For the third year in a row, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island high schools have been named to a national list of schools with academically challenging instructional programs.
Hilton Head High was ranked ninth and Bluffton High was ranked 12th among South Carolina schools on The Washington Post's 2013 list of America's Most Challenging High Schools.
The ranking is based on a formula that divides the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a school each year by the number of seniors who graduated.
Nationally, both schools were ranked among the top 4 percent of the nation's nearly 30,000 high schools.
In a press release, Hilton Head High principal Amanda O'Nan said that the school's International Baccalaureate program contributed to the recognition.
"With 187 11th- and 12th-graders enrolled in IB classes, we've seen students pushing themselves to levels they haven't experienced before," O'Nan said in the release. "That momentum has spin-off academic benefits for the entire school community."
Bluffton High Principal Mark Dievendorf credited a schoolwide effort for its ranking. The school offers 15 Advanced Placement courses, and students' average scores on the exams exceed state, national and international rankings, according to the release.
"We have 400 students taking college-level course work and the subsequent Advanced Placement examinations, and that speaks not only to the level of rigor our students are attempting, but also to the post-secondary preparation we offer in prerequisite courses," Dievendorf said.