State’s most challenging high school: Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology

The Washington Post’s annual list of most challenging U.S. high schools was just released. As usual, the top school in Georgia is the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology

The Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology emerges Georgia's top high school on a new ranking. (AJC Photo)

The Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology emerges Georgia’s most challenging high school on a new ranking. (AJC Photo)

For the past 17 years, the Post’s education columnist Jay Mathews ranks schools on a “Challenge” index that considers the number of students attempting tough courses as measured by enrollment and test taking in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education courses.

In creating the index, Mathews sought to celebrate the schools that open their most rigorous curriculum to the greatest number of students. He writes in the Post:

The list is based on what I call the Challenge Index. Schools qualify only if they give at least as many AP, IB or AICE exams in a year as they have graduating seniors. They are then ranked by their tests-to-graduates ratio. I also include a sampling of private schools. When I started the list in 1998, I could find only 243 public schools that qualified. The 2015 list, based on 2014 data, has more than 2,300 schools.

That’s progress, but not nearly enough. In one recent year, 300,000 students who showed readiness for AP based on their PSAT scores were denied a chance to take those courses, according to a College Board study. That waste of time and talent is rarely discussed in education conferences or political platforms.

The Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology ranked 26th out of 2,300 schools nationwide. The only other Georgia school in the top 100 nationwide is St. Andrew’s, a private school in Savannah, which ranked 97th.

Coming in at 111th is Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, a public school in Augusta. Fulton County’s Cambridge High School ranked 132, while Gwinnett’s Meadowcreek High School ranked 140th.

Chatham’s Savannah Arts Academy came in 164th, and Cobb’s Walton High landed 176th.

While the ranking considers the number of AP, IB and AICE tests given, it doesn’t weigh how well the students do.

Mathews explains:

I decided not to count passing rates in this way because I found that many high schools kept those rates artificially high by allowing only top students to take the courses. AP, IB and AICE are important because they give average students a chance to experience the trauma of heavy college reading lists and long, analytical college examinations. Research has found that even low-performing students who got a 2 on an AP test did significantly better in college than similar students who did not take AP.

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

28 comments
AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

It seems that some small minority of you think that this school was "freed from the shackles of the horrible, traditional public ed. way of doing things and, by golly, just look what a charter school can do!" A school is a collection of students. This school is a collection of students who wanted to go to a school that has a very rigorous curriculum. They wanted to take a whole bunch of AP classes as well as extra science and math classes. They also apparently wanted to go to a school with a high dropout rate. The class of 13-14 started with 250 9th graders and ended with 170 12th graders.


Does anyone really think the school building, teachers and way of doing things is responsible for the students' success? I am pretty sure that these were high performing students before they ever set foot in GSMST. Well, wouldn't that make their previous schools even better than GSMST - to have produced such highly motivated, highly performing students amongst the "less scholarly riff-raff" of the general student population?


Until the state starts tracking individual student performance over time and controlling for several variables, we won't have a logical way to declare a school "good" or "bad" in terms of academic structure and performance. But until then, y'all go on and keep doing your cheer - "charters are good, vouchers are great, private school tax credits are even better, but i waited too late".  "Oh yeah, and unions are bad, real bad".

Teekee
Teekee

@AvgGeorgian Technically, yes.  The school's ways of doing things are crucial to a student's success.  Also, I go to GSMST.  Sure, students are failing, but most students aren't.  AND the senior classes each year have increased by the hundreds.  And GSMST has a much better curriculum and all the teachers have said they enjoy this job more than any job they every had (and some of them use to work for NASA and etc.).  A lot of the teachers go visit schools from different states and even different countries just so they can better improve the school system at GSMST.  Sounds like based on what you are saying you either applied and didn't get in or you dropped out.  And anyways, GSMST has a strong community and people stand up for each other here.

BearCasey
BearCasey

I taught AP US History 1981-2006.  Allowing "open enrollment" for AP classes has some benefits.  However, there are two major drawbacks:  (1)  If one is not careful, the quality of the instruction will be watered down, (2)  There are not that many AP quality teachers and there will be even fewer in the future considering how teachers are treated these days. 

