Florida magnet, charter schools score high in national rankings

Travis Pillow

The Washington Post recently released its annual list of America’s most challenging high schools, and like in previous years, dozens of Florida schools land high in the rankings.

Almost all of the top-rated Florida schools are magnet schools, charter schools, or International Baccalaureate academies — in other words, schools of choice.

There’s a notable newcomer: The Orlando Science Charter School, which we’ve visited twice recently, and which has vaulted into the top 100 schools in the country.

Duval County’s elite magnets continue to find themselves in and near the top 10. Several Hillsborough magnets also do well. MaryEllen Elia, the district’s now-former superintendent, was a longtime magnet supporter and just won an award from the national magnet school association, where she previously served as president.

The Post‘s ratings are based on the percentage of students who took exams that could qualify them for college credit, so these rankings complement the recent promising statistics on Florida’s Advanced Placement results. (See a fuller description of the methodology, which screens out certain elite, limited-admissions schools, here.)

Of course, like the AP numbers, there are likely important issues the top-line numbers obscure. For example, if a school like Gainesville’s Eastside High School lands high in the rankings while half its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, how many of those low-income students are actually enrolled in the IB program that contributes to its high ranking?

Below is a list of the top 20 Florida schools in the Post’s rankings. All of them are also in the top 100 nationwide.

1 (7 nationally). Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts (Duval)

2 (8). Stanton College Prep (Duval)

3 (12). Suncoast Community School (Palm Beach)

4 (14). Paxon School for Advanced Studies (Duval)

5 (16). Archimedean Upper Conservatory (Miami-Dade)

6 (18). Young Women’s Prep (Miami-Dade)

7  (23). Boca Raton Community School (Palm Beach)

8 (34). Fort Lauderdale High School (Broward)

9 (35). School for Advanced Studies (Miami-Dade)

10 (42) Pine View School for the Gifted (Sarasota)

11 (43) Doral Academy for the Performing Arts (Miami-Dade)

12 (46) MAST Academy (Miami-Dade)

13 (51) Hillsborough High School (Hillsborough)

14 (56) Orlando Science Charter School (Orange)

15 (60) C. Leon King High School (Hillsborough)

16 (61) Coral Reef High (Miami-Dade)

17 (72) T.R. Robinson High School (Hillsborough)

18 (76) Dreyfoos School of the Arts (Palm Beach)

19 (78) Coral Springs Charter School (Broward)

20 (87) H.B. Plant High School (Hillsborough)

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