat at 510-353-7010 or ltat@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read her blog postings at www.ibabuzz.com/tricitybeat.

    Local high schools
    on magazine's list
  • No. 39: Lowell High, San Francisco
  • No. 60: Mission San Jose High, Fremont
  • No. 64: Piedmont High, Piedmont
  • No. 73: Monta Vista High, Cupertino
  • No. 74: Gunn High, Palo Alto
  • No. 80: Saratoga High, Saratoga
    Source: U.S. News & World Report