• Ranks schools with an index number by dividing the number of advanced placement or international baccalaureate Cambridge tests taken in a year by the number of graduating students.
• Schools with at least one test taken for every graduate made the 1,623 school list.
• Free State High School, with 321 tests taken and 368 graduates in 2009, had an index of 0.87.
• Lawrence High School, with 222 tests taken and 350 graduates, had an index of 0.63.
• The complete list is at newsweek.com.
Eight Kansas high schools made the list of “America’s Best High Schools” released Monday by Newsweek magazine, but neither Free State nor Lawrence High school made the cut.
To make the list — which includes only 6 percent of all high schools in the nation — schools must have more advanced placement or international baccalaureate and Cambridge tests taken in a year than the number of graduating students. The numbers, taken from the 2008-2009 school year, create an index ranging from 1 to 15.
Free State was close, missing the list by 47 tests taken, while Lawrence High would have needed 128 more tests to make the exclusive list.
But are the rankings an indication of the country’s best schools?
Lawrence High Principal Matt Brungardt said advanced placement testing is simply one indicator used when measuring school success.
“I don’t necessarily know if that tells you how good a school is,” he said.
Lawrence High School does encourage students to enroll in advanced placement courses, he said, but “it’s not to get on a Newsweek list.”
Free State Principal Ed West said he hopes to make the list next year and may be aided by what he anticipates will be a smaller graduating class. Because the list includes tests taken by all students — while the number will be divided by fewer graduates — they might be able to hit the magazine’s criteria.
“The ratio itself is kind of fun, and it would be great to get,” he said.
The more important issue, West said, is the value of advanced placement courses, which he calls a “high-level challenge” for students. The classes are intended to be at the level of first-year college courses, and if students can succeed in such a class, they gain confidence in their ability to master future college courses.
“It tells the students, ‘Yeah, I can do this,’” he said.
Five of the Kansas schools on the list were in Johnson County: Blue Valley Northwest, Blue Valley North, Blue Valley West, Shawnee Mission South and Shawnee Mission East. Wichita East, Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kansas City, and Manhattan High also made the 1,623-member list.