Thank you very much to Thomas Lifson for his kind words about my school's rating in Newsweek's Challenge Index as #9. It's been very exciting at our school with most of the local news channels coming out to see what was going on at our little charter school.
I have a few doubts about how the study is conducted. Jay Mathews doesn't use private schools or schools like North Carolina School of Science and Math or Thomas Jefferson High School of Alexandria, VA which have a selection procedure for their students and only choose high-scoring students. But those are excellent schools and would probably rank very high on the index. Here is Jay Mathews' FAQs for explaining his system. I understand that Mr. Mathews is looking for schools where every student is encouraged to take challenging classes and achieve as much as they possibly can. And that certainly describes our school.
So in that sense, the index shows what he is seeking. It also helps that last year we had a slightly smaller graduating class and a big junior class. Those juniors and also the sophomores took a lot of AP tests. Now the juniors are seniors and we have a larger graduating class. Our rank will sink a bit next year because of that anomaly. However, we still will have kids taking over 520 AP exams in a school with only about 500 kids in the school. I have over 30 10th graders who will take the AP Government and Politics test on Wednesday. We encourage willing kids to take the AP course instead of the regular civics class. I would recommend that other schools do that and substitute the more challenging AP class for regular classes. I've had great success with 10th graders. The kids will benefit; you'll have a blast teaching the class; and your Challenge Index will climb!