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Best schools in Washington DC USA

A snapshot overview of schools in Washington DC that are considered (although not necessarily chosen) by English-speaking expat parents.

If there is no ribbon, pending or otherwise, it means we are aware of the school but have elected not to review it at this time. This could be for a number of reasons, but we continually update information and add or remove reviews as deemed appropriate.

Schools selected for full GSGI review are noted with  next to their names. "Pending" means that we are planning to review that school.

By full GSGI review, we mean the school write-ups that are completely selected, researched, visited and written by our own editors. Our final write-ups take the good with the bad, warts and all, but we look for a preponderance of good before we drill down for in-depth details descend on the school for an exhaustive visit.


Schools in Washington DC reviewed by The Good Schools Guide International

Beauvoir, The National Cathedral Elementary School  (pending)

American Elementary Curriculum; ages 4-11; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 400 students

Housed in the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral and founded in 1933. Pupils have priority access to both The National Cathedral School and St Alban’s with a 90 per cent acceptance rate at these highly selective schools.

British International School of Washington (The)  (pending)

IPC/ IMYC/ IGCSE/ IB Diploma; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 510 students

Originally founded in 1998 and taken over by the rapidly expanding, international education group Nord Anglia (owners of over 60 schools worldwide) in 2013. Offering a British based curriculum up to the age of 16 and then the International Baccalaureate Diploma. Appears to have additional places available at present.

Episcopal High School 

American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 14-18; co-ed; day and boarding; independent; private non-profit; 440 students

Founded in 1839 as the first high school in Virginia and located in Alexandria. A highly-rated boarding school on a 130 acre campus. Co-educational since 1991 and now 50/50 boys and girls. Students matriculate to major universities across the country.

Click here to read our full review of Episopal High School.

Holton-Arms Schools 

American Elementary & Middle School Curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 8-18; girls; day; independent; private non-profit; 650 students

Founded in 1901 by two progressive Washington women, moving in 1963 to a wooded campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Rated by some guides as the best high school in Maryland, 100 per cent of graduates move on to a four year university course. Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA).

Click here to read our full review of Holton Arms Schools. 

National Cathedral School (The) (pending)

American Middle School Curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 10-18; girls; day; independent; private non-profit; 580 students

A private Episcopalian all-girls school located on the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral, established in 1900. One of two senior schools for the co-ed elementary school, Beauvoir and known for the seriousness of its academic approach.

Sidwell Friends School  (pending)

American Elementary & Middle School Curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 4-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,100 students

Founded as a Quaker ‘Friends’ Select School’ in 1883 in downtown Washington. The lower school campus is in Bethesda, Maryland and the Middle and Upper schools are on Wisconsin Avenue, Washington DC. Extremely selective, accepting less than ten per cent of its applicants and numbering the children of several presidents amongst its alumni.

St Albans School for Boys  (pending)

American Middle School Curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 11-18; boys; day and boarding; independent; private non-profit; 600 students

Founded in 1909 for boy choristers at the Washington National Cathedral. Now one of the leading private college preparatory schools in the country, sending graduates to all the major universities across the country. Small number of boarders. Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA).

Smithsonian Early Enrichment Centre 

American Elementary Curriculum; ages 3 months-6 years; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit

Magical, museum-based, early education for the children of Smithsonian employees and the small number of other lucky takers able to secure a place.

Click here to read our full review of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Centre 

The Madeira School 

American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 14-19; girls; day and boarding; independent; private non-profit; 320 students

A traditional all-girls school, founded in 1906 in Washington DC and moved to a large campus in McLean, a Northern Virginia suburb, in 1931. Regularly cited as one of the best high schools in Virginia. Recent graduate destinations include a wide range of Ivies and local universities.

Click here to read our full review of The Madeira School. 

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology  (pending)

American High School Diploma; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; state; 1,820 students

A regional high school located in Fairfax County, Virginia with selective admissions. An outstanding school, regularly placed #1 in Newsweek’s rankings of ‘America’s Top High Schools’. The campus was totally renovated and completed in 2017. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Washington International School 

PYP/ Adapted curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ IB Diploma; ages 4-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 900 students

Established in 1966 as the first school in the Washington area to offer the International Baccalaureat programme. A multilingual school teaching in English, combined with French, Spanish and Dutch. On two campuses and dually accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA).

Click here to read our full review of Washington International School. 

Woodberry Forest School 

American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 14-18; boys; boarding; independent; private non-profit; 400 students

Founded in 1889 by a member of the Virginia Cavalry on a huge campus (originally owned by President Madison’s brother), bounded by the Rapidan River. Southern universities tend to be the first choice of graduates, although Ivies and leading foreign universities in Canada and the UK are also popular. Accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS).

Click here to read our full review of Woodberry Forest School. 


These schools have been brought to our attention, but until we have more reports from parents, we are unable to consider reviewing them.


Alexandria Country Day

American Elementary & Middle School Curriculum; ages 5-14; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 520 students

Founded by local parents in 1969. Graduates move on to leading high schools both private and public. Accredited by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS).

