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Best schools in Washington DC USA

A snapshot: schools in Washington DC considered (but not necessarily chosen) by English-speaking expats.

Schools with a full GSGI review are noted with  next to their names.

 (pending) means that the school is on our list to review.

By full GSGI review, we mean school write-ups that are completely selected, researched, visited and written by our own editors. Our final reviews 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 and descend on the school for an exhaustive visit. We are aware of the other schools on this page and we continually add or remove schools, as deemed appropriate.


Schools in Washington DC reviewed or pending review by The GSGI.

Beauvoir: The National Cathedral Elementary School  (pending)

American curriculum; ages 4- 10; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 375 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)

International Primary Curriculum/ International Middle Years Curriculum/ IGCSE/ IB Diploma; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 510 students

Originally founded in 1998 and taken over in 2013 by the international education group Nord Anglia Education (currently, running over 65 schools worldwide). Offering a British based curriculum up to the age of 16 and then the International Baccalaureate Diploma. There is a strong Parents’ Association which runs coffee mornings and uniform sales and helps with transitioning.

Episcopal High School

American curriculum/ 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 Episcopal High School.

Holton-Arms School 

American curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 8-18; girls; day; independent; private non-profit; 660 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 4 year university course. Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA).

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

Madeira School (The)

American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 14-19; girls; day and boarding; independent; private non-profit; 325 students

A traditional, all-girls school, founded in 1906 in Washington DC and later moved in 1931, to a large campus in McLean, a Northern Virginia suburb. 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.

National Cathedral School  (pending)

American 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. A long standing institution, established in 1900. One of two senior schools fed by the co-ed elementary school, Beauvoir and known for the seriousness of its academic approach.

Sidwell Friends School  (pending)

American curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 4-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,145 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 curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 11-18; boys; day and boarding; independent; private non-profit; 585 students

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

Smithsonian Early Enrichment Centre 

Adapted American curriculum; ages 3 months-6; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 125 students

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

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

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology  (pending)

American High School Diploma; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; state; 765 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 in 2017. Accredited by Cognia (formerly AdvancED).

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 elements of the International Baccalaureate programme. A bilingual 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 rural campus, originally owned by President Madison’s brother and 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 Cognia (formerly AdvancED).

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 School

American 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 curriculum; ages 3-14; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 205 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 curriculum; ages 4-14; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 285 students

A private, pre-school 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 (SEN)

American curriculum/ American High School Diploma; ages 9-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 155 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.

Congressional School

American Elementary 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).

Edmund Burke School

American curriculum/ American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 12-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 295 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/ adapted curriculum/ IB Diploma; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; state; 825 students

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 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 college preparatory boarding school in the USA. Moved in 1919 to North Bethesda, Maryland, the site of its current 90 acre campus. An elite school with corresponding fees.

Georgetown Visitation School

American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 14-18; girls; day; independent; private non-profit; 490 students

The oldest Catholic school for girls, surviving from the Thirteen Colonies, as it was founded in 1799. Housed in an historic building, Founders Hall, in the heart of Georgetown. A very traditional school which is also academically successful and sends graduates to the top universities in the US. All girls are assigned to one of two teams, whose mascots have been given the endearing names of Nicodemus and Ferdinand.

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 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).

Kingsbury Day School (SEN)

Adapted curriculum/ SEN; 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.

Maret School

American 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, originally as a French primary school. Housed on one campus at Cathedral Avenue in northwest Washington DC. 100 per cent of graduates go on to attend a 4 year college programme.

Mater Dei

American 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.

Rochambeau French International School

French curriculum/ Brevet/ French Bac/ American High School Diploma/ OIB; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,080 students

On three campuses in Bethesda, Maryland (pre-school moving in 2022). Founded in 1955, around 50 per cent of the students come from French families with about 15 per cent American passport holders and the remainder from over 50 different nationalities. Offering the choice of the French Baccalaureat, the USHSD and the OIB. Graduates move on to leadig global universities with McGill being the favourite choice.

St Anselm's Abbey School

American High School Diploma/ AP; ages 12-18; boys; day; independent; private non-profit; 255 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 4-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,130 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; 3,985 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.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

American High School Diploma; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; state; 765 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 Cognia (formerly AdvancED).

Wakefield High School

American High School Diploma; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; state; 2,340 students

Opened in 1953, one of three public high schools in Arlington, Virginia. 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. Not to be confused with the former Washington – Lee High School in Arlington.

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

American curriculum/ AP/ IB Diploma; ages 14-18; co-ed; day; state; 2,480 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 International Baccalaureate Diploma has been on offer since 1996 and the results have been consistent with students scoring in the low thirties 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.

For more information on the schools above, please go to  each school’s individual entry on The Good Schools Guide International search.

 

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