1Fred
1Fred

It is clear some of you commenting don't live in Gwinnett.  GSMST is a full participant in the school system's governance. While it focuses on STEM, other schools in the county have programs as well that emphasize STEM, just not as a total immersion experience.  I know kids that have attended both flavors.  Just because kids go to GSMST does not automatically mean they are scoring higher in those areas.  My daughter had some kids come from GSMST to her school and they were behind my daughter's advanced calculus class.  Where GSMST excels is in the total immersion for kids that might have tried to go joint enrollment.  The other Gwinnett schools have their areas of excellence as well. 

PITTFAN
PITTFAN

@Starik 

Do you know anything about GSMST?  It doesn't appear you do from your replies.  GSMST is a PUBLIC school in the Gwinnett County school district.  You must apply to the school, it there are ZERO criteria for getting into it.  No interview process, no grade checking, NOTHING!  Students are chosen on a lottery basis.  There are many, many brilliant students who want to go to this school and don't get in because some slacker decided they wanted to apply and got in.  Three months into the school year they're already failing and get sent back to their original home school.  Once the 250-350 slots are filled for the year, no one else gets in.  It sucks.  My daughter missed out on an opportunity to go there because there were so many unqualified applicants and she would have breezed through that school.

booful98
booful98

@PITTFAN That's messed up!! In Cobb Co the magnet schools (IB, STEM, Arts, etc) are merit based. There is an application process and acceptance is based on merit. I cannot believe Gwinett operates this way.

satan
satan

Meadowcreek????

Starik
Starik

Am I correct in assuming that this is a school with no football, basketball, pep rallies, cheerleading and other high school frivolities? That the kids want to learn more than socialize? That the kids volunteer to go there, and there's a lottery to decide who goes there? Why not open another one?  Why doesn't every system have such a school?

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Starik Money. Gwinnett County is large enough to afford to build a spectacular specialty high school and to have enough students to fill it. APS had a Tech High and it did not survive. I went to a graduation at Atlanta's Tech High and there were less than 50 kids graduating. One of the issues for kids was the absence of many of the extracurricular things you just listed. In general, science and tech high schools work in large communities. And sharp facilities help -- Atlanta's Tech High was not a state-of-the-art facility, although it had a dedicated faculty.



Starik
Starik

@MaureenDowney @Starik There seems to be a waiting list in Gwinnett. Let's try new things. Allow systems to collaborate in setting up academic schools, not just STEM, but other types; Wasn't Chamblee in DeKalb something like that - but they erred in retaining a geographic student base, and in keeping the footy, etc. 


My point is that we need to experiment. what we're doing isn't working very well.

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

@Starik @MaureenDowney 

All of these things take money; BIG money.  And remember: these are gubment schools.  You know, communist, socialist, lazy teachers, stupid kids.  No one want to pay money for these kids.  

In reality, it *does* take a lot of money to run a school like this.  Only rich school systems can afford this.  (Anybody in Cobb county listening?)  Everybody wants their kids to go to it.  The problem is that very few kids/parents are capable of following through with this difficult a curriculum.  Kids - especially teenagers - want social activities.  The type of kid who is capable AND INTERESTED in this tough a curriculum generally is not interested in the standard social activities. BUT is interested in athletics - cross country, tennis, soccer, etc.  These sports are revenue losers.  They cost more than they bring in, and most of the equipment is student-bought AND VERY EXPENSIVE.

Next is that when the kids fail to keep up, they have to go back to their previous schools.  You CAN'T add new students as the curriculum at the previous school cannot prepare the entering student for the next level course.  As time goes on, fewer and fewer people are left to graduate. Tough rockos.  That's the system.

If you "select" who to attend, you're going to get into just what constitutes the "right" credentials.  Boy, I'd had to be on the selection committee for 9th graders.  I'd be accused of racism, sucking up to "important" people (and what constitute important), and every other kind of complaint when "selection" goes on.  

GSMS works by lottery so that everyone has an equal chance of getting in.  It sucks; I know, but there's not a better way.    


And every time a school system "experiments" and it doesn't work, more people call for the heads (and other body parts) for doing such a "stupid commie, pinko, liburl" action.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I wondered how Uthered, astro, and popacorn were going to slide in their licks!  And what, no comment about "teachers unions", Ed?


