Thursday, April 25, 2013

Elite company

Congratulations to Oconee County High School and North Oconee High School for being named to the list of America’s Most Challenging High Schools.  This prestigious list, which is published annually by The Washington Post, reviews approximately 22,000 public high schools in the United States on what writer and researcher Jay Matthews has coined “the Challenge Index.” The Challenge Index examines the total number of Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate, and Advance International Certificate of Education tests given at a school each year and divides that number by the number of graduating seniors.  Any school with an index score of 1.000 qualifies for the list.  In 2013, only 9 percent of high schools in the nation qualified. 

Oconee County High School and North Oconee High School are in elite company by simply making this list.  Yet, a quick calculation of their standing reflects that our two high schools are in the upper echelon of the Challenge Index and are, in fact, rated among the top 3 percent of schools in our country.  OCHS ranks 684th nationally with an index score of 2.489 and NOHS ranks 859th nationally with an index score of 2.210. 

Perhaps even more impressive are the Equity and Excellence ratings of our two high schools.  These E&E scores reflect the academic achievement of our students by examining the percentage of all graduating seniors who had at least one score of 3 or above on an AP exam during their high school career.  The nonprofit College Board, which oversees the Advanced Placement program, invented this metric and has determined the average Equity and Excellence rate to be 19.5 percent.  OCHS has an E&E score of 49.6 percent and NOHS has an E&E score of 45.5 percent.  These numbers are thirty points and twenty-five points above the national average, respectively. 

What do these scores and rankings mean in the larger context of your student’s educational experience?  In short, they reflect that not only is Oconee County Schools meeting its stated mission to provide a “challenging learning environment,” but we are also making great strides in achieving the vision to be “a nationally-recognized leader in academic achievement.”  In the measurement of the Challenge Index, our students (and therefore, our schools) performed well.  The commitment that our system has made over the years to expanding Advanced Placement courses is clearly paying off with higher achievement and a more rigorous curriculum.  This year alone, our two high schools are offering nearly twenty AP courses with classes ranging from AP Art and AP Computer Science to AP Calculus and AP Literature.

Yet, the goal of Oconee County Schools continues to be sustained excellence and continuous improvement.  As we continue to focus on improving our schools, we are always interested in your thoughts and ideas on how OCS can have a greater impact on the nearly 7,000 students we serve daily.  Please share your questions, concerns, and ideas with me at  For more information about America’s Most Challenging High Schools please visit


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