Newsweek’s Challenge Index, which rates high schools based on the percentage of students who take Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests, is out.
My daughter’s alma mater, Palo Alto High School, and sister school Gunn High refused to participate in the rankings.
School officials say they didn’t want to expose students to the shallowness, stress and unwanted publicity that comes with the survey, which ranks the top 1,200 U.S. high schools.
“It’s a very simplistic premise that the quality of a school can be measured by the number of AP tests students take,” said Marilyn Cook, associate superintendent of the wealthy district in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Some Palo Alto parents worry that students are overloading on AP courses and stressing out, but that’s all about getting into an elite college. Nobody takes an extra AP to raise their school’s rank. I’m guessing Paly and Gunn didn’t rate as high as parents thought they should.
The Challenge Index has limitations: It rewards schools even if students take AP-labeled classes but can’t pass the AP exam. But I think it’s a useful exercise.
Update: In a column, index creator Jay Mathews explains why he thinks it measures an important factor and reprints an e-mail from an AP chemistry teacher about the long-term effects of her class on Sleepy, Grumpy, Sweetie and Angry.