Just in time for the start of this year’s AP testing schedule, Newsweek has come out with its annual list of what it calls the 1,000 best public high schools in the United States. Continuing the tradition started with the 2003 list, Brainerd High School was included in the top 1,000. This year’s list, which is based solely on 2005 AP or IB (International Baccalaureate) test data, ranked Brained as school number 833. Last year’s ranking had Brainerd High School at 633rd place, meaning that the school slipped exactly 200 places between this year’s rankings and last year’s.
Looking more in depth at the data for Brainerd High School on this year’s list, the school had what’s called a “challenge index” of 1.314. It’s this number that is used to determine schools’ rankings and it’s also because of this number why Brainerd went down a couple hundred spots this year. How the index works is pretty simple; it’s just the total number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests given at a school in May divided by the number of seniors that graduate at the end of the school year.
Just to make it onto the list of schools, a school has to have an index of 1.000, meaning that the school gives as many AP or IB tests as it has graduating seniors. Brainerd’s index last year was 1.415, which brings up an interesting question: why did the index drop between the class of 2004 and the class of 2005?
The only thing I can think that may have affected the index is that Brainerd High School’s graduating class of 2005 was larger than that of 2004. On the other hand, it’s always seemed like the AP program at BHS has grown exponentially from year to year, and, although I could just be imagining things, I thought that there was a very high, if not the highest, number of AP tests given out at the school last year.
Actually, Brainerd’s equity and excellence rate supports the thought that more AP tests were taken in 2005 than 2004. As Newsweek’s website explains, this number is “the percentage of all graduating seniors, including those who never got near an AP course, who had at least one score of 3 or above on at least one AP test sometime in high school.” For 2005 the E&E rate was 29.4, whereas in 2004 it was 23.3. So, indeed, there were more AP tests given in 2005. Keep in mind that the nationwide average E&E among all schools, including even those without AP or IB programs, is 14.1. Unfortunately, the E&E number is nothing more than an interesting, yet ultimately useless statistic – it neither helps nor hurts a school’s ranking on the list. The only reason it is included, as far as I can tell, is to satisfy the people who complain about how the “challenge index” doesn’t factor in students’ actual performance on AP or IB tests.
And that brings up another good point about how a well a school can be measured just by looking at a single set of data – that being the number of AP or IB tests taken at a school compared to the number of graduating seniors. The person who came up with the numbers used in the test staunchly defends his methodology, as does Newsweek, which published this article, called “Why AP Matters.”
Indecently, the author of the rankings notes that only 5% of high schools nationwide achieve a “challenge index” of 1.000, so even being in the mid 800s should be taken as an honor. Oh, were you wondering what the highest-ranked school in Minnesota this year is? It’s Edina High School at number 178. The “challenge index” there was 2.545. Overall, 16 high schools in Minnesota made it to the list:
178 – Edina High School, EdinaAs you can see, Brainerd was the only Minnesota high school outside of the Minneapolis-St. Paul MSA to make it onto the list.
250 – Southwest High School, Minneapolis
284 – Como Park High School, St. Paul
311 – St. Louis Park High School, St. Louis Park
491 – Minnetonka High School, Minnetonka
546 – Patrick Henry High School, Minneapolis
687 – Highland Park High School, St. Paul
704 – Mounds View High School, Arden Hills
809 – Lakeville North High School, Lakeville
833 – Brainerd High School, Brainerd
843 – Wayzata High School, Plymouth
851 – St. Anthony High School, St. Anthony
945 – Mahtomedi High School, Mahtomedi
966 – Robbinsdale High School, Plymouth
1051 – Robbinsdale Cooper High School, New Hope
1104 – Irondale High School, New Brighton