The top public high schools

Newsweek magazine is out with the top 1,500 public high schools in the U.S. No Minnesota school is on the top 100. “It’s only based on advanced placement and international baccalaureate,” says MPR education reporter Tom Weber.

The note on methodology attached to the rankings is depressing:

We take the total number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests given at a school in May, and divide by the number of seniors graduating in May or June. All public schools that NEWSWEEK researchers Amy Novak and Dan Brillman and I found that achieved a ratio of at least 1.000, meaning they had as many tests in 2008 as they had graduates, are put on the list on the NEWSWEEK Web site,

NEWSWEEK published national lists based on this formula in 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. In The Washington Post, I have reported the Challenge Index ratings for every public school in the Washington area every year since 1998. I think 1.000 is a modest standard. A school can reach that level if only half of its students take one AP, IB or Cambridge test in their junior year and one in their senior year. But this year, less than 6 percent of the approximately 27,000 U.S. public high schools managed to reach that standard and be placed on the NEWSWEEK list.

Twenty-eight Minnesota schools made the list. Of the twenty-one Minnesota schools that were ranked previously, only 11 improved from their previous ranking:

Patrick Henry in Minneapolis



Irondale in New Brighton

Century in Rochester

St. Anthony Village in St. Anthony

St. Louis Park

Eden Prairie

South in Minneapolis


South St. Paul

  • Vicky

    I’m not quite sure what is the point of rating schools based just on AP and IB coursework. There are other ways students can take advanced work without AP. For instance, at our high school, many students get college credit for CIS (“college in school”) classes without going through the AP testing process. (The teachers are supervised by college professors and teach the college curriculum, and the students earn college credit from the college where that professor works.) Many students have earned as much as a year of college credit by the time they graduate. But I suppose getting college credit this way doesn’t get your school on a Newsweek list.

  • John O

    You missed Lakeville North: 823 this year, 863 last year (2008)

  • Alison

    I’ll admit that I’m not very familiar with the IB or Cambridge tests, but I’ve never been all that thrilled with AP. It seems to force otherwise good and creative teachers to teach to a test rather than using their expertise to guide the students in challenging learning. I’m sure most students get a lot out of the AP classes, but it seems like an experienced teacher could do so much more with a group of talented kids.

  • K

    Also, the AP tests aren’t free. $86 for each exam, or $56 if you qualify for financial need. That maybe doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but for some people it is.

  • kennedy

    By my read, I see the ratings based on percent of students taking particulart tests. There is no mention of rating by score or performance. If this is the case, isn’t the rating more of an indicator of willingness to take tests rather than actual achievement?

  • John

    As is always the case in these studies, no one counts the post secondary option available to juniors and seniors in Minnesota. Both of my daughters took college classes in an actual college (not a high school) with real undergraduate classmates and college faculty as their instructor. The high school students in the course were not identified as high school students to the professor.

    One of my daughters (who had a year and a half of college credits by the time she graduated) complained about having to take freshman level classes in her last year of undergraduate work because she had taken so many 300 level courses while in high school.