Southwest Wake News

Holly Springs High makes U.S. News Best High Schools list

Six Triangle schools, including four from western Wake, received top honors Tuesday from U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 Best High Schools list.

Green Hope High in Cary was the top North Carolina school on the newsmagazine’s list, ranking 304th nationally. It received a “gold medal” for its performance with all students in the list posted early Tuesday.

Five local schools received a “silver medal,” ranking in the top 2,000 nationally: Panther Creek High in Cary at No. 686, Cary High at No. 1,116, Holly Springs High at No. 1,202, Kestrel Heights School in Durham at No. 1,744 and Hillside New Tech High in Durham at No. 1,997.

The U.S. News list differs sharply from those put out by The Washington Post and Newsweek. While all three lists look at data such as the number of Advanced Placement exams taken, only U.S. News uses state test results for the performance of low-income and minority students.

“I’ll let people decide which one is better,” Bob Morse, director of data research for U.S. News & World Report, said in an interview Monday. “We’re measuring something different. Our methodology makes it harder to get on the list.”

Morse said some schools that fared well on the other lists, such as Enloe High in Raleigh and East Chapel Hill High, didn’t make the U.S. News rankings because the minority and low-income students weren’t performing well enough.

But Morse said some schools – such as Raleigh Charter High, Woods Charter in Chatham County and Durham School of the Arts – weren’t ranked by U.S. News because they were missing some data in the files given to the rankers by the state.

U.S. News used state reading and math tests to see whether more than 31,200 public high schools nationally are doing better than expected overall and whether the schools’ black, Hispanic and low-income students were exceeding state averages. Schools that cleared the first two hurdles were then judged on their college readiness, based on participation and performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.

“Both the U.S. News and Newsweek lists give too much emphasis to test scores, and thus too much to family income, in my view, but this is a subject on which reasonable school rankers can disagree,” Jay Mathews, education columnist for The Washington Post and developer of the newspaper’s ranking formula, wrote earlier this month.

The rankings were based on 2011-12 school year data. The top two area schools on the U.S. News list, Green Hope and Panther Creek, had the smallest percentages of low-income students among the Wake County school system’s high schools that year.

Go to to view the list.