School rankings are becoming an industry all their own these days, and one new nationwide report card scored Lake Highlands High School as needing improvement.

The Washington Post’s Jay Mathews ranked America’s public high schools by using a “challenge index,” which basically tells how many Advanced Placement (AP) tests the average student took this year. Of RISD schools, LHHS was last with 1.5 tests. Richardson High ranked first with almost 3, Pearce had 2.9 and Berkner took 1.9.

Though it is an oversimplified view of the complicated work of educating children, the Post hangs their hat on this method, saying “while not a measure of the overall quality of the school, the rating can reveal the level of a high school’s commitment to preparing average students for college.” Mathews previously used the Challenge Index at Newsweek, which is now developing a new method of evaluating high schools.

Dual credit courses, which are college level curriculum taught by college-trained educators, are not considered in the Post’s rankings. Dual credit classes, very popular with LH students, achieve the same goal as AP – exposing students to more challenging work and preparing them for the college coursework in their future – but are unaffiliated with the AP program. Students who pass dual credit courses have literally passed a Richland College class, and they take that course with them to their college after high school graduation.

The Post also gives, but does not use in its rankings, information on AP test passing rates and student poverty levels. Results from the rankings are below.

  • Richardson High School
    • CI = 2.926
    • E&E = 34.3% (students who scored 3 or higher on AP test / total students enrolled)
    • Subsidized lunch = 47%
    • Nat’l rank = 329
  • J. J. Pearce
    • CI = 2.894
    • E&E = n/a
    • Subsidized lunch = 29%
    • Nat’l rank = 337
  • Berkner
    • CI = 1.854
    • E&E = 25.6%
    • Subsidized lunch = 49%
    • Nat’l rank = 932
  • Lake Highlands
    • CI = 1.447
    • E&E = 26.7%
    • Subsidized lunch = 38%
    • Nat’l rank = 1355

Ever the optimists, the folks at RISD announced the ratings with fanfare. “With more than 26,000 high schools in the United States, all four RISD high schools ranked among the top 5 percent in the country,” proclaimed the district’s School Times Now website.