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May 19, 2008

High School Challenge Index, 2008

Newsweek & Washington Post:

The Newsweek and Washington Post Challenge Index measures a public high school's effort to challenge its students. The formula is simple: Divide the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests a school gave by the number of seniors who graduated in May or June. Tests taken by all students, not just seniors, are counted. Magnet or charter schools with SAT combined verbal and math averages higher than 1300, or ACT average scores above 29, are not included, since they do not have enough average students who need a challenge.

The rating is not a measurement of the overall quality of the school but illuminates one factor that many educators consider important.

The list below includes all public schools with a rating of 1.000. There are nearly 1,400 -- the top 5 percent of all 27,000 U.S. high schools in encouraging students to take AP, IB or Cambridge tests. Also listed are the name of the city or school district and the percentage of a school's students whose family incomes are low enough to qualify for federally subsidized lunches and who also apply for that program. The portion of subsidized-lunch applicants is a rough indicator of a school’s poverty level. High-poverty schools are at a disadvantage in persuading students to take college-level courses, but some on this list have succeeded in doing so anyway.

The Equity and Excellence rate is the percentage of all seniors who have had at least one score on an AP, IB or Cambridge test that would qualify them for college credit. The average AP Equity and Excellence rate for all U.S. schools is about 15 percent.

Milwaukee Rufus King ranked highest among the 21 Wisconsin High Schools at #209. The only Madison area high school to make the list is Verona at #808.

Related: Dane County, WI AP High School Course offerings.

Jay Matthews has more:

This week, Newsweek magazine and its Web site unveil this year's Top High Schools list, based on a rating system I invented a decade ago called the Challenge Index. The index ranks schools based on college-level course participation, adding up the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and other college-level tests in a given year for a given school, and dividing that total by its number of graduating seniors.

Several weeks ago I asked students, teachers and parents to tell me how this annual ranking affected their schools. Here is a sampling of several points of view, both critical and complimentary.

* * *

So, with regard to your Challenge Index -- it really is a quick and dirty way of assessing schools. Very ambitious and probably very imperfect. However, there isn't anything else out there like it. I think the reason our school systems are not very good compared to other countries is that we underestimate the abilities of our children. I think too the education field is fuzzy -- not very good data or evidence to support the programs that are out there. . . . More and better research is needed. And of course there are the socioeconomic/family issues of some schools/districts that cannot/will not be fixed with just higher expectations.

-- Terry Adirim Montgomery County

Previous SIS Challenge Index links and notes. Clusty search on the Challenge Index.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at May 19, 2008 9:07 AM
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