Our Report Card on the 1,000 That Make the Grade

Article excerpt

Byline: Lauren Streib And Ian Yarett

Good news: despite shrunken state coffers, the quality of public schools is by many measures improving. In the -decade-plus since Newsweek began ranking the top public high schools, the national graduation rate has increased 4 percent, federal expenditure per student has risen an adjusted $1,400, and the number of Advanced Placement (AP) tests given per school has more than doubled. The gold standard, of course, is college readiness, and the numbers are bright there too: between 1999 and 2009, the proportion of 18-to-24-year-olds enrolled in college rose by 14 percent.

Who is leading the charge? This year, our ranking highlights the best 1,000 public high schools in the nation--the ones that have proven to be the most effective in turning out college-ready grads. At these schools, 91 percent were accepted to college, with an average AP score of 3.4 (out of 5 )--21 percent above the 2.8 average for public-school students.

The schools that made our top 1,000 tend to be relatively small and concentrated in metropolitan areas. Seventy-four percent have fewer than 2,000 students, and more than one quarter are located in or near New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. The collective student body at these schools is better off financially than the national average: only 17.5 percent receive free-or reduced-price lunch, compared with about 40 percent nationally.

Nearly 77 percent of the 1,000 admit students through open enrollment, with no admissions restrictions. …