For the first time ever, we’re ranking Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky’s high schools to figure out which schools are the best. Academics are important, but there’s so much more to what makes a school great. We gathered data such as the graduation rate, student/teacher ratio and the number of Advanced Placement classes to find out which schools really are at the top. We did not include schools, like ones in Indiana, that provided incomplete information. We’ve also profiled fascinating programs, selected this year’s Outstanding Educators—who teach Kindergarten through 12th grade—and updated our Private School Guide. Read on to learn more about our local education system.

Ohio

1 Mariemont High School
Mariemont

Mariemont High School’s focus on academics pushed them to the top this year. The school has the eighth highest performance index score of the schools we rated (112.134), it’s tied for the highest average ACT score (26) and is the only school on our list to have 100 percent of its students score at or above proficient on the writing Ohio Graduation Test. Its most impressive number, however, is its successful AP program. Of the 129 Mariemont graduates who participated in an AP test in 2011-12, 95.3 percent earned a passing grade of 3 or higher. Mariemont is not all academics; their athletic department is impressive as well. The school’s boys’ varsity lacrosse team won the D2 state title, a recent graduate is playing for the Texas Rangers and another student qualified for the U.S. Open Golf Championships.

2 Madeira High School
Madeira

There’s no question as to why Madeira High School is ranked so high; it has the highest performance index score (115.115) in our entire list. This high performance score can be seen in its test scores, with the school tied for second highest average ACT score (25) and scoring 100 percent at or above proficient in the reading, social studies and math OGTs. Madeira can track its school systems’ history back to 1808, and has continued to expand and improve ever since. Madeira built the high school in 1958, but the science lab was added in 1998 and the school building renovated in 2006. Now, Madeira is looking to renovate its Perin Media Center to bring it up to date as well.

3 Indian Hill High School
Indian Hill

Despite the fact that it has 200 more students than the other schools in the top three, Indian Hill has the highest per pupil spending of the school systems in the area at $14,735. This dedication to education is easily seen in its scores. It has the second highest performance index score (113.801), is tied for the second highest average ACT score (25) and received 100 percent at or above proficient on the math OGT. Indian Hill brings excellence outside the classroom as well. Known for its tennis program, the girls’ tennis team won the state team title this year for the first time since 1985. Indian Hill’s mock trial team won state for the fourth time in five years, a record unmatched by any other school in the state.

4 Wyoming High School
Wyoming

Wyoming High School is looking to integrate education outside as well as inside the classroom. With the fourth highest performance score (112.275) and being tied for the highest average ACT score (26), its academic scores are in fine form. Its standout number, though, is its graduation rate; at 99.4 percent, it has the highest graduation rate of the top seven. Wyoming’s implementation of its “Design Challenges” is what really helps this school break from the pack. The program has the students partake in interdisciplinary projects that combine multiple subjects. We found the Design Challenges to be so interesting we featured them later in the issue.

5 Walnut Hills High School
Walnut Hills

Walnut Hills was the third public high school established in Cincinnati in 1895 and its current building on Victory Parkway opened in 1931, but Walnut Hills High School is still one of the best schools in the region. Having the fifth highest enrollment of the Ohio schools ranked (2,286) isn’t slowing it down at all. It has the third highest performance index score (112.665), the sixth highest attendance rate (97.4 percent), the sixth highest graduation rate (97.4 percent), is tied for the highest average ACT score (26), scored 99.5 percent or higher at or above proficient on all OGTs and 100 percent across the board on all 11th grade tests. In addition, it offers the most AP classes (42) and has the highest number of students taking them (724). If these high academic scores weren’t enough, the school also earned 16 Cappie (the area’s Critics and Awards Program) nominations for the school’s performance of Oklahoma.

6 Turpin High School
Turpin Hills

Turpin High School earns its spot thanks to its focus on teachers and their relationship with students. The school has the highest percentage of teachers with master’s degrees in the top seven (84.6 percent) as well as a low student-to-teacher ratio (17.37). Combined with its high average ACT score (25), great attendance rate (96.9 percent) and fantastic performance index score (112.154), the school easily scores high in the region. The school’s excellence was also on display at the State Science Day, where four students participated.

7 Sycamore High School
Montgomery

Sycamore High School takes its place in the top seven with its commitment to all-around excellence. Its students do fantastic on tests, with the school tied for the second highest average ACT score (25). In the top seven, the school offers the second highest number of AP classes (36), has the second highest number of students taking them (461) and has the second highest number of students earning a 3 or higher (90.5 percent). When it comes to music, Sycamore Schools was named one of the best communities for music education by the National Association of Music Merchants. In art, a student recently won an award for her work with tape from the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

Kentucky

1 Beechwood High School
Ft. Mitchell

Beechwood High School easily earns the number one spot in Northern Kentucky. It has the highest overall state score in the region (83.1), the second highest attendance rate (96.5 percent), the second highest graduation rate (98.8 percent), the highest average ACT score (25.3), and the highest end of course proficiency percentages in reading, math and science. With these exemplary numbers, it’s no wonder why Beechwood High School was chosen as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2013.

2 Highlands High School
Ft. Thomas

Highlands High School offers the most AP classes of the schools we ranked in Northern Kentucky, showing its commitment to advancing students into higher education. The school also has the highest attendance rate in the area at 96.8 percent. It performs well on tests, with the second highest average ACT score (23.4) and the highest 11th grade writing proficiency (98.9 percent), as well as outside the classroom. The Highlands softball team had a school record 19-game winning streak this year and the school’s performance of You Can’t Take It With You earned the high school 17 Cappie nominations.

3 Walton-Verona High School
Walton

Walton-Verona High School only offers one AP class, but it offers it with a focus on excellence; 92.9 percent of the students who took the class scored a 3 or higher. It’s that focus on excellence that carries the high school through. It has the third highest overall state score of the school’s ranked (78.9), the third highest attendance rate (95.7 percent) and the highest 11th grade proficiency in social studies (80.7 percent). The most impressive number may be its four-year graduation rate, though; it’s 100 percent.