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.

‘Best high schools’ are charters, magnets

Charter schools do very well in Business Week’s list of America’s Best High Schools.

Working with GreatSchools, the magazine identified the highest performing and most improved high school in each states, the best high school serving a low-income population and the public and private schools rated highest by  GreatSchools visitors.

According to Charter Blog, only 5 percent of high schools are charters, but 14 percent of top performers and 14 percent low-income top performers, 21 percent of most improved and 18 percent of the favorites are charter schools.

Many of the non-charter public schools use admissions tests to choose students. Charters aren’t allowed to screen students, but they have the advantage of being schools of choice: Parents have decided that’s where they want their kids to be.

You have to click on the pictures to see the best in each state, which is annoying. It took me five tries to find California. My daughter’s alma mater, Palo Alto High, is listed as “best improved,” which is odd.  It didn’t have much room for improvement. I guess science scores went up.