Challenge Index

For more than 20 years, Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews has examined how well high schools throughout the country have challenged their students through a methodology he devised called the Challenge Index. Instead of measuring schools by standardized test scores, the Challenge Index ranks them by their success in getting less than stellar students into the most challenging courses and tests — AP, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge. It uses a simple ratio to determine how challenging a school is by looking at the number of course exams given at the end of the course divided by the number of graduating seniors. 

Gwendolyn Glenn / WFAE

This year, 19 of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' 31 high schools made the 2018 Challenge Index list that ranks Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs nationally — not by test scores, but by the number of students from a school who took an AP or IB exam.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Jay Mathews joins Charlotte Talks.  He created America’s Most Challenging High Schools Index and, at WFAE’s request, has zeroed in on Charlotte’s high schools.  We find out how we fared and, because so many of the schools that comprise the index push advanced placement classes, we also hear from former CMS Superintendent Eric Smith who made increasing AP participation a major thrust of his time at the helm of Charlotte’s schools. 

An AP Statistics class at East Mecklenburg High School.
Gwendolyn Glenn/ WFAE

This year, 19 of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ 31 high schools made the Challenge Index list, which ranks schools based on participation in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge programs. The index is calculated by taking the number of exams given for any of the three programs and then dividing that number by the number of graduating seniors from the same school. 

GUEST COLUMN:

Although the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have one of the highest rates of college-level test participation in the country, they have not quite opened their Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge courses to all students. The evidence suggests they should. Let me explain.

GUEST COLUMN:

The list for America’s Most Challenging High Schools began in 1998 as a way to dramatize a deep, unreported flaw I had discovered in the way high schools treat average students.

GUEST COLUMN:

Twenty years ago, at a critical moment in the history of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, data analyst Mike Huggins wheeled a cart stacked with computer printouts into the office of newly-arrived district superintendent Eric J. Smith.