South Tahoe High School ranked in the top 4 percent (or 996th) of 27,468 public high schools across America in preparing its students for college, according to a Newsweek article.
The high school, the only one in Lake Tahoe Unified School District and the only site to earn the recognition in El Dorado County, was among 201 California campuses in the ranking.
"We believe in rigor and relevance," said Marcia Kaster, the school's principal.
"I couldn't wait to get out there and tell the kids," she continued. "It was my first announcement (Tuesday) morning."
The rating was determined by calculating the number of students who took Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests divided by the number of graduating seniors, according to the article's author, Barbara Kantrowitz.
"Although that doesn't tell the whole story about a school, it's one of the best measures available to compare a wide range of students' readiness for higher-level work, which is more crucial than ever in the postindustrial age," Kantrowitz wrote.
Advanced Placement, commonly shortened to AP, comprises academically rigorous courses intended to mirror college classes. Although policies vary from college to college, high school students can gain enough credit in AP courses to shave off time and money spent at higher education institutions.
South Tahoe High School has 10 AP classes in 14 sections, from psychology to physics. Next year world history and U.S. history will be added to the curriculum.
The school doesn't have the International Baccalaureate curriculum which has similar "pre-university" courses with tests at the end, its Web site states.
"One would assume students who perform well in AP classes are well prepared in college," said Barbara Davis, assistant district superintendent.
"I think it indicates the high standards we hold for our students," she added.
Aaron Barnett, a high school counselor, said all students are given opportunities for entry into AP classes, potentially allowing a wide variety of students from various backgrounds.
"We keep the policy of who can get in much more open than other schools," he said.
One such instance is students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, which readies minority, low-income and other students who have dreams of attending college to grasp a postsecondary education.
AVID students take at least one AP class, Kaster said.
Newsweek's list is the cover story for its latest edition. The distinction adds a reference of excellence to members of volunteer committees designed to help improve, educate and guide the district in areas such as public relations and school programs.
Peter Grant, co-chair of the public relations committee, applauded the recognition but feared it might fool people into thinking the financially struggling district doesn't need a boost to its bottom line.
This year, high school athletics, along with middle school sports, were on the cutting block but saved by a $200,000 fund-raising effort.
"This is great news and it really reinforces what we've been saying: The schools are doing a great job with these kids in spite of the real financial challenges we have," he said.
In Nevada, seven high schools were among those that ranked in Newsweek's top 1,000, the Associated Press reported.
McQueen, Galena, Reno, Wooster, Sparks and Incline high schools in Washoe County were noted, as was Green Valley High School in Henderson.
McQueen High School received the highest ranking in the state at 436th.
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