America’s Best High Schools 2012: How We Compiled the List


To compile the 2012 list of the top high schools in America, Newsweek reached out to principals, superintendents and other administrators at public high schools across the country. In order to be considered for our list, a school had to complete a survey requesting specific data from the 2010-2011 academic year. In all, more than 2,300 schools were assessed to produce the final list of the top 1,000 schools.

We ranked all respondents based on the following self-reported statistics from the 2010-2011 school year, listed along with their corresponding weight in our final calculation:

Four-year, on-time graduation rate (25%): Based on the standards set forth by the National Governors Association, this rate is calculated by dividing the number of graduates in 2011 by the number of ninth graders in 2007, plus transfers in and minus transfers out. Unlike other formulas, this does not count students who took longer than four years to complete high school. We accepted 2010 graduation rates from districts that had not yet calculated their 2011 numbers.

Percent of 2011 graduates accepted to college (25%): This metric reflects the proportion of graduates who were accepted to either a two- or four-year college for matriculation starting the fall after graduation.

AP/IB/AICE tests per student (25%): This metric is designed to measure the degree to which each school is challenging its students with college-level examinations. It consists of the total number of AP, IB, and AICE tests given in 2011, divided by the total enrollment in order to normalize by school size. AP exams taken by students who also took an IB or AICE exam in the same subject area were subtracted from the total.

Average SAT and/or ACT score (10%)

Average AP/IB/AICE exam score (10%)

AP/IB/AICE courses offered per student (5%): This metric assesses the depth of college-level curricula offered. The number of courses was divided by the total enrollment in order to normalize by school size.

Data for each of these indicators were standardized using z-scores, in order to measure the relative performance of each school, and then weighted as indicated above to produce an overall Newsweek score for each school.

Our analysis excluded newly-founded schools that did not have a graduating senior class in 2011. All submissions were screened to ensure the data met several parameters of logic and consistency. Schools whose submissions did not meet these standards and/or appeared to have incorrect data were contacted directly for clarification. Those that did not respond with corrected data within the specified timeframe were not considered in the ranking process.

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