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Olympic Schools Rank among Top 6% of Nation's High Schools

(July 2, 2010) Four high schools among the Olympic Community of Schools rank in the top 6% of public high schools nationwide according to a list released last month by Newsweek.

Newsweek bases its rankings on how hard school staffs work to challenge students with advanced-placement college-level courses and tests. Just over 1.600 schools—only 6 percent of all the public schools in the U.S.—made the list.  

Newsweek takes the total number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or Cambridge (AICE) tests given at a school each year and divides that by the number of seniors graduating in May or June. The 2010 rankings are based on 2009 data.

National Rankings with ranking among Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in parenthesis and scores:

119 (2) - Math, Engineering, Technology, and Science (METS) - 3.76
453 (9) - Biotechnology, Health, and Public Administration (Biotech)  - 2.385
811 (13) - Renaissance - 1.792
1245 (14) - International Studies and Global Economics (Global) - 1.339

About half of Charlotte-Mecklenburg high schools made the list. Only two North Carolina high schools in counties adjacent to Mecklenburg County made the list, and no high schools in nearby South Carolina counties made the list. See the entire list here: America's Best High Schools.

Newsweek editors use the number of tests taken rather than passing rates because they found that most American high schools kept those rates artificially high by allowing only top students to take the courses. In other instances, they opened the courses to all but encouraged only the best students to take the tests.

Studies have shown that the best predictors of college graduation were not good high-school grades or test scores but whether or not students had an intense academic experience in high school. Such experiences were produced by taking higher-level math and English courses and struggling with the demands of college-level courses like AP or IB.

Other factors, such as teacher quality and extracurricular activities, are important but too subjective for a ranked list. Participation in challenging courses and tests, on the other hand, can be counted and provides a useful, quantitative measure of  high schools, Newsweek says.