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Hilltoppers rank among the best and brightest in the nation

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By Gabriel Vasquez

Los Alamos High School continues to rank among the top schools in the nation, according to separate reports released this week by Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report.

Academic data from more than 18,000 public high schools was analyzed by U.S. News and World Report to determine which schools were “the very best across the country." The data analyzed came from the 2006-2007 school year.

“This is excellent,” LAHS principal Grace Brown said. “Good staff, students that work hard and are actually motivated, and supportive parents. All those things pulled together helped Los Alamos (High School) get where it is today.”

The final list highlights 1,600 schools across the nation in 41 states that meet academic criteria split into three categories: gold, silver, and bronze. The publication is most famous for its annual list of the nation's top colleges.

Los Alamos High School, La Cueva High School, and Sandia High School in Albuquerque received the magazine's “silver award.” Thirteen other New Mexico high schools received a "bronze award."

The goal of U.S. News and World Report's “America's Best High Schools” project is to provide an unbiased picture of how well the public schools serve their students in preparing them for college-level courses and proficiency in basic skills. The magazine uses the methodology of "Standard & Poor's," a data research company hired by the magazine.

The methodology examines three vital criteria that the school must succeed at:

1) Performance levels that exceed statistical expectations for all the school’s students in core subjects of reading and math;

2) Proficiency rates on state tests for their least advantaged student groups that exceed state averages;

3) College preparation for students as measured by student participation in and performance on Advanced Placement (AP) tests.

In Newsweek's “Top High Schools” report, Los Alamos High School, Hobbs High School and Moreno Valley High School in Angelfire ranked among the top 1,300 high schools in the nation.

Moreno Valley High School in Angel Fire ranked a whopping 51, and Hobbs High School ranked 267, and Los Alamos High School squeezed in at 937. All three schools made Newsweek's list for the second year in a row.

"Congratulations to the principals, teachers, and students of these three schools who have achieved national rankings for two ears in a row," said New Mexico Department of Education Secretary Veronica C. Garcia in a press release.

Jay Mathews, Newsweek reporter, created a "Challenge Index" to determine the schools' ranking.

The Challenge Index is similar to U.S. News and World Reports methodology in that it measures student participation in AP tests and their involvement in other programs that prepare them for college, such as the International Baccalaureate Program.

"Studies have shown that students who take Advanced Placement courses have increased success in post secondary schools," Garcia said.

"With Governor Richardson's and Legislators support for the AP, we will continue to make progress in closing the achievement gap and have more rural, Hispanic, Native American, and African American students enrolled in these courses.

This year, State AP programs received $2 million dollars from the Legislature. In 2006-2007, 11,040 AP exams were taken by New Mexico students, a seven percent increase over the previous school year.

“AP tests ask students to do close contextual analysis and asks them to write clearly,” Brown said.

“These two things I think are life-long skills, things that everybody needs to be able to do well. It’s the teaching of that as well as the content knowledge that helps students get there (college).”

For a complete list of Newsweek's top 1,300 high schools in the nation, visit

http://www.newsweek.com/id/39380.

For U.S. News and World Reports full “America's Best High Schools" report, visit http://www.usnews.com/highschools.