Five county schools listed among nation's most challenging


Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:09 p.m.

Five Alachua County schools made the Washington Post’s 2013 list of the most challenging high schools in the country.

Eastside High School was ranked the 35th most challenging high school, followed by Buchholz High School at No. 221, Gainesville High School at No. 313, Newberry High School at No. 1,531 and Santa Fe High School at No. 1,666.

Eastside, Buchholz, Gainesville and Santa Fe high schools consistently rank high on the list.

More than 22,000 U.S. high schools are evaluated based on the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education exams given at a school, divided by the number of graduates for that year.

The top 9 percent made the Most Challenging High Schools list this year.

Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dan Boyd said the rankings are particularly gratifying because the Alachua County schools are not all magnet programs like other schools that typically top such lists.

“You’ve got a good cross-section of all types and motivations and academic abilities,” he said.

Boyd said there’s a consensus in the school district that more rigorous class options for high school students translate into better preparedness for college and for life. That most of the high schools in the district made the list didn’t surprise him.

The simplicity of the method for rankings — the number of college-level tests divided by the number of graduating students — has been questioned by some.

Karen Clarke, director of secondary curriculum for Alachua County Public Schools, said the list is not a barometer of how well each school is performing.

“That’s a hard thing to say,” she said. “If you’re going to truly measure the curriculum, you’re going to have to measure the whole program.”

Still, she said, nabbing a few spots on the most-challenging list is good for showcasing the most advanced programs in the district.

Meanwhile, U.S. News & World Report on Tuesday released its national list of the best high schools.

Although no Alachua County schools ranked high on the national list, Buchholz was listed No. 24 of 777 schools ranked in Florida.

Contact Erin Jester at 352-338-3166 or at erin.jester@gvillesun.com.

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