ANNAPOLIS – A dozen Maryland high schools ranked among Newsweek magazine’s top public secondary schools in the country based on the size of their rigorous academic programs.
In its March 13 issue, Newsweek listed 472 high schools as among the best in the nation, including 12 from Maryland.
Maryland placed just one school in the top 25 — Richard Montgomery High School in Montgomery County was 24th. The next best in Maryland was Walt Whitman High School, also in Montgomery, at 115.
In fact, of the 12 Maryland schools on the list, eight were from Montgomery County.
Among the top states in the country were New York, with nine schools in the top 25, and Florida with five.
To rank the schools, Newsweek compared the number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests taken last year at each school to the number of graduating seniors there.
These challenging high school programs are standardized nationally and offered to advanced juniors and seniors. They are comparable to college freshman classes.
Patricia O’Neill, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education, said she was “ecstatic” that eight Montgomery County schools were named in Newsweek’s rankings.
“We’re very, very proud that we had so many high schools included in this list,” she added.
Colleges perceive advanced placement and international baccalaureate experience as a measure of academic rigor, O’Neill said.
“In the last 25 years, these programs have evolved into proven devices for inspiring first-rate academic work by even disadvantaged teenagers,” Newsweek reported.
Most universities give credit for advanced placement and international baccalaureate tests, if scores are high enough.
Standards vary among universities, but some students can enter college with sophomore standing because they have so many credits.
O’Neill’s daughter, Jennifer, took several advanced placement classes at Walt Whitman Senior High School last year.
Jennifer didn’t receive credit for those classes when she went to Vanderbilt University in Tennessee this year because the college required required a score of 5, the highest possible. She was, however, allowed to bypass some introductory courses because of her experience.
These classes are different from honors classes, which are not eligible for college credit.
Each test costs $76. Since many students take several advanced placement classes in one semester, it can become very expensive.
But that’s not always a deterrent because college is even more costly, said Fran Landau, a guidance counselor at Walt Whitman Senior High School.
“It is really a great cost saver. At $76 they can get three college credits,” Landau said.
Walt Whitman Senior High School offers 19 advanced placement classes, including psychology, English literature, computer science, and chemistry. The classes are so popular that the school plans to expand its offerings, Landau said.
“We keep adding more on every year,” Landau said, “and we never subtract any.”
The guidance counselor attributed her school’s high ranking to the quality of the students.
“It reflects that we have a very motivated, hard-working, and able student body,” she said.
The following Maryland high schools made the Newsweek list: Richard Montgomery, Walt Whitman, Thomas S. Wooton, Winston Churchill, Walter Johnson, Dulaney, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Montgomery Blair, Centennial, Quince Orchard, and Urbana.