Eastside High School has surpassed last year’s No. 33 ranking in the top 50 “America’s Most Challenging High Schools.”
The Gainesville high school, located at 1201 SE 43rd St. is now ranked No. 27 of 2,055 most challenging schools in the nation on the most recent release of The Washington Post’s list.
Jay Matthews, the list’s creator, wrote in an email that many schools drop in rank because school participation rates change and more schools are added to the list each year. The best way to look at the school’s progress is to look at its index rating.
To determine the rankings, Matthews divides the total number of Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) tests given each year by the total number of seniors who graduated. The schools are ranked based on these results.
Eastside’s current index is 8.966, according to the list, compared to last year’s ratio of 7.409. The index scores of the top ten schools on the list range from 11 to 21.
Matthews said the list intends to identify schools that have done the best in persuading average students to take college level courses and tests.
“I decided not to count passing rates because I found that many American high schools keep those rates artificially high by allowing only top students to take the courses,” Matthews said. “In other instances, they opened the courses to all but encouraged only the best students to take the tests.”
At Eastside, principal Jeff Charbonnet said the faculty and staff encourage all students to take advanced classes.
“If a student wants to challenge themselves with a rigorous course, we get in their corner and provide them with all the academic and social support we can for them to succeed,” he said.
He said as more students challenge themselves, the graduation rate is also increasing. It climbed from 84 percent to 87 percent this past year, he said. (link)
Eastside High School also offers a variety of ways for students to get extra help. He said the school’s mentorship program has individually matched more than 100 students with community and University of Florida mentors.
The school also offers an after-school tutoring program that is staffed by professionals and honors students who offer peer tutoring.
Charbonnet also said the school’s advisory council provides AP review books for students who cannot afford them, so all students are on equal footing.
Charbonnet said Eastside has about 1,300 students, and according to the post’s profile on the school, 50 percent of the students are eligible for subsidized lunches, which is a measure of the amount of low-income students at the school.
Now a freshman studying chemistry at the University of Florida, 19-year-old Eastside graduate Elizabeth Osmun said the school helped her prepare for the transition to college. She said the skills she learned, including effective studying and time management, by taking IB courses are a necessity for her college courses.
Osmun said teachers were personally invested in their students’ successes, and they worked to make sure students stayed motivated.
She said having small class sizes really helped students get to know the faculty, and the administration, including the principal, consistently checked on classes.
Eastside is the highest ranking high school in Alachua County, according to the list. Other high schools ranked in the area included Gainesville High School at No. 324, Buchholz High School at No. 358, Newberry High School at No. 1,372 and Santa Fe High School at No. 1,882.
Bobbie Benson, the IB coordinator at Eastside, said the school is proud of its students, and the staff plans to continue trying to help its students reach success.
“We’re going to serve our students academically in the courses and in the curriculum,” she said. “If it just so happens that the way we do our job results in this kind of ranking then that’s just a little extra for us.”