Top 5 Public High Schools In New York’s Capital Region

by Sandra Foyt on February 8, 2010

in Enrichment Ideas

HSmsthd_Schoolpic Just for kicks, I thought it might be fun to compile Albany’s version of Jay Mathews’ 2010 Challenge Index 2010 The Local List ranking public high schools in the nation’s capital region.

The Challenge Index formula takes the number of college tests such as the Advance Placement or International Baccalaureate given by a high school, and divides that number by the number of graduating seniors.   Unfortunately, I don’t have Jay Mathews’ clout to get the college test numbers from area schools.

I can look at New York State Report Cards for all public high schools, and that will tell me how many seniors graduated, how many dropped out, how many graduated with a Regents or Advanced Regents diploma, and what percentage of students passed or excelled on the Regents exams.  However, these reports are only current through 2007-2008.

Even if I could get all the data, the Challenge Index is not without its flaws.  While the number of students taking AP exams has risen, so has the number of students failing.  A state-by-state breakdown of the percentage of failing AP tests in 2009 (scores of 1 and 2, out of 5) shows a 35%-44.9% AP failure rate in New York. (More state stats available on the College Board’s 2009 AP Summary Reports.)  Additionally, AP courses have even lost favor at such high-ranking schools as Scarsdale High School which replaced these with Advanced Topic classes. (Note that Scarsdale HS still came in at 748 on the 2009 Challenge Index.)

Bottom line, there’s more to an excellent high school than its 4-year college track offerings or even college placement statistics.  Still, even though the challenge index is not that important in the greater scheme of things, I couldn’t resist checking out how Capital Region schools fared on the list.

Top Capital Region Public High Schools

Since the 2010 Challenge Index has not been extended nation-wide yet, I looked at the 2009 List of 1,500 Top US Public High Schools which compares 2008 test figures.  Then I sorted the list, to just look at the 2009 Top US Public High Schools In New York.  As a state, we fare very well on the list with 180 schools ranking between #13 through #1527.  Of that number, the Capital Region claims five schools on the list of top US high schools:

  1. # 500 Bouton High School –  Voorheesville, N.Y.  Index: 2.165 (2008: #410, 2007: #395, 2006:#228, 2005: #270)  Course Guide Additional statistics from the 2007-2008 New York State Report Card: Total Graduates – 110; Total Noncompleters – 6; 4-Year College Plans – 75%.
  2. #1112 Albany High School – Albany, N.Y. Index: 1.432  (2006: #1146) Course Guide (Both AP & IB Courses Available)  Additional statistics from the 2007-2008 New York State Report Card: Total Graduates – 479 ; Total Noncompleters – 175; 4-Year College Plans – 29%.
  3. #1197 Bethlehem Central High School – Delmar, N.Y. Index: 1.352 (2008:#993, 2007: #930, 2006:#759, 2005:#638, 2003:#487) Course Guide Additional statistics from the 2007-2008 New York State Report Card: Total Graduates – approx. 400 (missing data); Total Noncompleters – 22 ; 4-Year College Plans – 80% (2006-2007 data)
  4. #1492 Shaker High School – Latham, N.Y. Index:1.067(2008: #1246, 2007: # 1159, 2005: #961, 2003: #601) Course Guide Additional statistics from the 2006-2007 New York State Report Card (2007-2008 data missing): Total Graduates – 425; Total Noncompleters – 31; 4-Year College Plans –  63%.
  5. #1524 Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School – Burnt Hills, N.Y.  Index: 1.036 (2008:#1227) Course Guide Additional statistics from the 2007-2008 New York State Report Card: Total Graduates – 275; Total Noncompleters – 15; 4-Year College Plans – 57%.

Looking through these schools’ course guides I was very impressed by what they offer.  The biggest difference that I noticed between these and other fine area schools that did not make the cut is that by and large these schools offer more foreign language options, although there were also extra courses in several content areas.

These extra course options are certainly great to have, but as a parent I would be very careful about making any secondary school decisions based on this list.  There’s a limit to how many classes any student will be able to take, especially if they’re balancing college track classes with interest-led electives.


In upcoming posts, Albany Kid will be looking at some of the interesting, and often unique, programs offered at area schools.  If you know of any educational programs, classes, or area schools that deserve recognition, please post a comment below or fill out the Contact Form under the Albany Kid “About” tab.

Disclaimer – Teen Daughter will be entering a public high school in 2010 that did not rank on the Challenge Index.

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| Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email:, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

Cie February 9, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Just curious where you drew your line for “Capital District”… For instance, did you include Saratoga county? What about the Glens Falls/Queensbury area?

Sandra Foyt February 9, 2010 at 10:04 pm

I only included Saratoga, Albany, Schenectady, and Rensselaer counties. I wasn’t sure that I would recognize all the towns belonging to other counties in the vicinity, but I did notice at least one school in Cooperstown and another in Columbia County.

I’d be curious to know if there are any other schools on the Challenge Index that fall in the Greater Capital Region are. Let me know if you see any on the index that is sorted for NY:
.-= Sandra Foyt´s last blog ..Russian Dancers Perform At Capital Region Schools =-.

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