Elementary school marks a life-changing experience for children. Regardless of their preschool experience, on the first day of kindergarten, each child walks into a new world — a world that excites growing minds, a world that can intimidate, and a world that fundamentally forms a child’s impression of learning and education.
We believe the schools in this ranking exemplify the very best in elementary education. The aim of this ranking is to showcase just how good US education at the elementary-level can be. This is an American success story!
Some schools on this list may seem to have unfair advantages (better resources, more money, etc.). The common denominator, however, is that all schools listed here, working with what they have, create environments that are highly effective at stimulating learning and fostering personal growth.
We paid attention to aspects of the schools that we believe help create such effective environments. The schools on this list are not solely concerned with academics. In addition, these schools pay attention to variety, innovation, fun, and strong parental and community involvement.
This is a ranking article, sure, but we hope the take-away lesson is not whether a school was #20 or #41, #1 or #50. Every high-performing school on this list deserves your attention! These schools show what highly-motivated faculty, staff, parents, and students can achieve by raising expectations, rewarding hard work, and building character.
The Best Elementary Schools Ranking Guidelines:
Only schools that included grades three through five were considered for this list. Moreover, we focused on the scores and achievements of only the third, fourth, and fifth grades. When looking at state assessment scores, all state-administered tests were considered in a school’s overall average for grades three through five.
Many schools on this list earned Blue Ribbon awards from the Department of Education. Schools have to apply and qualify in order to be chosen for this award. Schools cannot reapply for five years, so obtaining this award is a significant achievement no matter the year in which it was received. America has approximately 70,000 public elementary schools, and thousands of these schools apply annually for the award. But each year only about 300 receive the coveted Blue Ribbon.
This list of schools includes a few not located in America’s 50 states (Alabama through Wyoming). All out-of-country schools on this list are run by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). They are located on military bases and operated by certified teachers. The schools have AdvanceEd accreditation and are recognized by the US Senate as American schools.
Life for military children can be challenging because they must frequently move from base to base. Correspondingly, teachers and administrators at these schools face the challenge of an ever-changing student body. Yet such challenges also present unique opportunities, such as linguistic and cultural enrichment through a Host Nation Program. This is why a DoDEA school is ranked number one on this list.
Readers also like: The 50 Best Middle Schools in the U.S., and The 50 Best Public High Schools in the U.S.
The Best American Elementary Schools
Aukamm Elementary School
Some of the most overlooked people in the military are the children who travel with their military parents from base to base, even if it is in a foreign country. The Department of Defense understands the special challenges that children in these circumstances face and provides education on the base when local schools are not available.
Currently, there are 250 elementary students in grades K through five attending Aukamm Elementary on the Wiesbaden Air Base. The base was originally an air base for the German Luftwaffe during World War II.
One of the classrooms at AES is a four and five multi-grade class. The other ten classes comprise kindergarten through fifth grade single grade classes. Students participate in P.E., music, art, Spanish, media center instruction, and technology instruction.
Students also participate in a Host Nation program, which provides cultural instruction and language acquisition opportunities so that students can truly develop an appreciation for their host country. Host Nation classes and activities are taught by host nation teachers. It is a unique feature of the Department of Defense Dependent Schools elementary program.
The 102nd Signal Brigade volunteers as mentors and computer club support. They also volunteer at many activities held at or by the school. Students can participate in student council, sewing and crafting, art club, gardening club, drama club, cooking club, and music club.
While the school is part of the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), the school is supported by the Kaiserslautern School District.
- 2014 Blue Ribbon Award/Exemplary High Performing School
Newton Centre, Massachusetts
In the 90’s, Massachusetts set out to reform public education to bring about a student population that was better educated and performed better on achievement tests. Nowhere is this appreciated more than at Mason-Rice Elementary (MRE) where the third, fourth, and fifth graders outperformed all of the peers in their state.
In addition to managing almost perfect scores in math and reading in all grades, a large percentage of those passing also scored high enough to be considered advanced. Furthermore, MRE met all goals for the year, achieving adequate yearly progress.
Serving students between Kindergarten through fifth grade, students enjoy art, music, P.E., and instruction in instrumental music. Students have the opportunity to feature the books they are reading, record what they have learned from a book, and record discussions they have had about books they have read. Students can also sign up for a lunch on Fridays in which a book will be discussed.
Group instrument lessons are offered to fourth graders who present one formal concert at the end of the year. Teachers schedule other informal performances as the students progress.
- Ranked 25th of the Best 100 Schools in the US by Neighborhood Scout
- Rated the 3rd best elementary school in the Northeast by Neighborhood Scout
- Rated 10 out of 10 by Education.com
- Given a grade of A+ by K12.Niche.com
- Given a grade of A+ by LocalSchoolDirectory.com
Little Harbor Elementary School
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Approximately 400 students in grades K through five attend Little Harbor Elementary School. 23 teachers provide instruction that includes both reading and writing workshops, word study, and regular academic classes based upon Common Core objectives, and the Follow the Child framework.
Students demonstrate their work through portfolios, projects, competitions, and artwork displays. Students attend field trips including one to the Living History Museum. Students and parents enjoy extra activities throughout the year, such as a spaghetti supper, Fall Festival, Halloween Parade, a Book Fair, and a Barn Dance for students.
Elementary students receive tutoring from high school students through a program called Amigos. Students have a student council, chess club, and a school store. Fifth graders get to attend an Environmental Camp and all grades have intramural sports.
Students in New Hampshire are tested in reading and math in 3rd through 5th grades. They are tested in writing in fifth grade, and science in fourth grade. All of Little Harbor’s grades taken together give them the second highest average of all schools in the state.
- Given a grade of 98 by FindTheBest.com
- Given a grade of A by K12.Niche.com
- Given a grade of A- by LocalSchoolDirectory.com
- Ranked number four out of 227 schools by SchoolDigger.com with a five star rating
Bay Head Elementary
Bay Head, New Jersey
Designated by the state as a Reward School based upon superior academic excellence, Bay Head Elementary serves students in grades K through 8. Students have the opportunity to play on several sports teams in basketball, softball, soccer, and tennis. Additionally, students can participate in a garden club, aviation club, safety patrol, magic club, student council, art club, Kid Fit Club, chess club, and homework club.
Students receive peer tutoring in a program called Positive Partners where older students are paired with younger students. Partners participate in activities together throughout the year. All students take classes in Spanish, P.E., music, and art.
All classes go on two or more field trips per year. Students of elementary age have access to lap top computers for individual work, and teachers have Smart Boards and Smart Responders for learning through group engagement.
Out of district students are accepted, but students must apply and pay tuition. An aftercare program is provided on regular school days. Students can receive academic help at that time or just relax with friends or play games. There is a charge for the after school program, but parents only have to pay for days their children stay after school and utilize the program.
- Ranked #1 of New Jersey Schools by JerseyCAN
- State of New Jersey Department of Education Reward School
- Given a grade of A by LocalSchoolDirectory.com
- Rated nine out of 10 by Education.com
- Ranked 120 out of 1229 Schools by SchoolDigger with a five star rating
The EPE Research Center, who rates state educational systems based upon how well the state does across all its districts, gave to Maryland alone a B+; all other states were given a lesser grade. Frost Elementary had the fourth highest test average combining all state assessment scores in math, reading, and science, for grades three through five. Frost serves students in grades K through 5.