Part 1: Eastern and Gulf Coast Texas

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that goes double for education. To accommodate Texas’s grand scale, we’ve split this article in two. Part 1 focuses on East and Gulf Coast Texas, so we’ll revisit the rest of the state in Part 2.

East Texas is home to many high-quality, specialized schools, even in the public sector. As a result, students (and parents) who have a clear vision of what education should prepare them for can find many niche options. Nevertheless, East Texas still has a variety of exceptional general high schools, and we’ve found the eight best high schools in East Texas for you to choose from.

The 5 Best Public High Schools in East Texas

Carnegie Vanguard High School — Houston

Established in 2002, Carnegie Vanguard is the outgrowth of a successful student enrichment program within the Houston Independent School District. The key distinction that sets Carnegie Vanguard apart is that 100% of the students are identified as eligible for the gifted program. As a result, this school has a unique atmosphere that brings academic achievements to great heights.

Carnegie Vanguard’s claim to academic success comes with some tangible metrics. For example, while the state average proficiency scores for high schools are 60% (reading) and 50% (science), Carnegie Vanguard boasts 98% and 95% proficiency, respectively. Additionally, the school offers a slew of AP classes, including French, Spanish, calculus, statistics, English, and more.

As a result of this singular focus, Carnegie Vanguard’s athletics department is a bit “out of focus,” pulling only middling results in the district for its baseball, basketball, and soccer teams. Nevertheless, students can still exercise mind alongside body by joining one of the teams and helping the Rhinos achieve greater results in the coming years.

Obra D. Tompkins High School — Katy

Borrowing from more traditional architectural styles, Obra D. Tompkins has a distinctive building facade that invites students to explore its campus. It proudly lists numerous accomplishments, including in the arts, athletics, academic performance, and rankings on “best” lists from Niche.

The Falcons “fly high” at Obra D. Tompkins, as the school has a strong winning record this season both in football and basketball. Specifically in football, the Falcons perform well, consistently ranking within the top three at the division level, year over year. Obra D. Tompkins is home to ten teams each for boys and girls to choose from, leading to plenty of participation from the student body and making sports a core part of the student culture.

With a 3,000+ member student body, Obra D. Tompkins provides enough academic support to maintain a 17:1 student-teacher ratio. Its strong 97% graduation rate is coupled with 89% reading proficiency, putting it in the upper tier of area schools. With a median household income of over $100K in the area, the school has access to a strong financial support structure.

Clements High School — Sugar Land

Clements High School is located in Sugar Land, part of the Fort Bend School District, a wealthy district near Houston with plenty of access to both the beauty of nature and social activities. It opened to some fanfare in 1983, and since then, it has developed robust sports and extracurricular activities to match its extensive academic offerings. Students can choose from among almost 100 different clubs and organizations that cater to virtually any interest.

The students at Clements reflect its core focus on a quality education. Numerous AP class opportunities and SAT prep programs have yielded a student body that averages 1360 on the SAT, and nearly half its students take at least one AP class. With statistics like these, it’s clear that the students are well prepared to go to any college in the nation once they graduate.

Not to be outdone, the athletics department at Clements instills a spirit of hard work and competition in its teams. Recently, the Rangers boys’ basketball team has been on a tear with an incredible 32-1 record this season! Students can join plenty of other teams, too, such as soccer, baseball, and golf.

Cinco Ranch High School — Katy

Located on the West Grand Parkway, Cinco Ranch High School welcomes its students with a buttressed entryway. Generally, its programs are top-notch and provide ample opportunities for students both academically and athletically. Beyond the basics, this school has numerous curricular and extracurricular activities, with dozens of choices, from the Academic Decathlon Club to the Embroidery Club.

When it comes to athletics, Cinco Ranch has a robust program with plenty of institutional support. Baseball, football, cross country, and more all have multiple coaches and assistant coaches to develop young athletes. The Cougars have winning records across multiple sports, which shows that the time and resources spent on these programs are paying off.

