Newsweek’s America’s Best High Schools story is up with a list of the top 1,000 public high schools, based on the percentage of students who take Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests. Although the idea is to single out the schools that are preparing “average” students for college, a lot of these schools are selective. What’s impressive to me are the schools with high poverty rates where significant percentages of students graduate having taken at least one honors exam. There are some on the list, but not many.
Newsweek excluded some public schools from the list for having too many students acing the SATs and ACTs. Jay Mathews, the list creator, explains:
The Challenge Index is designed to honor schools that have done the best job in persuading average students to take college-level courses and tests. It does not work with schools that have no, or almost no, average students. The idea is to create a list that measures how good schools are in challenging all students, and not just how high their students’ test scores are.
One of the schools, Pacific Collegiate, is a Santa Cruz charter school that stresses academics but doesn’t select its students like many of the non-excluded schools.
Update: BASIS, a Tucson school where all students take AP classes to graduate, ranked number 3 in the nation. According to Center for Education Reform, “while charter schools make up 4 percent of the nation’s public schools, 6 percent of the Top 100 schools were charter schools. ” In addition to BASIS, the charters are: North Hills (12); Raleigh Charter (53); Signature School (54); Black River (55) and YES College Prep Southeast (87). Ranked in the top 1,000 are: Charter School of Wilmington (124); Walton (177); Palisades Charter (242); Chamblee Charter (268); Gateway (935).