Loudoun High Schools Among Nation's Most Challenging - Leesburg Today Online—Daily News Coverage of Loudoun County, Leesburg, Ashburn: News

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Loudoun High Schools Among Nation's Most Challenging

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Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 8:58 am

Twelve Loudoun County public high schools ranked in the top 9 percent nationally, according to The Washington Post’s Challenge Index.

Of the Loudoun schools making the list, Briar Woods High School ranked highest at No. 160 nationally, followed by Loudoun Valley High School, which ranked No. 161 nationally.

John Champe High School was not eligible to be ranked because it is in its first year.

The Challenge Index, conceived by Jay Mathews of The Washington Post in 1998, seeks to measure the academic rigor of America’s schools. The formula Mathews devised for these rankings takes the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school and divides them by the number of graduating seniors to equate a Challenge Index ratio.

The statistics used in compiling the 2013 Challenge Index come from the 2011-2012 school year.

All Loudoun County's public high schools fell within the top 1,900 high schools, or top 9 percent, in America based on the Challenge Index criteria.

Loudoun's schools ranked in this order:

  • Briar Woods, ranked No. 160 nationally
  • Loudoun Valley, 161
  • Tuscarora, 167
  • Heritage, 208
  • Woodgrove, 210
  • Dominion, 218
  • Stone Bridge, 222
  • Broad Run, 305
  • Freedom, 317
  • Loudoun County, 350
  • Potomac Falls, 371
  • Park View, 590

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Transparency posted at 9:43 am on Fri, Apr 19, 2013.

    Transparency Posts: 4

    @PepperGirl - As a parent of a Tuscarora student, while your comment regarding the AP exam pass rate is true, your assumption that THS parents and administrators "push" their kids to take AP classes is not. The truth is that THS, for whatever reason, does not have a strong academic program, so it's either AP or classes that don't offer enough of a challenge. The THS staff I have spoken to are well aware of this, and I have also discussed this issue with a LCPS Board Member just this past week. It's a new school that is still working out the kinks, and I'm sure this ranking will result in some action to strengthen their middle tier programs. However, my own child, who did challenge himself with AP classes and received good grades, though not A's, did struggle on the exams, however is much better prepared for college than he would have been had he taken the easier classes. Believe it or not, there are some Loudoun County parents out there who care more about the challenge and what their child gets out of the class than the test grade.

  • PepperGirl posted at 9:55 pm on Thu, Apr 18, 2013.

    PepperGirl Posts: 11

    This is a ranking of class offerings and enrollment and not of successful educational outcomes. The challenge index ranks schools based on the number of students that enroll in AP level classes. It does not consider if the students are successful in those high level classes. For example, although Valley and Tuscarora top Loudouns list they have among the lowest pass percentage rates for AP tests in the county. It seems interesting to qualify schools as top ranked based on their success at "persuading" students to take AP classes, with no consideration of student achievement.. bah.. minor details I suppose.

  • Glory posted at 5:07 pm on Thu, Apr 18, 2013.

    Glory Posts: 1005

    Thanks, Just saw this in J. Mathews article on the index. Until the time if and when AOS is its own entity, it won't count.

  • hubba bubba posted at 4:34 pm on Thu, Apr 18, 2013.

    hubba bubba Posts: 440

    Glory...here is your official answer to your question:

    3. Why don’t I see on the list famous public high schools like Stuyvesant in New York City or Thomas Jefferson in Fairfax County?

    We do not include any magnet or charter high school that draws such a high concentration of top students that its average SAT or ACT score exceeds the highest average for any normal-enrollment school in the country. This year, that meant such schools had to have an average SAT score below 1970 or an average ACT score below 29.5 to be included on the list.

    The Challenge Index is designed to identify schools that have done the best job in persuading average students to take college-level courses and tests. It does not work with schools that have no, or almost no, average students. We put those schools on our Public Elites list.

    Also AOS students are included with their home high school since they split time between AOS (for science and math) and their home high school (for Eng, history, foreign lang, etc).

  • norges55 posted at 12:48 pm on Thu, Apr 18, 2013.

    norges55 Posts: 1042

    TJ isn't on the list I believe because it's a Governors magnet school and would be similar if you compared San Diego State to Harvard. Both fine schools but there is a significant difference.

  • loudoun parent posted at 11:03 am on Thu, Apr 18, 2013.

    loudoun parent Posts: 153

    The highest school in the area is St. Anselm's Abby at #27. TJ does not appear on the list. Most of Fairfax County's high schools appear before Loudoun's. AOS is not an independant school, but rather a program, so it is not on the list at all.

  • Glory posted at 9:27 am on Thu, Apr 18, 2013.

    Glory Posts: 1005

    Where did TJHSST and AOS rank?