My system has also gone to total charter status.  The result so far: nothing.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady


A "charter system" is not a system full of charters.That is an apples-to-pickup trucks comparison. A charter system is simply a system that has been given some flexibility from some of the more onerous regulations imposed by the state and you know it.Maureen knows it,but she thinks that the readership is too stupid to know it. 


It's like the difference between "chocolate" and "chocolatey". There's a difference.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @Wascatlady You are right, astro.  It means even less than that, as it was pretty much force-fed to systems.  The one here decided it was the lesser of 3 evils.


The rest of my comment stands re "teachers' unions in Georgia."

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Ed and Astro, Your implication is that I did not mention that Gwinnett's science school is a charter because I am ignoring the fact that an independent group broke free of a bureaucracy and thus excelled. But the school system began and operates this school, as is the case with the top performing Walton High, which Cobb converted to charter status. (For that matter, you could say all of Decatur's schools are charters since the entire system adopted charter status.) Gwinnett's science high school is as much a part of the Gwinnett system as any other high school.

If you want to see independent charters that meet your criteria, you can find them  at the Georgia Charter Schools Association. You will not see Gwinnett's science high school on the list.

http://www.gacharters.org/schools/school-directory/

As a tag team, you never disappoint in sticking to your script, no matter the topic and no matter how hard you have to strain to force your point. This is one of those stretches that doesn't quite make it.




Uthred
Uthred

@Astropig

No, her simpaticas need never worry. But FYI, the AJC's blog wardens can delete your posts without you being aware. Your posts still show on your screen—but on no one else’s.

Log out of your AJC account to see what the other readers actually see. Better yet, go in via the Tor Browser.



PITTFAN
PITTFAN

@Uthred 

That's not true.  I've had a few posts deleted and I'm well aware of it because they no longer show up.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney


I don't have a script. I don't need one. I study,read and form my own opinions based on what I learn. I'm sorry if you feel that way. I make no apologies for what I believe. Last week,your omission of a salient fact in the APS imbroglio could be looked at as part of a "script"...Until alert readers called you on it.You sure don't seem to be bothered by the "script" of regulars that are simpatico.

BearCasey
BearCasey

@Astropig @MaureenDowney  Astro, it's like religion, you can believe what you want but it doesn't make it true.  The problem with "free market" solutions is that the "invisible hand" only works properly IF it is rational to buy NO product/service at all.  That is not the case with health care or education.  This is a concept that "small government" advocates seem to have difficulty with.

Uthred
Uthred

Absolutely no mention in the article that this is a charter school?

Astropig
Astropig

@Uthred



Ha ha. You must be new here. I knew it without having to be told. The secret code is in the second sentence. You just have to know how to read between the lines.


"As usual, the top school in Georgia is the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology". Note the use of "As usual" to denote consistent,non cheating enhanced,success.


It's roughly analogous to when you read about a public official caught stealing from orphans or being caught naked with a Shetland pony that is not his wife-If the article doesn't mention the lawmakers party,you know right away which party it is.It's kind of like that.

Astropig
Astropig

@popacorn


Yes it is. It shows what public education could be at more schools if freed from the iron grip of the kind of riff-raff that was sentenced in Atlanta last week.I'm not nearly as ashamed of those criminals as I am of their enablers. So yes, it's refreshing to celebrate excellence in education. Tip o' the cap to them.

Starik
Starik

@Astropig @popacorn It isn't just excellence in education; it's a school that fits the needs of the self-selected kids who go there.  We need more of that. Why magnet schools devoted to sports?  Or construction work, or mechanics, or operating machinery?

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

@Starik @Astropig @popacorn Self-selected is spot on.  Anybody can get in.  I wonder exactly how many actually enter the 9th grade (around 400).  Less than 200 graduate 4 years later.  I don't have a calculator with me.  Can anybody calculate the failure rate?  Hummmmmm.  I wonder if every school system worked the same way, what the high school graduates could do?  Oh, Wait!!  I know.  Back in the dark ages when I went to school, we had approximately 40-50% drop out, and our graduates put us on the moon with work done by many former drop outs working in the factories.  What's changed since then?  Hummmmmmmmm?