Best (most AP-centric) high schools

Newsweek’s list of America’s Best High Schools — that is, public schools where the highest percentage of students take college-level courses — is out.

Once again the School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas leads the list, which is dominated by magnet schools. (Charter schools make up 15 percent of the list, including #16 ranked Preuss UCSD, which claims all students qualify for a subsidized lunch.) However, super-elite schools are excluded, which seems a bit odd.

Jay Mathews, who created the Challenge Index, argues for the importance of AP testing, even at schools where few AP students pass the exam. (If fewer than 10 percent pass, the school is kicked off the “best” list.)

The average U.S. high schooler does less than an hour of homework a night and spends twice as much time watching television. And it shows in their academic achievements. There has been no significant increase in average reading or math achievement for American 17-year-olds in the last three decades. If AP, IB, and other college-level classes can get more of this age group off the sofa and back to their books, it would be a step forward for the country and a good measure of which schools are really serious about academics.

Here’s the methodology and a photo gallery of the 20 top-ranked schools.

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  1. This has been a topic of interest in Houston. It turns out 2 0f the high schools that were unacceptable to the state and district are on the list.

    Needless to say, people are asking questions.

  2. greeneyeshade says:

    Hmmm. The public high school down the street from me made some magazine’s Top 100 a couple of years ago and my brother said any such list that didn’t include specialized schools like his alma mater, New York’s Stuyvesant, was meaningless. I had to agree.
    I heard later, when we were looking at that school for our daughter, that that school was 2 schools for all practical purposes: one for the G&T and honors students and one for the rest. Since our kid has a learning difference, we didn’t want to take the chance.

  3. The math/science magnet school in my kids’ affluent suburban school district was very deliberately located in one of the worst-performing high schools and also functioned as two schools under the same roof. Only in PE did kids from the magnet interact with the others. The two groups of kids even tended to choose different extracurriculars. The test scores looked better than fine, until NCLB came along and forced the disaggregation by race and ethnicity; thus exposing the game for what it was.

  4. Cardinal Fang says:

    I checked out about halfway through the list, to schools 786 to 805. Excellence, remember, is defined by number of students taking AP tests. The very excellent #789, New Berlin West of Wisconsin, had no, zero, nada students who actually *passed* an AP test.

    Quickly eyeballing the list, it looks like high subsidized lunch percentage means low passing percentage, and low subsidized lunch percentage means high passing percentage. No surprise there, I suppose.


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