Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

How does your high school rank? Check the new Newsweek list

The 2010 Newsweek Best High Schools list, based on my Challenge Index system of rating schools, can be found at Here is the link.

The list ranks schools based on participation in college-level tests, such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge exams. Many people prefer rating schools by average test scores, but I consider that a measure of the student family incomes, not the quality of the schools, because test averages correlate so strongly with parental affluence. Many educators also object to my ranking schools by just one criterion, but I get many messages from principals, teachers and parents who like this way of assessing schools.

The list gets about 7 million page views a year. If you want to know more about the thinking behind it, and join the debate, you will get more background than you may be able to stand in my FAQs.

Any public high school that gave at least as many AP, IB or Cambridge tests in 2009 as it had seniors graduating that year qualifies for the 2010 Newsweek list. If your high school meets that criteria and you do not find it listed, e-mail me at As we do every year when we release the new list, we will be updating it in a month to add any schools we missed. Only about six percent of U.S. schools qualify (there are about 1,625 on the new list), but that is a big improvement from the Challenge Index's first year, 1998, when only 243 schools, fewer than one percent of the total, made it.

The creative team has added many special features this year, including profiles of many of the listed schools, a photo gallery of the top 20 schools, my latest piece on AP taking over American schools, our public elites list, and a list of what the editors consider the 13 best high school movies. Their choices are obviously incomplete because they don't include "Stand and Deliver" or "Election."

Any comments? Let fire below. If you want to ask me question, just write me at

Read Jay's blog every day at
Follow all the Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education web page,

By Jay Mathews  | June 16, 2010; 11:55 AM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  13 best high school movies, Jay's latest AP piece, latest Newsweek high school rankings, the Challenge Index, why some don't like the list but Jay does  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The principal who created a wellspring of innovation
Next: Why mom disliked my summer reading


Not counting TJ, 23 out of 25 Fairfax County Public School high schools made the list. I'll be curious to see if this changes starting next year when FCPS starts charging $100 per AP/IB test. It would be interesting to do a follow-up story on this.

Posted by: mhs11 | June 16, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

For mhs11, it is a good point. I will be watching. But I need your help on yr school count. All Fairfax County public high schools except TJ should have made the list, and TJ was on the Public Elites list because its average SAT score is too high for the Challenge Index. I have been informed by one FCPS school, Edison, that they were not actually listed on the new Newsweek list, which is my error. I didnt make a good enough final check and did not see they were not there. We will add them when we do our update in a month. So what was the other Fx school you did not see on the list? All of the Fx schools have made the Newsweek list in the last ten years, by my count. But I may have messed up on another school. Help me.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | June 16, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

While I appreciate the spotlight that these rankings put on schools that promote advanced academics, I have concerns over the simplistic method of calculating these rankings.

For example, two "low-performing" schools in Houston ISD made the list, with one ranking 151st in the country. However, rankings the local newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, creates take into account AP and IB exam participation rates AND scores, SAT scores, graduation rates and poverty. Using their formula, this these high schools ranked 133rd out of 140 Houston-area schools (the other one ranked 128th).

The superintendent of Houston ISD is a strong proponent of AP courses, and has vowed to change these schools reputations, and has certainly made a positive step.

But in reality, I suspect that the truth of these schools' achievements are somewhere in between these two sets of rankings.

Posted by: tweinberg | June 16, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Technically 26 high schools are listed on the FCPS site (under schools/centers) Yes, Edison was left off as was TJ, but Jay the other HS not on the list was Bryant Alternative; so 23 out of 26.

Posted by: researcher2 | June 16, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

thanks researcher2. that makes me feel better since Bryant doesnt do AP or IB.

for tweinberg--it is nice to have different kinds of ratings. But i have never seen much use in rating schools by average test scores EXCEPT in cases where you have a faculty equipped and led to do the hard work of raising achievement and moving those scores upwards. Most schools are not like that, and the teachers are powerless to make a difference. For high schools, focusing on AP and IB is a step, really only a half step, in the right direction, giving that portion of the student body who can benefit from a challenge the challenge they are denied in most inner city schools, but that half step looks huge when compared to schools that dont bother to take it.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | June 16, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Again, the ubiquitous focus on inputs with no consideration of outcomes. "A for effort, ? for achievement" should become public education's tagline.

Posted by: JDunning | June 16, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

That's a good point, but I doubt that it will have that traumatic of an effect on the number of AP's taken since low and middle income students can get financial help on paying for the exams if it puts strain on their family.

Posted by: chrisroman | June 16, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

P.S. I really like the new special features but just out of curiousity what defines a sky high SAT and ACT score?

Posted by: chrisroman | June 16, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

As I've remarked before, it is too bad that private schools do not supply data that would permit their schools to be included.
It would be interesting to see how the many and expensive private schools rank.

Posted by: edlharris | June 16, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Maybe private schools aren't teaching to the tests as much. That doesn't mean they aren't good schools, just that they are not narrowing the scope of instruction to the tests.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 17, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

While at DeMatha, I took the AP US History class and test.
We learned content and how to take the test.
I received a 3 (more a reflection of my effort) and received credit from UM.

Thank you, Mr. T.

Posted by: edlharris | June 17, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

You need to somehow designate magnet schools that import their students into special programs through an application process. Or, credit back those students' test data to their home schools.

Posted by: eduk81 | June 17, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company