Bluffton High School landed a spot on a new Washington Post ranking of the nation's most challenging high schools in part because of student participation in advanced course work and other indicators of college preparedness.
"This is validation the school is providing a rigorous curriculum and thereby best preparing students for success in college," said Principal Mark Dievendorf.
Bluffton High ranks 1,314 out of more than 1,900 public schools in the Post's Challenge Index. The school was 16th out of 36 South Carolina schools in the index, which expanded beyond the D.C. area to the nation for the first time this year.
The index divides the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other college-level tests a school gave in 2010 by the number of graduating seniors. The rating can reveal the level of commitment to preparing average students for college, the Post says.
Bluffton High school offers 11 AP courses, and 75 percent of its graduating seniors attend a four-year college, according to information compiled by the Post.
Dievendorf said the school plans to improve its ranking by increasing AP-course enrollment and expanding AP course offerings. He said the school hopes to add AP geography and economics.
The school also offers a STEM diploma program -- in which students take advanced science, technology, engineering and math courses -- that Dievendorf said is another benchmark for college preparedness.
"It's advantageous for how colleges look at applicants and their background," he said. "Those STEM diploma recipients are looked on as being more successful, having had the most demanding and challenging courses in those areas" that are directly related to high-demand, high-paying career fields.