Higley and Williams Field High School were both named to the Washington Post’s 2015 “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” list.
The Higley Unified School District campuses, located in Gilbert, are two of only 22 high schools in Arizona to receive the honor. It is the first time Williams Field High has received this prestigious recognition. Last year, Higley High School made the list.
The Washington Post analyzes information such as the number of college-level tests given at a school in the previous calendar year, the percentage of students from families that qualify for free-or reduced-lunch and the percentage of graduates who passed at least one college-level test during high school. Both high schools submitted all 2014 Advanced Placement test scores as part of the determining data.
Nearly 20 Advanced Placement classes are offered in Higley’s high schools. Students can start taking these their sophomore year with options in math, English, science, social studies and more. The classes are college-level courses given by teachers trained in Advanced Placement methods and curriculum. Students may then take Advanced Placement exams that could qualify them for college credit. Many colleges award credit for scores of 3 and above. Five is the highest that can be awarded.
“It is gratifying to see our students and teachers recognized for embracing a college readiness philosophy,” said Dr. Terri Wattawa,Williams Field High School principal. “The time, effort and achievement of these students will serve them well on their road to higher education. Williams Field is proud to join the list of ‘America’s Most Challenging High Schools.'”
“As we continue to create and promote the best academic experiences for all students at Higley, our AP offerings are the most critical piece of the foundation,” said Roseyn Hood, Higley High School principal. “I am inspired by our students that elect to challenge themselves and maximize their potential while preparing for the rigors of the post-secondary arena.”
The number of students taking Advanced Placement test continues to grow at both schools, as do student scores.
“We have worked hard to ensure that all students who wish to take our most rigorous courses have access to and the ability to be successful in AP courses,”said Dr. Liza Sejkora, Higley High assistant principal. “We are proud that nearly one in four students at Higley High School sits for an AP exam; half of these students take two or more exams.”
The percentage of students who score a 3 or higher on AP exams is nearing 50 percent, Sejkora said.
“College Board research has shown that students who take AP courses and exams are more likely to earn the bachelor’s degree in four years than students who do not, so we encourage students to access this coursework as we believe they will be better prepared for college,” Sejkora said.
Only 11 percent of about 22,000 U.S. public high schools meet the minimum requirements to be considered, according to Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews.
“The Challenge Index is designed to identify schools that have done the best job in persuading average students to take college-level courses and tests,” Mathews wrote in his column.