The methodology behind ranking America’s Most Challenging High Schools

The Method

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America’s Most Challenging High Schools ranks schools through an index invented by Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews. The index formula is a simple ratio: the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a school in 2012, divided by the number of graduates that year. Noted in our national and local tables is the percentage of students eligible for government meal subsidies — a common benchmark for poverty — and each school’s average SAT score, a common college entrance exam with a national average of 1498 out of 2400. The list includes some private schools — noted with a (P) — for comparison. Certain public schools with highly selective admissions are omitted from the list, but information about them can be found online, along with full national lists, at
. Mathews and Post researcher Bonnie Smith, working with local innovations editor Greg Linch, canvassed schools across the nation for data used to assemble the rankings. The Post’s Jason Bartz provided digital development support.

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