Frequently Asked Questions: Best High Schools Rankings

Here are answers to common questions about the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings.

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This rankings methodology was also followed to produce the Best Magnet Schools.

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12. Why is a school not listed or not ranked in the U.S. News 2013 Best High Schools rankings?

All public high schools in United States, excluding those from Nebraska, are listed on the Best High Schools website. Information on these 21,000-plus high schools is accessible online via the U.S. News high schools search function, the state rankings pages, districts pages and school profile pages.

Each individual school has three Web pages of descriptive data, including enrollment, ethnic and economic diversity data, detailed location information, state assessment test statistics and AP and/or IB data where applicable.

In terms of the rankings, 4,805 high schools scored high enough in all parts of the rankings methodology to win a gold, silver or bronze medal. That means that nearly 3 in 4 U.S. high schools did not score high enough for a gold, silver or bronze medal.

If your school is not listed as a medal winner, that means that your school didn't score high enough in the methodology described above to receive a medal.

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13. Why did U.S. News list a school's AP or IB data even if that school did not win a gold or silver medal?

U.S. News published AP or IB data for all schools that had AP or IB programs and whose states authorized the College Board to supply us with their data. International Baccalaureate supplied the IB data directly to U.S. News. 

We published the AP or IB data even if a school did not pass Step 1 and Step 2 in the methodology or have a college readiness index that was high enough to make it a gold or silver medal winner.

We thought it was very important to publish the calculated variables derived from the AP and IB testing information that was supplied. This will enable users of our website to compare all schools with AP and IB programs on the availability of these programs and on how their students performed in them.

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14. How did U.S. News decide if a school was a charter or magnet school? Where did descriptive information about the school come from?

U.S. News uses designations found on the Common Core of Data, the U.S. Department of Education's website, as the basis for those designations. U.S. News did not independently verify the data that was reported to the Department of Education by individual states, school systems or schools.

If the Common Core of Data site said that a school was a charter or magnet or had other descriptive information about the school, then that is the school-type designation and information that U.S. News went by. The Common Core of Data used was from the 2010-2011 school year.

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15. Why did one school in the same county rank lower on the U.S. News 2013 Best High Schools rankings than another school in the same county that it outperforms on state tests in terms of the absolute level of results?

The U.S. News 2013 Best High Schools rankings are based on more than just the absolute level of state test results. The rankings take into account the relative performance on state tests of students who are economically disadvantaged and minorities, not the absolute level.

This means that in some cases high schools that have not scored the absolute highest level on state assessment tests will do better in the U.S. News 2013 Best High Schools rankings than higher scoring schools. Those lower scoring schools on state assessment tests are actually doing better on their state tests when compared with other schools in their state with a similar level of economically disadvantaged students.

In addition, the Best High Schools rankings take into account how well students do on either the AP or IB tests, not just the proportion of students taking the tests and the number of tests they take.

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16. Do the Best High Schools receive a reward?

No monetary reward is associated with being named one of the U.S. News Best High Schools, but each gold, silver and bronze school will have its rankings, medal designation and data published online at usnews.com.