Best High Schools: The Public Elites

NEWSWEEK's Challenge Index is designed to recognize schools that challenge average students, and not magnet or charter schools that draw only the best students in their areas. These top performers, listed below in alphabetical order,  were excluded from the list of top high schools because, despite their exceptional quality, their sky-high SAT and ACT scores indicate they have few or no average students.

Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, N.J.: A collection of seven career-focused academies where students attend an extended school day.

Bronx Science, New York City: Has one of the most diverse student bodies in the city; a comprehensive exam is required for admission.

Brooklyn Technical, New York City: An entrance exam is required for this school that focuses on engineering, math and science.

High Technology High, Lincroft, N.J.: Selective school whose students focus on a science, math and technology curriculum.

Hunter College High School, New York City: College prep school that serves grades 7-12 and is tied to the City University of New York system.

Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Aurora, Ill.: A state-run residential program for 10th through 12th graders that has a strong mentorship program.

International Community School, Kirkland, Wash.: Students are selected through an open lottery to attend this school that focuses on international awareness.

Jefferson County International Baccalaureate, Irondale, Ala.: A small school on the edge of Birmingham where students begin taking AP courses in 10th grade and add IB courses to schedules as juniors and seniors.

Maggie Walker's Governor's School for Government and International Studies, Richmond, Va.: Selective school that fosters student's leadership skills as well as understanding of world cultures.

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Durham, N.C.: Opened in 1980 as the country's first public residential high school.

Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, Oklahoma City: A state-funded residential high school that teaches all courses at university level.

South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics, Hartsville, S.C.: A residential program for 11th and 12th graders that draws students from across the state.

Stuyvesant, New York City: One of the most competitive schools in the city that offers around 55 AP courses every semester.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Va.: A public magnet school with 13 science and technology research labs, interdisciplinary teams, and more than 10 post-AP courses.

Union County Magnet, Scotch Plains, N.J.: Selective admission for a school that focuses on science, math and technology.

University, Tucson, Ariz.: A magnet program that accepts students based on previous grades and an admittance exam.

University Laboratory, Urbana, Ill.: Competitive admission for this day school on the University of Illinois campus.

Whitney, Cerritos, Calif.: Focuses on college prep; class of 2007 earned more than $5 million in scholarships