Riverside-Brookfield High School ranked 10th in the state and 454th in the nation on a list of the most challenging high schools in an annual ranking that was published by the Washington Post.
The schools are ranked according to their performance on a “Challenge Index,” which was devised by Jay Mathews an education writer who used to work for Newsweek magazine. The Challenge Index is derived by taking the total number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education Tests given at a school during a school year and dividing that number by the number of graduating seniors.
Ranking first in Illinois on the Challenge Index is a small, private school in Lombard that mostly serves Muslim students, the College Preparatory School of America. The only public, non-selective enrollment schools that ranked ahead of RBHS on the Challenge Index were Stevenson High School, which ranked second; Glenbard West High School which ranked sixth; and Prospect High School, which ranked ninth.
Four selective enrollment Chicago Public Schools high schools made the top 10 in Illinois.
Although the Challenge Index does not take into account how well a student does on an AP Exam, the ranking presented by the Washington Post indicated that 40 percent of RBHS seniors in 2014 earned college credit by taking Advanced Placement courses in high school.
“This national ranking demonstrates our philosophy at Riverside-Brookfield High School,” said Principal Kristin Smetana in a press release. “By establishing high expectations for all students and allowing open access to rigorous curriculum taught by outstanding teachers, students can reach their full potential.”
The open access to AP classes has been a hallmark of RBHS since the early 2000s when former Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann began placing great stress on boosting the number of students taking AP classes.
As a result, RBHS has long-ranked high in the Challenge Index that Mathews first developed for Newsweek, even higher than its current ranking. In 2006, Newsweek ranked RBHS second in the state and 76th in the country. In 2011, RB was ranked fifth in the state and 239th in the nation.
Some thought the stress on AP got out of hand under Baldermann. Some parents complained that students who were not ready were being pressured into taking AP classes. More students taking AP classes will result in a higher ranking in the Challenge Index.
Baldermann maintained that nearly all college-bound students could benefit from taking an AP class, whether or not they actually earned college credit on the AP Exam.
The principal of second-ranked Stevenson High School is Troy Gobble a former head of the RBHS science department and former interim assistant principal for curriculum and instruction at RBHS. Gobble was a finalist for the principal job at RBHS but was passed over in favor of Pamela Bylsma in 2010.
Baldermann is now the principal at Westmont High School, which ranked 18th in Illinois in this year’s Challenge Index.