Gwinnett school earns top marks

Students at the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology follow a rigorous curriculum that contributed to its being ranked the best in the state.

Students at the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology follow a rigorous curriculum that contributed to its being ranked the best in the state.

After sifting through data on more than 24,000 high schools across the country, U.S. News & World Report recently named the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology the state’s top high school and 12th best in the nation.

The factors that put the school in the elite category were college readiness as demonstrated on AP and IB tests, math and reading proficiency, math and reading performance, the scope of college curriculum and graduation rates. Those elements are key to the school’s offerings that have been available to students for 14 years.

“We’ve been the highest ranked school in Georgia for last 10 years, and we’re regularly ranked in the top 20 in the country,” said Principal IV Bray, now in his eighth year leading the Lawrenceville school. “That validates the hard work our students and our faculty do.”

Bray is quick to point out that other Gwinnett high schools offer similar experiences, but the 1,193 students at GSMST enjoy several unique features.

“The keyword in our mission statement is accelerated,” said Bray. “In addition to being a STEM school – the first high school in the state to earn that certification – our curriculum is rigorous and goes very fast. Freshmen take 10th grade chemistry, 11th grade physics and two engineering classes. Students have to take five AP courses, and most take more.”

Upper-level courses are scheduled in the early grades so students have time for internships in junior and senior years. Juniors have a one-semester obligation; seniors' internships are part of the “capstone experience” that pairs them with off-site mentors for the full year.

“Some seniors intern at law firms, with elected officials or with nonprofits, but 2/3 do something in a STEM-related area,” said Bray.

Getting into GSMST is also a different experience. Students must qualify by being an eighth grader in a Gwinnett County school, be it public or independent. They must have mastered high school algebra to move right into the required AP calculus course. And they must win a spot through a lottery, which often means students arrive in the fall knowing only two or three others.

“It’s a different world here,” said Bray. “But the kids who come here want that rigorous experience. They’re seeking a challenge, and we certainly offer that. Most of them will go to college anyway; we’re preparing them for graduate school and leadership roles.”

Student Council President Angie Zheng and her family were so impressed with GSMST that they moved from south Georgia to Suwanee so she’d be eligible to enroll.

“I wanted a challenge,” said the senior. “Being here has taught me a lot about time management. Almost all my classes are AP, and I have to balance that with extra curriculars and family time.”

This term, Zheng is doing research at Georgia Gwinnett College as part of her senior capstone. “That’s given me more opportunities to explore the chemistry field,” she said. “I did my junior fellowship over the summer at Gwinnett Medical Center, and I’d like to become a surgeon. It also helps that everyone here is very motivated. That motivates me to want to do more.”

Lottery applications for GSMST are online through January. For information, visit

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