Newsweek names Blair as one of nation's best high schools

May 18, 2005, midnight | By June Hu | 15 years, 8 months ago

16 other Montgomery County schools among top 500

Blair ranked 154 on this year's list of the 1,000 top high schools in America in the May 16 issue of Newsweek. Out of 25 Montgomery County public high schools, 17 were among top 500 on this list.

Newsweek evaluated the nation's 27,468 public high schools based on the challenge scale, which divides the total number of Advanced Placement (AP) and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests a school's students took this year by the number of graduating seniors. Blair scored 2.488 on this scale. Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews, who developed the challenge scale, wrote in an email interview that this scale is an accurate representation of the school and the county's academic excellence. "[The list] shows what everybody already knows. Blair is one of the best high schools in the country, in one of the best, most affluent and best educated districts in the country," Mathews stated.

Mathews admitted that the challenge scale is a limited evaluation of schools, but he insisted that the scale is a valid and clear indicator of the extent to which the school motivates its students. "[The challenge scale] ignores every other variable you can think of. It is very narrow, which is one reason why I like it. The U.S. News college list has many variables, which means I don't actually know what it is measuring. I have to trust U.S. News and its weightings. The challenge index has no weights, no regression analysis. It is so simple everyone can see right away what it measures.

Out of MCPS high schools, Richard Montgomery placed the highest at number 11 in the country, followed by Wootton at number 17,with scores of 5.029 and 4.307 respectively.

Mathews felt that including schools with IB and Magnet programs on the list was fair as long as regular students also attended these schools. "I include Magnet schools like Blair if they still have a significant number of average students, since if they challenge those students to get into AP or IB, they will rise in the rankings, and the list was invented to see which schools were challenging their average or below average students," he wrote. "I don't include Thomas Jefferson [high school] because it has absolutely no average students, and getting its kids to take AP is as easy as getting my hair to fall out. It is part of nature."

To read the Newsweek story, click here.

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