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Dallas Boasts Some of the Best and Most Challenging High Schools in the U.S., Again

It’s that time of year again, when The Washington Post and U.S. News & World Report issue their rankings of the top public high schools in the country. Dallas ISD continues to have magnet schools near the very top of both lists.

The Post is actually calling its rankings “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” and, with their methodology, that does seem a more fitting description than “best.” All they do is take the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced International Certificate of Education exams given at the school each year and divide that by the number of graduating seniors. They don’t care how well the kids do on those tests, even whether they pass at all. These Dallas-area schools finished in the top 100 (their national ranks are noted):

2) Science/Engineering Magnet, Dallas

3) Talented/Gifted Magnet, Dallas

5) Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, Dallas

20) Westlake Academy, Westlake

23) Uplift Education Summit Preparatory, Arlington

24) Uplift Education Peak Preparatory, Dallas

28) Uplift Education Williams Preparatory, Dallas

82) Highland Park, Highland Park ISD

Those three spots high up the list seem like quite an accomplishment for the campuses of charter school operator Uplift Education. (I spoke with the education nonprofit’s CEO, Yasmin Bhatia, last year about their approach.) But those Uplift schools score nowhere near that well on the U.S. News list, which claims to name the “Best High Schools.” Here’s Dallas’ representation, including the absolute best in the country.

1) Talented/Gifted Magnet, Dallas

14) Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, Dallas

24) Science/Engineering Magnet, Dallas

41) Westlake Academy, Westlake

51) Uplift Education North Hills Preparatory, Irving

102) Highland Park, Highland Park ISD

The No. 1 school on the Post list, is the American Indian Public High School in Oakland, California. It ranks as only the 5th best high school in its own state in the U.S. News ranking. These differences — like the way that Rangel and Science/Engineering and Westlake don’t perform as well for U.S. News — come because of the differing methodologies.

U.S. News doesn’t just factor how many students are taking college-level tests. It also counts how many of the kids are passing the tests (as well as some additional factors comparing each school to its state’s average performance.) The Post justifies its method by arguing that participation is a more important measure than performance, because many schools will simply prevent their weaker students from taking those tests at all, just to prop up their passing percentage.

But isn’t the U.S. News method just more comprehensive, and shouldn’t be considered the superior ranking? (As definitive as such rankings can be?) I don’t just say that because they’ve got a Dallas school No. 1.

UPDATE:  A helpful reader pointed out that North Hills Prep in Irving is also an Uplift Education campus, a fact that was not noted on the U.S. News list and which I did not check.  So I have amended this post to reflect that.