Only schools that had values at or above 18.17 in their CRI scored high enough to meet the criteria for gold and silver medal selection. The minimum of 18.17 was used because it's the median – the statistical midpoint – of all the College Readiness Index values among all high schools with AP or IB test-takers.
The maximum College Readiness Index value is 100.0, which means that every 12th-grade student during the 2011-2012 academic year in a particular school took and passed at least one AP or IB test before or during their senior year.
To summarize, in order to win a gold or silver medal and be numerically ranked, a high school had to pass Steps 1 and 2 and have a CRI at or above the median benchmark.
In total, U.S. News nationally ranked the 4,707 highest-scoring schools as gold, silver or bronze. A high school's position in the numerical rankings, whether it was awarded a medal or whether it was ranked at all was dependent on how high it scored in all three steps of the rankings methodology.
• Gold medals: Schools with highest unrounded College Readiness Index values were numerically ranked from No. 1 to No. 500 and were the gold medal winners.
There were 15 gold medal high schools that achieved the maximum 100.0 College Readiness Index. In addition, there were instances in which gold or silver medal schools were tied based on their unrounded CRI values. These values, when published online as part of the Best High Schools rankings, are rounded to one decimal place.
To avoid having ties in the numerical rankings, the primary tiebreaker, which measures the absolute level of success in passing AP or IB tests, was the unrounded quality-adjusted exams per test-taker – the number of AP or IB exams that received passing scores divided by the number of students who took and passed at least one exam.
If necessary, a second tiebreaker used was exams per test-taker, which was the average number of AP and/or IB exams taken per test-taker – the total exams taken divided by the number of test-takers.
• Silver medals: The next group of high schools with the highest unrounded College Readiness Indexes was numerically ranked No. 501 through No. 2,019 and were the 1,519 silver medal winners.
• Bronze medals: An additional 2,688 high schools that passed the first two steps in the methodology were awarded bronze medals and are listed alphabetically. A bronze medal school either does not offer any AP or IB courses, or its College Readiness Index was less than the median of 18.17 needed to be ranked silver.
In addition to the main gold, silver and bronze national rankings, we have also published other numerical rankings for the Best High Schools in each state and for the Best Charter Schools, Best Magnet Schools and Best STEM Schools on a national level.
The state rankings methodology is based on whether a high school is nationally ranked gold or silver. All high schools nationally ranked gold and silver are numerically ranked in their states based on their position in the national rankings.
If the highest-ranked high school in a state is No. 60 nationally, then that school is also ranked No. 1 in that state; if the second highest-ranked school in that same state is No. 1,201 nationally, then that school is ranked No. 2 in that state.
Charter and Magnet Rankings
The charter and magnet school rankings methodology looked at all public high schools nationally that were designated as either a charter or magnet school, or both, as reported to the U.S. Department of Education in the 2011-2012 Common Core of Data and were also nationally ranked by U.S. News as either gold or silver medal winners.
If the highest-ranked high school that is a charter school is No. 6 nationally, then that school is also ranked No. 1 in the Best Charter Schools rankings. If the second highest-ranked high school that is a charter school is No. 8 nationally, then that school is ranked No. 2 in the Best Charter Schools rankings.
This rankings methodology was also followed to produce the Best Magnet Schools rankings.