Relocating to or within San Diego with kids? Several of the top 20 school districts in California are located in San Diego County. You’ll find a range of typical public schools plus comprehensive high schools with college preparatory or vocational courses, alternative high schools, charter schools, and magnet schools. There are even hundreds of private schools to choose from to ensure your child gets the best education possible for their learning style, needs, and interests.
Here’s a look at the best school districts in the San Diego metro area plus stand-out schools that deserve extra attention.
Poway Unified School District | Poway, CA
- Enrollment: 37,000
- Number of schools: 32
- Teacher to student ratio: 25:1
- PUSD California School Dashboard accountability report
PUSD is one of the best school districts in San Diego. It’s high performing with an English Language Arts grade of 58.9 points above standard (California average: 2.5 points below standard) and a Mathematics grade 43.8 points above standard (California average: 33.5 points below standard). Only 11 of the district’s schools are in Poway; 21 are in San Diego. Poway Unified is a top San Diego school district for academics, although its one short-coming is it doesn’t offer the best extracurricular activities.
The district won the 2020 Golden Bell Award for its No Place for Hate initiative. It was also recognized as an exemplary school district in San Diego with its Meadowbrook Middle School among seven San Diego County schools honored through the Distinguished Schools Program.
The district’s Del Norte High is one of the best schools in San Diego and #30 in California. It’s also the third best high school in the San Diego metro area with an AP participation rate of 77%.
San Diego Unified School District | San Diego, CA
- Enrollment: 103,000
- Number of schools: 203
- Teacher to student ratio: 24:1
- SDUSD California School Dashboard accountability report
Founded in 1854, SDUSD is California’s second largest school district and it covers most of the City of San Diego. The district has 27 high schools, 24 middle schools, 113 elementary schools, and dozens of atypical, alternative, and charter schools.
The district has several highly rated high schools including Mt. Everest Academy, #85 in California and one of the best high schools in San Diego, with a 100% graduation rate and 73% AP participation rate.
The Preuss School is chartered under San Diego Unified. It isn’t just one of the best charter schools in San Diego; it’s one of the best in the country! This unique college preparatory charter school on the University of California San Diego campus. It supports low-income students and it’s earned many accolades:
- Top high school in San Diego County
- One of the top 50 high schools in the U.S.
- 96% of graduates attend a four-year university
- One of the top charter schools in America (Center of Education Reform)
- Top charter school in California (University of Southern California’s Center for Educational Governance)
- California Distinguished School
- National Blue Ribbon School
Want to get into the Preuss School? Here’s what it’s like living in La Jolla, San Diego’s best seaside community.
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Scripps Ranch High is another one of the district’s top-rated schools. It earned the Silver medal as one of the Best High Schools in San Diego from U.S. News and serves the family-friendly community of Scripps Ranch. If you love the outdoors but want to stay within 20 minutes of Downtown San Diego, here’s why you may love living in Scripps Ranch.
SDUSD’s English Language Arts grade was 12.6 points above standard (California average: 2.5 points below standard) with a Mathematics grade 10.4 points below standard (California average: 33.5 points below standard).
Find the school in your neighborhood here. Students are guaranteed enrollment in their neighborhood school. You can choose to have your child attend a different school through the Choice enrollment program, but applications are based on priority weight.
San Dieguito Union High School District | Encinitas, CA
- Enrollment: 13,000
- Number of schools: 10
- Teacher to student ratio: 25:1
- SDUHSD California School Dashboard accountability report
San Dieguito Union High serves grades 7 to 12. Elementary school students in North County districts of Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff, and Encinitas matriculate through San Dieguito Union High middle and high schools. Students in the Rancho Santa Fe district enter SDUHSD as high school freshmen. The district has an alternative high school, four comprehensive high schools, and five comprehensive middle schools in San Diego.
Three schools in SDUHSD were honored as top high schools in San Diego as Distinguished Schools: Canyon Crest Academy, Torrey Pines High, and Diegueno Middle. The district is best for families with older kids as its high schools are among the best in the state. They also offer plenty of athletics and extracurricular programs!
Canyon Crest Academy in Pacific Highlands Ranch is frequently named among the top three best public schools in San Diego, CA and among the top 20 high schools in California. The school has an AP participation rate of 85%, a 100% graduation rate, and proficiency scores that far exceed the state average.
