Hilton Head High lands on Washington Post ranking of top schools

Hilton Head Island High School landed a spot on a new Washington Post ranking of the nation's top high schools in part because of student participation in advanced course work and other indicators of college preparedness.

Hilton Head High ranks 549 out of more than 1,900 public schools in the Post's Challenge Index.

The school was fourth in the state out of 36 schools in the index, which expanded beyond the D.C. area to the nation for the first time this year.

The index uses the following formula: Divide the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other college-level tests a school gave in 2010 by the number of graduating seniors.

"While not a measure of the overall quality of the school, the rating can reveal the level of a high school's commitment to preparing average students for college," the Post says.

The high school offers 14 AP and 17 IB courses, and 70 percent of graduating seniors attend a four-year college, according to information compiled by the Post.

The paper also tracks ACT and SAT scores. Hilton Head students received an average ACT score of 23.2 on the test's 36-point scale. The national average is 21.

The school's average SAT score is 1,508. The national average is 1,509.

One Hilton Head High official sees the ranking as support for the IB program, which the county school board has been re-examining in light of tight funding.

"I think (the ranking) backs up what we've always been saying: The IB program is growing, improving and bringing great education to an already great school," said the school's IB coordinator, Michelle Hartman.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at Hilton Head Island High School was put on probation following a vote earlier this year by the school board based on a consultant's cost-benefit analysis. Hilton Head High School will try to increase IB class enrollment, as well as the percentage of students passing IB exams and earning the full IB diploma, during its two-year probation.

The IB program at Battery Creek High School will be eliminated over two years, the school board decided.

Developed by a nonprofit Swiss foundation, the program aims to develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills students need in a globalizing world, according to the IB website. High school juniors and seniors who participate in the organization's two-year diploma program can earn college credit.

Attempts Friday to reach Hilton Head High Principal Amanda O'Nan and county school district Superintendent Valerie Truesdale were unsuccessful.