The 1% - Washington Post names AHS as one of nation's most challenging high schools
Sean Ruggles

Arkadelphia High School was recently ranked in the top 1 percent of the nation’s high schools,and No. 4 inArkansas by the Washington Post. Earlier this month, the Washington Post published the annual High School Challenge Index, which rates the nation’s high schools in terms of each school’s academic rigor. According to the article’s author, Jay Mathews, “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.”

“We are proud of our faculty, staff and administration for their hard work and dedication to excellence.”

-Donnie Whitten, APS Superintendent

“It is outstanding for AHS to be recognized in this manner,” Donnie Whitten, Superintendent at the Arkadelphia Public Schools, said. “We are proud of our faculty, staff and administration for their hard work and dedication to excellence.”

Whitten continued, saying “AHS’s rankings as No. 213 in the nation and No. 4 in Arkansas demonstrate a commitment to challenging our students with the most rigorous curriculum possible.”

AP, or Advanced Placement, classes are college-level classes offered to high school students in a wide variety of subjects. If a student scores high enough on the AP exam, then they can earn college credit for that subject. The curriculum of these classes offers students challenging course work and an example of the increased demands of college classes. In 2012-13, AHS administered 561 AP exams to 199 students, 34 percent of AHS’s enrollment. All core subject-area teachers at AHS are Pre-AP or AP certified and, during the 2013-14 school year, AHS offered 11 AP classes in subjects such as Calculus, Chemistry, Physics, Government, Biology and Literature. AHS also offers AP tests in two additional classes where teachers mentor students who excel in specific, advanced subjects.

“The most important aspect of the AP curriculum is to challenge these students early so that they are better prepared for college,” David Maxwell, AHS Principal, said.

College retention rates of AHS graduates reinforce the claim that exposing a greater number of high school students to more rigorous curriculum does increase their chances of success after graduating high school.

“The freshman to sophomore college retention rate for AHS graduates is 15 percent better than that of the national average. Our kids can afford to stay in college because of the Arkadelphia Promise, and just as importantly, can make the grades to stay in college because of the education we've made available to them.”

-David Maxwell, AHS Principal

“The freshman to sophomore college retention rate for AHS graduates is 15 percent better than that of the national average,” Maxwell said. “Our kids can afford to stay in college because of the Arkadelphia Promise, and just as importantly, can make the grades to stay in college because of the education we’ve made available to them.”

“Our students wouldn’t be able to achieve at this high of a level without the tireless effort of the AHS faculty and the support of our community. It is truly a blessing to be part of a community so dedicated to academics and education,” Maxwell said.

To calculate the Challenge Index for the Washington Post’s rankings, Mathews divides the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other college-level tests a school administered by the number of graduating seniors. The article states that, while not a measure of the overall quality of the school, the rating can reveal the level of a high school’s commitment to preparing average students for college.

“I designed the list to identify the schools working hardest to challenge average students with Advanced Placement tests, good preparation for both college and the workplace. This is in contrast to the usual ranking of schools by test score averages, which is more of an indication of how affluent the parents are than of how good the school is,” Mathews said.

APS News

sean.ruggles@arkadelphiaschools.org

Arkadelphia High School serves 9th-12th grade students in the Arkadelphia Public Schools, Clark County, Arkansas - Home of the Arkadelphia Promise.

Find the full report from the Washington Post here.

(originally published spring, 2014)