Lee Vining High School has launched itself into the top tiers of high schools in the country based on Advanced Placement (AP) test scores for the first time. The test results put the little school on the Washington Post’s High School Challenge Index for the first time, according to the school’s principal, Roger Yost. The small rural school was ranked 707th in the nation, out of approximately 22,000 high schools, placing it in the top 3 percent of all high schools. It also placed 90th of the more than 1,800 high schools in California.
The Challenge Index, created in 1998 by Washington Post columnist Jay Matthews, is the calculation of Advanced Placement tests given at a school last year divided by the number of graduates.
With a few exceptions, public schools that achieved a ratio of at least 1.000, meaning they had as many tests in 2011 as they had graduates, were put on the national list at washingtonpost.com/highschoolchallenge. In 2011, Lee Vining students took 37 AP exams and graduated just 16 seniors for an average of 2.3 tests each.
“The faculty and parents at Lee Vining have done an excellent job pushing average students to challenge themselves with more difficult coursework that will better prepare them for college,” said James Godoy, an AP U.S. History, Government and Economics teacher at Lee Vining High. “Advanced Placement classes are designed to be an equivalent to an introductory college course. In early May, students take AP exams and if they do well, their high school coursework will be given college credit at most universities in the United States.”
Lee Vining High absorbed a high-ranked academic academy in Bridgeport, the Eastern Sierra Academy, two years ago during an acrimonious fight that sharply divided the communities of Bridgeport and Lee Vining. The move, put into effect by the school board due to budget cuts, also transferred several of the ESA’s teachers who taught AP classes at ESA, including Godoy, to Lee Vining. The end result is that the little high school has since been able to offer its students a much larger variety of AP classes and that ability to offer the classes and the tests that accompany them are what put the school on the Washington Post ranking system noted above.
Godoy noted that 50 percent of the students who took the tests were former ESA students and 50 percent were Lee Vining students who were given the opportunity to take the AP classes. Previous to this year, Lee Vining had been noted for its sports teams, but not so much its academic performance.
“Once the culture starts rolling that way, there’s an odd kind of peer pressure that accompanies it,” Godoy said.
The actual results of each test, however, are not part of this ranking, a fact that has resulted in some criticism of the ranking’s value.