The 10 Best High Schools in South Dakota

South Dakota is known for its excellent education system, with many high schools providing high-quality instruction and resources for students. The best high schools in South Dakota are known for their rigorous curriculum and strong college preparatory programs.

US News & World Report and Niche (for 2023) provided the high school rankings we used.  These authoritative sources evaluated each school’s academic performance, student-teacher ratio, college readiness, and other factors. The schools were also ranked based on their athletic achievements, such as wins and losses, performance in championships, and awards.

We ranked the top 10 South Dakota high schools based on our opinion and a combination of academic and athletic performance. We believe these high schools are excellent examples of how to create an environment conducive to learning and success.

The Best South Dakota Public High Schools

Brandon Valley High School – Brandon, SD

Situated just outside Sioux Falls, Brandon Valley High School has a reputation for athletic excellence and academic rigor. With numerous AP programs to choose from and a high graduation and proficiency rate, Brandon has helped prepare kids for college and beyond for years.

The Lynx have won four state football championships, one state basketball championship for both boys and girls, and two bowling state champions. It also has a renowned fine arts program.

Brandon Valley High School is ranked #2 in South Dakota by US News & World Report and #6 by Niche for academics. Niche ranks Brandon Valley High School as #5 in South Dakota for athletics.

Washington High School – Sioux Falls, SD

Washington High School is highly ranked in both academics and athletics because of its outstanding academic and competitive sports programs. It has a wide variety of AP courses and a strong college preparatory program. The Warriors are also known for their successful athletic teams, which have recently won several state titles.

Niche ranks Washington High School #1 for academics and #3 for athletics. It is not ranked in the top 10 this year by US News.

Dakota Valley School District – North Sioux City

Despite being one of the newer school districts in the state, Dakota Valley High School has quickly developed a reputation for excellence. It has a strong STEM program and an awesome graduation rate of 92%. Plenty of extracurricular opportunities make this up-and-coming school a great place to learn and grow.

Dakota Valley boasts a dominant athletic program, with the Panthers competing in all major sports.

US News & World Report ranks Dakota Valley # 8 for academics in South Dakota, while Niche ranks the high school #3.  Niche also ranks Dakota Valley as #5 for athletics.

TF Riggs High School – Pierre

Located in Pierre, the state capital, T.F. Riggs High School is one of the largest high schools in the state. It has a number of dual-credit and advanced placement courses, including post-secondary credits in diverse subjects such as music appreciation and advanced computer applications. There are also several hands-on classes in the career and technical education department, including welding, drafting, agriculture, and computers.

The Governors have a winning program competing in all major sports and play host to the Legion Relays.

US News & World Report ranks TF Riggs #9 and Niche #15 for academics in the state. However, Niche ranks the high school #2 for athletics in South Dakota.

Lincoln High School – Sioux Falls

Located in the most populous city in South Dakota, Lincoln High School has a reputation for academic and extracurricular excellence. Students have numerous opportunities for advanced placement, and academic scores are far above the state average.

The school’s marching band has appeared in the Rose Parade and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 2022, the band placed 1st overall in the Bands of America Regional (in Iowa that year) and became the first band from the state to win a regional. They then placed fourth in the national finals. Further, the school’s newspaper, Stateman, won the National School Press Association’s Pacemaker award in 2007.

The Patriots compete in a number of sports, and the school is home to the Howard Wood Dakota Relays, the premier scholastic event in the country.

US News and Niche rank Lincoln High School high in academics, #3 and #4, respectively. Niche, however, ranks this high school #23 in athletics.  It should be noted that the Patriots football program has an excellent record early in the season.

Stevens High School – Rapid City

Stevens High School has a wide offering of academic programs for all students. AP classes are numerous, as well as services for gifted learners. There’s a wide-ranging college and career counseling program that has a wide-ranging music department, receiving a merit award from the National Association of Music Merchants in 2018.

The Raiders sports program has produced a number of professional athletes, from Olympic gold-medal-winning wrestler Randy Lewis to professional baseball players Mark Ellis and Dave Collins, as well as legendary WNBA player and current coach Becky Hammon. The Raiders are a powerhouse in the state in many sports.

US News & World Report ranks Stevens High School #1 in South Dakota for academics, while Niche’s rank is #9. Niche, however, ranks the school’s athletics #6 in the state.

Roosevelt High School – Sioux Falls, SD

Roosevelt High School is highly ranked in academics and athletics due to its rigorous academic curriculum and impressive athletic teams. This excellent high school offers a variety of AP courses and college preparatory programs, as well as an impressive list of awards for its successful athletic teams.

The Rough Riders boast a top basketball program, and the boys’ team in 2021-22 went 22-0 to win their second straight state title.

The school is not ranked this year by US News & World Report; however, Niche ranks the high school #5 for academics and #7 for athletics.

Hill City High School – Hill City

Hill City is a top-ranked school located about 10 minutes from Mount Rushmore — and it’s the only school in the country to have graduation under the shadows of former presidents. Students can take a number of Advanced Placement courses, as well as earn college credit from several local universities. There are several extracurricular activities, from Knowledge Bowl to theatre, band, and oral interpretation. In athletics, the Rangers compete in football, volleyball, cross country, and basketball. This is a well-rounded school with something for everyone.

Hill City High School is a small town, yet it’s ranked #2 in South Dakota for academics by US News, while Niche ranks it #5!  Very impressive.

More Great South Dakota Public High Schools


    The Best South Dakota Private High Schools

    O’Gorman High School – Sioux Falls, SD

    O’Gorman is an award-winning parochial school located in Sioux Falls. It’s been named a Blue Ribbon School four times, most recently in 2021. There are numerous AP programs and a diverse curriculum with coursework in speech and sociology. Students can earn college credit through numerous non-AP courses, including in computer science and teaching.

    The Knights have won a whopping 123 state championships, more than any other school in its class. This includes football titles and a whopping 20 girls’ tennis titles.

    Niche ranks O’Gorman High School as #2 for academics in South Dakota.

    Sioux Falls Christian High School – Sioux Falls, SD

    Sioux Falls Christian offers multiple AP courses, as well as a wide range of arts programs. The school is also known for its outstanding facilities, with a new building that cost $10.2 million to create and shares athletic facilities with the University of Sioux Falls.

    The Chargers have a rich history, including 10 girls’ volleyball championships and three boys’ cross-country titles.

    The school is ranked #9 in South Dakota by US News & World Report for its academics and #8 for its athletics. Niche ranks Sioux Falls Christian High School as #9 in South Dakota.

    More Great South Dakota Private Schools


      The Best High Schools in South Dakota Are Ready for You

      The 10 best high schools in South Dakota excel in both academics and athletics. A well-rounded education is essential in today’s competitive world. Attending a school with a strong academic program combined with a strong sports program provides an ideal foundation for success.

      South Dakota has many excellent public and parochial high schools offering impressive educational opportunities. From the breadth of AP courses offered at T.F. Riggs to the high proficiency rates at Brandon Valley, South Dakota, residents have access to a number of great high schools.



        • Chris Kane

          Chris Kane is a military veteran and former business owner currently living in the Des Moines, Iowa, metro. Chris is an inveterate entrepreneur and avid web developer who is not shy about sharing his opinions.

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