If you’re looking for great schools near San Diego, surfing, and outdoor recreation, find out if living in Encinitas is the right choice for you.
Great to see our Raven Track & Field team in action today! pic.twitter.com/AKV4Ag4Jaz
— Canyon Crest Academy (@CCARaven) April 4, 2021
San Marcos Unified School District | San Marcos, CA
- Enrollment: 21,000
- Number of schools: 20
- Teacher to student ratio: 36:1
- SMUSD California School Dashboard accountability report
SMUSD serves San Marcos and areas of Encinitas, Carlsbad, Escondido, Vista, and unincorporated areas of northern San Diego County.
San Marcos Unified is one of the top school districts in North San Diego County, one of the most popular suburbs of San Diego for families. It has a higher rate of socioeconomically disadvantaged students and English learners who are well served. The district has Mathematics and English Language Arts scores well above the state average with students meeting or exceeding grade-level standards.
There are many great communities you can settle in to enjoy the benefits of the San Marcos Unified district including parts of Carlsbad and Escondido where you can enjoy a more suburban setting away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Vista Unified School District | Vista, CA
- Enrollment: 23,000
- Number of schools: 34
- Teacher to student ratio: 22:1
- VUSD California School Dashboard accountability report
Vista Unified is the 4th largest school district in San Diego County with comprehensive high schools, alternative high schools, magnet schools, and special education schools. The district serves Vista, CA 40 miles north of San Diego and parts of Carlsbad, San Marcos, Oceanside, and unincorporated San Diego County.
Vista Unified is an award-winning San Diego school district with a Gold Ribbon school and the California Exemplary Arts Education award. Students in three VUSD schools can participate in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program to earn advanced university credits. It’s one of the best school systems in San Diego for the arts with comprehensive arts education in visual art, music, theater, dance, and media.
Carlsbad Unified School District | Carlsbad, CA
- Enrollment: 11,500
- Number of schools: 14
- Teacher to student ratio: 25:1
- CUSD California School Dashboard accountability report
Carlsbad Unified School District is one of the best school districts in San Diego. Not many San Diego high schools are rated above Carlsbad’s best, although the district does lose points for its facilities and extracurricular offerings. The district has nine elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools.
Carlsbad Unified is high performing in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and English Learning with 72% of students who are prepared for college at graduation. The district’s Sage Creek High is one of the top 5 high schools near San Diego with high graduation and AP participation rates.
Carlsbad has more to offer than great schools with beautiful beaches, Legoland California, and Sea Life Aquarium. Check our guide to living in Carlsbad, CA for a more in-depth look at the community.
Best Private Schools in San Diego
There are more than 300 private schools in San Diego including parochial and secular schools with an average student-teacher ratio of 14:1. There are almost 57,000 students enrolled in the top San Diego private schools. Here are some of the best.
- Maria Montessori School (PK-8)
- The Waldorf School of San Diego
- San Diego Jewish Academy (PK-12)
- Francis Parker School (K-12)
- Academy of Our Lady of Peace (9-12, all-girls)
- Cathedral Catholic High School (9-12)
- Warren-Walker School (PK-8)
San Diego School Districts FAQs
Does San Diego have good schools?
San Diego County has one of California’s highest concentrations of top-rated public school districts. In addition to excellent public schools, San Diego has 300+ private schools.
What is the best high school in San Diego, California?
The Preuss School is widely regarded as the best San Diego high school. This unique charter school is located on the UC San Diego campus. Other top schools include Canyon Crest Academy (San Dieguito Union High), Del Norte (Poway Unified), and Westview High (Poway).
What is the best school district in San Diego?
The Poway Unified School District is often ranked as San Diego’s top school district. However, the best high school, Preuss School, is part of the San Diego Unified District and frequently ranked as one of the best charter schools in California and the U.S.
San Diego is home to some of California’s top-rated school districts. It’s hard to find a bad public school system, but each district certainly has a few stand-out schools that have earned state and national accolades.
Once you’ve chosen the right school district for your family, you’ll be ready to narrow down your top picks of schools and choose a neighborhood to call home. Republic Moving & Storage is standing by to help you relocate without the stress so you can look forward to everything life has to offer in your new home.