These posts are the opinions of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of A+ Colorado.

Colorado High Schools that Prepare their Graduates for Life, Work and College

This month, 50,000 Colorado students will graduate from high school, but more than one third—about 17,500 students—will not be college ready. Most Colorado high schools graduate some of their students ready for the next steps in life, but far too few high schools graduate most of their students ready to take on the challenges of postsecondary opportunities. This is particularly true for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

We wanted to take the time to celebrate the Colorado high schools that are truly adding value to the life trajectory of their graduates. We recognize that there are many trajectories for success after high school. Yet it is clear that postsecondary education is increasingly important to finding a job and earning a living wage. A+ Colorado recently compiled a list of high schools that academically prepare most of their graduates for post-high school life in The Outliers report. We took a look at college matriculation and—for the first time ever—disaggregated ACT scores. For those interested in diving deeper into the issues around developing quality high schools in Colorado, check out our last report on Denver and Aurora high schools as well as The Outliers.

While it is always important to evaluate a suite of academic measures by student group when comparing high school performance, (e.g. high school graduation rates, grades, student engagement, student work, participation in advanced coursework, and test scores such as ACT or SAT), ACT or SAT test scores data still provide the most universal measure as to whether students are academically prepared for success after graduation, particularly if they choose to go on to college.

Basic academic knowledge and skills are necessary precursors  for career or college success. Colorado has listed the composite ACT score of 22 as “exceeds expectations” on the state’s school accountability framework. For context, ACT has set the college readiness scores (on a scale from 1-36) at 18 for English composition, 22 for math, 22 for reading, and 23 for science.   

Here are the Top 10 lists for Colorado high schools with the highest ACT scores. There are 647 high schools in Colorado. It should be noted that there is only one high school, DSST Green Valley Ranch, where more than half of their Black students “exceeded expectations” on the ACT. There are 9 high schools that reach that goal for most of their Latinx students, and only 4 of the 647 high schools that did so for low-income students.  


We are thrilled to see these high schools prepare students to graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to access and be successful in postsecondary education. You’ll notice that, they are all on the front range or in the Denver metro area. We can only hope that there are far more of the 647 Colorado high schools make the list next year and truly prepare students for college and career, particularly in other parts of the state where there are currently few opportunities for most low-income students and students of color.