It's only in its third year of life, but Westfield High has already made a name for itself in areas such as forensics, sports, theater, science, band and chorus. And now, based on AP tests, it's just been ranked 46th out of some 14,000 high schools in the U.S.
In a list of the top high schools in America, compiled by Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews and published in the June 2 Newsweek, six Fairfax County schools were ranked in the top 100. Chantilly High came in 69th and Centreville High was 166th. The county's highest-ranked public school was Woodson, in 22nd place.
Mathews' ranking system was based on The Washington Post Challenge Index which counts the number of Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests taken by all students at a school in 2002, divided by the number of graduating seniors. The index is designed to identify schools that challenge average students.
Westfield High Principal Dale Rumberger was pleased with his school's results. "It's the first time we've been on [the list] because it's based on how your senior class does," he said. "And last year was our first senior class graduating." With this region's schools so academically strong, he said, he was happy that Westfield did so well.
Still, he added, "When I see how hard kids and teachers here work — and how much the parents support us — it wasn't a complete shock. It was a pleasant surprise to see us marked there."
Based on these rankings, the schools on the list are in the top 4 percent of all American high schools measured for their student participation in AP or IB exams. Noting that AP exams test a entire year's learning, Mathews said more than 1 million students in 14,000 high schools took 1,750,000 AP tests — a 10-percent increase over the previous year.
Rumberger acknowledged that the more students a school has, the harder it is for it to get a high ranking, but he's delighted with Westfield's performance. "I'm incredibly proud of the effort [our school] put into it," he said. "It's a well-deserved recognition of our students' and teachers' work. We're a young school, but we're not resting on our laurels — we'll build on it."