The School of Science and Engineering Magnet in Dallas resembles most high schools these days: Legislature threatens huge budget cuts, teachers face pink slips and 62 percent of the students qualify for subsidized lunch. Amid these challenges, however, students work hard to earn their success, steering their school to the No. 1 spot on Newsweek's annual list of America's Best High Schools.
The magnet school's wide-ranging accomplishments helped earn the accolade, as the study broadened its metric measurements for success this year. In the past, the ranking of top schools focused on AP tests taken per graduate -- and that was it. This year, the new criteria for the 1,100 schools that supplied internal data included graduation rate, college matriculation rate, AP tests taken per graduate, average SAT/ACT scores, average AP/IB scores and AP courses offered per graduate.
Last year, the School of Science and Engineering Magnet's senior class of 86 students graduated and headed to college with offers of more than $9.7 million in scholarships, according to the school's website.
The magnet school tells Newsweek it seeks to maintain its successful system despite challenges.
"Our major goal is to continue with the standard of service we've provided for years and years," says Principal Jovan Wells.
In addition to study metrics, Newsweek also expanded its consulting board. This year, the study asked Teach For America, Open Education Solutions and a Stanford professor of education to help develop the criteria to measure a school's ability to prepare students for both college and life.
Besides the on-paper accomplishments and honors the School of Science and Engineering Magnet has received, Wells also attributes the School of Science and Engineering's success to its tight-knit environment.
"This is more of a family atmosphere."
See the full list of America's Best High Schools at NEWSWEEK.