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North, Boonsboro rated as challenging

May 29, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Two Washington County public schools were named to a list of challenging high schools compiled by a Washington Post columnist.

North Hagerstown High School ranked No. 355 of 1,258 schools, and Boonsboro High was No. 1,067, according to the list.

The Washington Post Challenge Index measures a public high school's effort to challenge its students, according to its Web site. The rankings were based on the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at the school in 2006 divided by the number of graduating seniors that same year.

This year, about 5 percent of the country's public schools were included in the list.

While North Hagerstown High has a pilot International Baccalaureate program, students there did not take the IB tests during the last school year, Principal Valerie Novak said. Rankings for both schools were based only on the number of Advanced Placement tests taken.

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About 80 Maryland schools were included in the list, including at least eight Frederick County, Md., schools.

Novak said that 495 Advanced Placement tests were taken at North Hagerstown High in 2006. She said this school year 451 Advanced Placement tests were taken, and 27 students took International Baccalaureate tests.

"We're in Hagerstown. We're in Washington County. And sometimes we aren't recognized very much," she said. "It's moving. To be nationally recognized just reinforces that we're doing a great job."

Novak and Boonsboro High School Principal Martin Green said the credit goes to the schools' teachers and students.

Green said that students took more than 200 Advanced Placement tests in 2006, and took about 380 during this school year.

"The whole idea is the preparation," Green said. "What it takes to get kids to that point, and the opportunities it gives them."

Robert C. Brown, coordinator for the office of testing and accountability for Washington County Public Schools, said that this was the first year the school system has submitted data for the Challenge Index.

"It's not that we haven't had schools (that would have qualified) before," he said. "I know that last year, our schools were not included in the list because they were not considered."

After seeing last year's list, Brown said he contacted Jay Mathews, educational columnist for The Washington Post, and said Washington County Public Schools would like to be considered.

"I did follow that up last year and let him know that we would be interested in being included in that list," Brown said. "I recognized we could have some schools on that list."

Brown said the school system has expanded its AP tests over the past few years. The scores students earn on the tests are not considered in the rankings.

"It's a validation that we're really creating opportunities for kids," Green said. "That's what it's about."

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