So just how does Chaminade Julienne, a Catholic high school located in downtown Dayton, Ohio, stack up against other schools across the country?
According to Jay Mathews – Washington Post columnist, New York Times best-selling author, and creator of the High School Challenge Index – the numbers dictate CJ ranks among the most challenging educational institutions in America in terms of preparing students, across all levels, for the academic rigors of college.
“Since 1998, Mathews has ranked Washington-area public high schools using the Challenge Index, his measure of how effectively a school prepares its students for college,” reported The Washington Post. The veteran news reporter, who has covered education in the nation’s capital for more than 40 years, expanded the index to include data from public high schools in all 50 states for the first time in 2011.
Then in May 2012, Mathews broadened the scope of his efforts again. He included a small sampling of 30 private United States high schools to his annual compilation, where Chaminade Julienne appeared as Ohio’s lone non-public representative.
“We essentially raised our hand to take part after learning that college-readiness data from private high schools would be included,” said John Marshall, principal. “The transparency and candidness of the process aligned with our overall philosophy to openly share our students’ successes.
“Participating in the survey was just another opportunity for us to assure parents that CJ is delivering on its promise to provide a quality, integral Catholic education to every child that steps through our doors,” Marshall said.
Mathews’ index uses a simple grading rubric: Take the number of college-level tests administered to students in a given school year; divide that by the number of graduating seniors; then, use the resulting number to compare institutions. All schools with a High School Challenge Index rating above 1.000 make the cut.
In spring 2011, CJ graduated 140 seniors. A total of 160 students took 223 Advanced Placement exams across 13 areas of study that school year, of which 56 percent scored a three or higher – the make-or-break mark for earning college credit. As a result, the school’s index rating calculated to 1.593, good for 29th out of the private schools Mathews sampled.
“I contacted or searched the Web sites of about 200 private schools across the country and got the data I needed from 30, including President Obama’s alma mater, Punahou,” Mathews wrote in his May 21 article, New Challenge Index: Why do private schools hide data?
His research found that, regardless of designation as public or private, CJ and all 29 fellow sample schools ranked “in the top six percent of American schools measured this way.” Of those sampled, 13 are institutions of faith (nine Catholic) and 17 are considered independent or boarding schools.
“The ranking affirms what I personally already knew. Whether CJ is in the top 30 in the state or the top 30 in the nation, I think this is yet another metric that measures our school’s commitment to preparing young people for their future as life-long learners,” Marshall said.
More than 2,000 private and public schools nationwide earned a 1.000 or better to place on the 2012 High School Challenge Index. Thirty-two of them are located in Ohio.
Marshall said next spring, he plans to include CJ’s 75 to 100 biomedical sciences and pre-engineering students who are eligible to earn college credit by passing exams administered by Project Lead the Way when submitting data for the 2013 index. Those students did not factor into the school’s 2012 score.