Arlington, Fairfax high schools sweep top spots in annual index

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News release from Arlington Public Schools.

Arlington and Fairfax schools swept top spots in this year’s Jay Mathews Challenge Index, a nationwide ranking of U.S. high schools published earlier this week. Arlington’s Yorktown was ranked #110 in the nation, #1 in Virginia.

Atop the Virginia rankings were:

  • Yorktown (Arlington) – #110 in the nation, #1 in Virginia;
  • H-B Woodlawn (Arlington) – #127 in the nation, #2 in Virginia;
  • Oakton (Fairfax) – #143 in the nation, #3 in Virginia;
  • Washington-Lee*  (Arlington) – #145 in the nation, #4 in Virginia;
  • McLean (Fairfax) — #222 in the nation, #5 in Virginia;

Schools are rated on the number of Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests given at a school each year compared with the number of seniors who graduated that year. Only 2,500 (9 percent) of the 22,000 high schools nationwide earned a score of 1.000 or higher.

The Jay Mathews Index is the only list that does not rely on test scores, which are more a measure of student family income than school quality. It is also the only list that compares private and public schools. Schools ranked no. 220 or above are in the top 1 percent of America’s 22,000 high schools, no. 440 or above are in the top 2 percent and so on.

Participation in college-level AP, IB and Cambridge tests is a unique measure of the depth of learning. Teachers cannot dumb down the exams because they are written and graded by independent experts. Success on the exams has been linked with success in college. The list is designed to recognize schools that challenge average students, so magnet or charter schools that have few or no average students are placed on a separate Public Elites list.

The E&E% column in the ratings below shows the percentage of all seniors who passed at least one AP, IB or Cambridge test. The Lunch% column gives the percentage of all students whose family incomes are low enough to qualify for lunch subsidies. The letter “C” after the name means it is a public charter school. The letter “P” means it is a private school.

Virginia scores

“I am incredibly proud of our students, teachers, staff and families for their hard work, focus and commitment to excellence,” said Arlington Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. “This ranking is just one of many indicators we use to measure our overall academic success, and it speaks to the quality of instruction that begins at the elementary level and extends through graduation.”

Jay Mathews is an education writer and has been a columnist for The Washington Post and Newsweek for nearly 50 years. Since 1998, he has been publishing his Challenge Index which ranks America’s most challenging high schools.

*Per an editorial decision, Washington-Lee is listed as Washington-Liberty High School, which officially goes into effect on July 1, 2019 for the 2019-20 School Year.

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.