Browne Academy

American Elementary & Middle School Curriculum; ages 3-14; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 200 students

Pre-K to 8th grade school. Named the ‘Brownie School’ when it first opened in 1941 on its current campus in Alexandria, Virginia. Accredited by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS).

Burgundy Farm Country Day School

American Elementary & Middle School Curriculum; ages 4-14; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 275 students

A private pre-prep to middle school, founded in 1946 in the Alexandria neighbourhood of Fairfax County, Virginia. The school also owns a second, 500 acre campus in the Appalachians used by all students for science and nature-oriented classes.

Commonwealth Academy

American Elementary & Middle School Curriculum/ American High School Diploma; ages 9-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 190 students

Specialising in pupils with learning differences, including ADD, ADHD and dyslexia. Focus on technology as well as academic subjects. Very small classes, averaging eight students.

Edmund Burke School

American Middle School Curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 12-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 300 students

A small, progressive, college preparatory school. Founded in 1968 by two teachers and housed in two buildings on Connecticut Avenue in upper northwest DC. Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA).

George Mason High School

PYP/ School adapted/IB Diploma; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; state; 800 students ROGUE CODING

Founded in 1952 and located in Falls Church, Virginia. Ranked #2 in 2018 in US News and World Report’s Best High Schools in Virginia. Offers the International Baccalaureate programme throughout.

Georgetown Day School

American Elementary & Middle School Curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 5-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,075 students

Founded in 1945 as Washington’s first racially integrated school and known for its progressive approach. Based in northwest Washington on two campuses. 100 per cent of graduates move on to four year college programmes, often at top Ivies.

Georgetown Preparatory School

American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 14-18; boys; boarding; independent; private non-profit; 500 students

Founded in 1789 (along with Georgetown University), the only Jesuit boarding school in the USA. Moved in 1919 to North Bethesda, Maryland, the site of its current 90 acre campus. An elite school with correspondingly high fees.

Gonzaga College High School

American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 14-18; boys; day; independent; private non-profit; 960 students

A Jesuit college-preparatory school in Northwest Washington. Founded nearly two hundred years ago as a seminary, making it the oldest boys’ high school in DC. Known for its sporting prowess as well as its academics. Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA).

Grace Episcopal

American Elementary curriculum; ages 3-11; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 110 students

A small, private, Episcopalian school in Alexandria, Virginia, founded in 1959. Pupils move on to leading private schools in the Washington area. Accredited by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS).

Maret School

American Elementary & Middle School Curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 5-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 650 students

An independent college-preparatory school, founded in 1911 as a French primary school and housed on one campus at Cathedral Avenue in northwest Washington DC. 100 per cent of graduates go on to attend a four year college programme.

Mater Dei

American Elementary & Middle School Curriculum; ages 7-14; boys; day; independent; private non-profit; 230 students

Opened in 1960, modelled on an all-boys Catholic school in New York City. Located in Bethesda, Maryland.

St Anselm's Abbey School

American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 12-18; boys; day; independent; private non-profit; 270 students

Founded in 1942, as the Priory School, in the Michigan Park neighbourhood of Washington DC. Serious academics with a high percentage of graduates achieving AP Scholar status. Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA).

St Stephen's and St Agnes School

American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,120 students

The result of a 1991 merger between St Agnes girls’ school and St Stephen’s boys’ school. An Episcopalian, independent, college preparatory school in Alexandria, Virginia on three campuses. Accredited by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS).

T.C. Williams High School

American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; state; 3,800 students

A public high school just outside Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, opened in 1965. On two campuses with 9th graders having most of their classes on the Minnie Howard campus. Academically rigorous, sending graduates to leading universities every year. There is also an International Academy Programme.

The Congressional Schools of Virginia

American Elementary & Middle School Curriculum; ages 3-14; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 345 students

Founded in 1939 and located in Falls Church, Virginia on a 40 acre campus. A member of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS).

The Kingsbury Day School (SEN)

Adapted curriculum/ AP; ages 4-21; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 165 students

Founded in 1938 and is the oldest school in Washington designed to teach pupils with special educational needs and ADHD. Offering classes for students with mild to moderate learning differences.

Wakefield High School

American High School Diploma; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; state; 2,100 students

One of three public high schools in Arlington, Virginia, opened in 1953. Housed in a new purpose-built complex since 2013. Still proud of the visit by President Obama ten years ago.

Washington & Lee High School

American High School Diploma; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; state; 490 students

Located in Montross, Virginia, the larger of two high schools in Westmoreland County.

Washington-Liberty High School (formerly Washington-Lee School)

American High School Diploma/ AP/ IB Diploma; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; state; 2,500 students

Founded in 1925 as the Washington-Lee school in Arlington, Virginia and renamed in the aftermath of the deadly, white supremacist rally of 2017,which took place in Charlottesville. The option of the IB Diploma has been on offer since 1996 and the results have been consistent with students scoring 32-33 points during the last five years, well above the world average.

Yorktown High School

American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; state; 2,050 students

Established in 1960  and located in Arlington, Virginia. An academically rigorous school with nearly 50 per cent of pupils enrolling for APs and a graduation rate of over 90 per cent. In the top 20 public High Schools in Virginia.

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