College & Workforce Readiness

Just 9 Percent of Nation’s High Schools Deemed Rigorous on ‘Challenge Index’

By Caralee J. Adams — April 08, 2014 1 min read
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In an effort to underscore the importance of a rigorous curriculum to get students college- and career-ready, The Washington Post compiles a list each year of the country’s Most Challenging High Schools. The 2014 ranking of the more than 1,900 top public and private high schools that made the cut was released Monday.

The “challenge index” developed by veteran Post education writer Jay Mathews measures the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a high school each year, divided by the number of seniors who graduated in May or June. If a school has as many tests taken as graduates in a particular year, it would achieve a ratio or score of 1.00. That is the threshold to be placed on the list.

Leading the Post‘s ranking again this year is the American Indian Public Charter in Oakland, Calif., with a ratio of 21.91, followed by Uplift Education North Hills Preparatory in Irvine, Tex,., and Corbett Charter in Corbett, Ore. Florida and Texas lead the states with six schools each in the top 20. See a complete listing of the national schools here.

In the accompanying commentary this year, Mathews noted that in this year’s survey he asked a new question: “Do you have an 11-person football team? “To my astonishment, 67 of the top 100 schools ranked by participation in college-level tests, said they do not field a team, denoting a shift in American high school culture, at least in those schools that challenge their students most,” wrote Mathews.

This year, only 9 percent of the nearly 22,000 U.S. public high schools met the standard to be on the Post’s list. It does not include any magnet or charter high school that attracts a disproportionate share of top students so that its average SAT or ACT score exceeds the highest average for any typical-enrollment school in the country. This is because the index is designed to identify schools that have done the best job in persuading average students to take college-level courses and tests.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.