NATIONAL LIST: Two Area Schools Recognized

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Of the more than 22,000 American high schools, only nine-percent made the cut and only two of them from central Iowa.

The new list is called "America's Most Challenging Schools" and its rankings are based on the number of Advanced Placement tests taken each year by students. For the third straight year, a Des Moines school is on the list.

Inside the halls, students know it for TR. But outside, it’s becoming known for different letters: AP.

“We have over 1,000 students enrolled in AP courses, this year,” says AP teacher, Steve Perkins.

No school in the metro is preparing more students for college than Roosevelt High School thanks to the proliferation of its Advanced Placement programs.

“It gives me a chance to really show that I’m responsible and ready for college,” says AP student, Integrity Narcisse, a Roosevelt senior.

“A lot of the classes I take are far too easy for me and at least I’m interested in school when I take harder classes,” admits sophomore Victoria Monson.

Roosevelt and Ames High Schools are the only two central Iowa schools to register in the Washington Post’s newest rankings of America’s most challenging schools. Roosevelt’s three year climb up the rankings coincides with its recent push to expand the AP program.

“Just increase the amount of AP courses," says Perkins, "you’re going to hit more student interests and you’re going to get more overall people to enroll in AP classes.”

Decades ago, students took one or two AP courses in high school but now…

“My first one was AP US History," says Connor Bredbeck, senior, "then AP Language and Composition, AP Psychology, AP Literature, AP Bio and…”

…Connor has pretty much finished his freshman year of college. After all, AP students who score high enough in the year-end test can get college credit.

“Yeah, that was the big stress with my parents, especially," laughs senior Travis Reinders. "You can imagine.”

No doubt. Travis is headed to USC, where tuition this year ran almost $47,000. To him, each AP course is worth almost $5,000.

“The credit is great, there’s a big perk," says AP English teacher, Elizabeth Sheridan. "But when you’re gonna sit in this classroom every day for 180 days, it has to be worth your time.”

And students say AP classes certainly are.

“It is the only class in my entire schedule that really requires a higher form of thinking and understanding to pursue,” says a modest Preston Reed, sophomore.

A pretty impressive answer, but these are exceptional kids in an exceptional time at old TR.

In all, over 2,000 schools averaged at least one test per student. Only seven are in Iowa. Ames High School is one of those.


  • Andrea Baker

    Can Andy Fales find out for us, how well those students who take AP Classes and exams at their home schools do compared to how Central Academy Students do? Seems the district doesn’t want to release those numbers. Can he find out how many of the Roosevelt Students in this study actually took some or all AP classes at Central Academy? The claim is that there is no overlap. There is reason to believe this is false information. Can he find out how many of those students actually scored a 4 or better – this is what colleges are looking for. Perhaps giving Amber Graeber 3 minutes in the chair could enlighten us all.

  • Bill Day

    Central Academy is a location that local high schools use to enhance the education of their respective students whether they are Polar Bears, Railsplitters, or Roughriders. It is certainly an exceptional place, and we in DSM are lucky to have access to an Academy. However, until CA puts on a school play, a concert, fields a softball team, and hosts a track meet while still educating its students, it is irrelevant to compare it to any of the schools on this list.
    Hats off to the teachers and students of all the successful Iowa schools on the list….I am especially proud of my neighborhood school! Go Riders!

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