Its boldness has paid off and, in marked contrast to East Dunbartonshire, inspectors praise the non-aligned authority for precisely the areas they criticise elsewhere.
The council's education department has a clear vision, "strong leadership" from director Bruce Robertson, and has "succeeded in adding value to its schools".
Andy Anderson, education convener, said: "I am particularly pleased to note that the report recognises the unique part played by education in sustaining and developing communities. Everyone can take credit for this outstanding repor."
Mr Robertson added: "It is always helpful to get an external view of your work and we found this experience to be detailed, probing but extremely professional."
Key findings are that Highland has given a high priority to education and has benefited, particularly over the past two years, from strong leadership and agreed goals. "A culture of planning, quality assurance, focusing on improvement, had been introduced," the inspectors say.
There was effective communication and consultation with stakeholders and good relationships with schools, which performed well. Pupils' attainment was consistently above national averages, and all key quality indicators were "good".