Best college-prep high schools

U.S. News lists America’s Best High Schools 2008 based on college readiness. Eighteen charter schools rank in the top 100, although charters make up only 5 percent of schools nationwide.

Many of the top-ranking schools are specialty schools that take only top students, but here’s the list of  open-enrollment schools. (New York City’s Stuyvesant High, which takes only very high-scoring students, somehow is listed as an open-enrollment school.)

Most of the top-scoring schools have few minority and low-income students, but there are exceptions. The top 100 includes four charters with very high percentages of disadvantaged students:  Idea College Prep in Hidalgo County, Texas, YES Prep in Houston, and Green Dot’s Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter High and Animo Leadership High in Los Angeles.

In a debate on high school reform, everyone agrees that high school should prepare graduates for college-level learning, whether it occurs on the job or in a two- or four-year college. But Justin Cohen, a D.C. public schools administrator, sees “kids who are six, seven years behind in reading and math” at the start of ninth grade.

. . . we look at the trajectory of a student within the D.C. public schools and shockingly enough, and not to our credit at all, the longer a student stays with us, the poorer his or her performance gets. Just let that sit for a moment. The kids get less effective as they go through our schools.

High school success starts long before high school. Idea schools, started by Teach for America veterans, began with a middle school but now is a K-12 program. YES schools began with a middle school and now serves 6th through 12th graders. Green Dot, which has stuck with high schools, is an exception.

About Joanne


  1. Some interesting AP/IB exam data form the U.S news and world report rankings:

    Belmont High in MA – ranked 100 in the survey, so the worst of the best according to US News and World Report. This school is not a magnet school or a charter school according to the US News and World Report data.

    Avg exams taken: 4.3
    Avg passing rate per exam: 88%
    4.3 x .88 = 3.78

    Idea prep – rank 19

    Avg exams taken: 6.0
    Avg passing rate per exam: 17%
    6 x .17 = 1.02

    Yes prep – rank 52

    Avg exams taken: 4.0
    Avg passing rate per exam: 36%
    4 x .36 = 1.44

    Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter High – rank 53

    Avg exams taken: 2.5
    Avg passing rate per exam: 40%
    2.5 x .4 = 1

    Animo Leadership High – rank 94

    Avg exams taken: 2.5
    Avg passing rate per exam: 33%
    2.5 x .33 = 0.83

    Seems like simple SES status is still far outperforming the charter model on one of the basic measures.

  2. Lightly Seasoned says:

    How does a 17% passing rate on AP exams indicate college ready graduates??

  3. US News and World Report gave a lot of credit for participation in their calculation of college readiness.

  4. > Seems like simple SES status is still far outperforming the charter model on one of the basic measures.

    Seems more like you’re anxious to make a point since charters don’t have to “outperform” an SES status, they just have to outperform district schools in their area.

  5. Just addressing the post that Joanne made, which had a national context and not a local one.

  6. Lightly Seasoned says:

    Participation a 4-hour test is meaningless if they haven’t actually acquired the skills to pass the tests. It’s certainly a cash cow for the College Board, but there’s no reason you can’t create an appropriately challenging course without that test at the end. (I say this as an AP teacher.) BTW, “the experience of the test” is not what it is cracked up to be. The readers always report opening up folder after folder of blank (or doodled) essays at the scoring.

    The list contains several surrounding school districts in my area. All are very high SES and one is a magnet for gifted students.

  7. I am dismayed that high schools are described as “best” solely on the proportion of college-ready graduates. These may be the “best” for the kids with the ability to fully benefit from college, but what do these schools do for the 90-95 IQ kids? Are they taught useful job skills as well as such skills for coping with life as how to understand a loan contract? Or are they forced to choose between dropping out or an “education” that is far over their heads, and then to pay tuition for college remedial courses in hopes of actually learning something?