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Advanced Courses Gain Ground in High Schools

6. George Mason, city of Falls Church (6)

7. Langley, McLean (10)

8. McLean (11)

9. Walt Whitman, Bethesda (16)

10. Richard Montgomery, Rockville (2).

Advanced Placement is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It was originally designed for only a few students at a few high-performing high schools who wanted college credit for the advanced work they were doing. But two decades ago some educators began to argue that the program could be used to raise the level of instruction throughout the country, even in low-income schools. International Baccalaureate, designed for diplomats' children by instructors at the International School of Geneva, is also being used by some educators to invigorate average and below-average high schools.

College-level courses increase the chances of students being admitted to selective colleges, and several recent studies have shown that good grades on AP or IB examinations are associated with higher graduation rates in college.

Some parents and educators say that some of the high school students being admitted to the college-level courses are not ready for them and that AP and IB teachers have to spend too much time helping students who cannot handle the thick reading lists and three- to five-hour exams.

Other parents and educators point to several examples of schools that have had great success taking ill-prepared but motivated students and giving them extra study time and encouragement that led to good scores in AP and IB and success in college.

A full list of Washington area schools' 2005 Challenge Index rankings appears on the next page.

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