High school students in the U.S. have a college readiness problem. According to a report from testing organization ACT, only 40 percent of students taking the ACT met three or four college readiness benchmarks, which correlate with stronger likelihood of success in postsecondary education. However, taking college preparatory core curriculum classes increased students’ chances of meeting these benchmarks; 49 percent of “core-taking” students met the math benchmark, for example, compared to 27 percent of non-core-taking students. In short, academic preparation in high school is essential to a good college experience – and a successful career after graduation.
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For this reason, in 2007, nearly 25 years after its debut rankings of top colleges, U.S. News & World Report released its first annual list of the country’s best public high schools. To create this year’s list, U.S. News started with 19,908 high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and evaluated them according to a four-step process involving reading and math proficiency test scores, the performance of economically disadvantaged students, graduation rates, and college readiness.
The full list is here. These are the top five schools:
1. School for the Talented and Gifted: Nearly a quarter of the student body are classified as economically disadvantaged, with 15 percent participating in the free lunch program, and 100 percent of these students measured as proficient on state exams. Every student at the School for the Talented and Gifted is required to take 11 AP courses in order to graduate, and they can take elective mini-courses like glassblowing.
Location: Dallas, Texas
2. BASIS Scottsdale: Students at BASIS Scottsdale may not be required to take AP courses, but 100 percent of them do, averaging 11.3 exams per student.
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
3. BASIS Tucson North: Second in Arizona and one of four BASIS charter schools to receive gold, silver, or bronze medals in the rankings, BASIS Tucson North also has 100 percent AP participation rate.
Location: Tucson, Arizona
4. School of Science and Engineering: Nearly half the students at the School of Science and Engineering participate in the free lunch program, and 97.6 percent of disadvantaged students measure as proficient on state exams. Students at the school can earn college credit through dual-enrollment programs at local community colleges.
Location: Dallas, Texas
5. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology: This school has a STEM focus that includes 10 research labs and requires a lab project for seniors. One-hundred percent of students take AP exams, and 100 percent pass.
Location: Alexandria, Virginia
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