The school’s academic programs feature both gifted programs and multiple options for AP classes. That support is so widespread that its AP enrollment is currently more than 40% overall. Current student enrollment is nearly 3,500 and includes students from a diverse set of backgrounds.

Cypress Ranch High School — Cypress

Cypress Ranch is another high school with a diverse student body that enjoys significant institutional support. Compared to Cinco Ranch, Cypress Ranch lags slightly behind academically but has an even more robust athletics program. Its clubs and organizations include many dozens of options for varied academic, cultural, and recreational interests.

The fun doesn’t stop there at Cypress Ranch, as the Mustangs enjoy access to a modern natatorium. Students can join the water polo and swimming teams to compete, with local and regional meets throughout the season. Other sports options include standards such as baseball and football but also include lacrosse and cheer.

Cypress Ranch also offers a respectable academic program with multiple AP classes. Its 98% graduation rate all but ensures that students leave prepared to enter college, pursue a trade, or continue their personal development in the military. Its 16:1 student-to-teacher ratio also keeps some of the pressure away from large classrooms, permitting teachers to provide additional support to students who need more attention.

Honorable Mentions

The 3 Best Private and Parochial High Schools in East Texas

St. John’s School — Houston

St. John’s School boasts nearly 80 years of success and has expanded dramatically since its initial opening in 1949. The school commands a substantial tuition, charging over $35k per year to attend at the high school level. Consequently, the results prove that you get what you pay for at this school, as the student body earns high scores and broadly participates in many athletic and social extracurricular activities. Additionally, there are opportunities for substantial financial aid, depending on household income.

It’s difficult for students not to get a lot out of attending this school. At present, St. John’s reports that it has 118 student clubs and organizations, a 1:9 student-to-teacher ratio, and various foreign languages such as Spanish, French, Chinese, and Latin.

Not to be outdone, St. John’s athletics teams, the Mavericks, proudly show their recent game results directly on the school’s website. Nearly every team, both boys’ and girls’, currently has a winning record in the district.

The John Cooper School — The Woodlands

The John Cooper School is another exceptional private school in southern Texas. Students enjoy a full academic and athletic life, with opportunities for plenty of extracurricular activities and developing the social connections necessary to establish great careers in the decades to come. It’s a full-spectrum K-12 school with grade 9-12 tuition currently set at just over $31k per year. Like St. John’s School, there are plenty of opportunities for financial aid to help those who would otherwise be great students at John Cooper.

Athletics at John Cooper are an important part of the social fabric, and the school has more than a dozen teams. The Dragons aren’t commanding the local district this season, but the sports program remains a great way for students to develop themselves and their relationships with each other.

John Cooper also hosts a strong 11:1 student-to-teacher ratio, with college prep being a primary focus for students in 11th and 12th grade. The school provides extensive counseling and guidance to help students make the right choices to start their college careers on the right foot.

The Awty International School — Houston

The Awty International School is the only French Ministry of Education accredited school in Houston and provides a unique international experience for its nearly 1,800 students. Also a K-12 program, students can matriculate between its divisions from the earliest years up to graduation. Additionally, students can participate in the French Accredited Program, meaning there’s an opportunity to achieve near-native fluency in an immersive foreign language experience that simply does not exist at other schools (très bien!). Upper school tuition for the 2024-25 school year is currently just over $35k.

Awty International is home to the Rams, who have competent but not exceptional performances in the local district. Standout teams include the volleyball and soccer teams, while football, baseball, and basketball results vary year over year.

The administration at Awty International supports a strong arts program, including both visual and performance art. The school’s philosophy encourages the arts as a core part of a student’s education rather than just something extra. As a result, students at Awty International graduate far more well-rounded and with a much more holistic knowledge base than students at less culturally-inclined schools.

Honorable Mentions


  • Christopher Gallagher

    Christopher Gallagher is a business manager and freelance writer with a BA degree in history. Christopher has traveled extensively and has lived across the American east, south, and west. Christopher is an expert culinarian and enjoys camping. His writing includes history, banking and insurance, and retirement planning, among other topics.