Harvard-Westlake ranks as the third best school in Los Angeles County and the eighth best private school in the country based on its ability to “bring out the best in their students,” according to lists published on the Los Angeles Magazine and Washington Post websites.
Washington Post educational columnist Jay Mathews created both lists with his Challenge Index, which measures the number of AP, IB and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests administered per graduating student, rather than scores.
“I think my system gets us much closer to the quality of a school’s staff and standards than the usual way of measuring schools by average test scores,” Mathews said in an email. “The Challenge Index measures how hard school staff are working to get as many students as possible ready for college by giving them a real taste of college trauma—the AP, IB or AICE programs.”
Harvard-Westlake ranked behind the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, a public magnet school, and Polytechnic, a private school in Pasadena.
Harvard-Westlake was one of only six private schools in the top 75 in Los Angeles. The lack of private institutions is, Mathews said, largely because private schools are not required to give their testing statistics, while public schools are.
Some schools do not share their AP statistics because they do not believe that they should be judged by this information, especially if they rank lower than competitors, Mathews said. Harvard-Westlake provided the information necessary for the list.
However, school administrators point out that Harvard-Westlake students need permission of the department and qualifying grades to take AP courses.
“Depending on the way that people allow students to take AP classes can impact [the ranking,]” Dean Beth Slattery said. “Imagine how many AP exams would be taken at Harvard-Westlake if all AP classes were open to anyone. Who knows if the scores would be as high, but nevertheless.”