Phoenixville Tops All but One on List of Chesco’s Most Challenging High Schools


Sometimes a good challenge is all it takes to push students to achieve their full potential, and in Chester County, that’s happening the most at Downingtown STEM, Phoenixville, Conestoga, Great Valley, Unionville, and Downingtown East high schools.

All six ranked among Pennsylvania’s Top 20 in The Washington Post’s 2017 listing of America’s Most Challenging High Schools.

The annual scoresheet grades schools on the number of college-level Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given each year, divided by the number of seniors who graduated that year.

“In 1998, the first year of what I call the Challenge Index, only about one percent of U.S. schools qualified,” said Post reporter Jay Mathews. “The number this year is up to about 12 percent.”


Downingtown STEM was best in the state and No. 118 in the nation. There, 99.5 percent of grads passed at least one of the college-level tests, and its total was just shy of six tests per student.

Phoenixville edged out Conestoga as fifth and sixth in the state with 3.4 and 3.2 tests-per-student totals, respectively. Great Valley came in ninth at 2.7, Unionville 12th at 2.5 and Downingtown East 19th at almost 2.2.

“The average score on all AP exams has held steady from 2003 to 2016 despite the portion of low-income test-takers increasing from 9.5 to 21.8 percent,” the article stated.

Of the Top 20, Phoenixville’s 25 percent of students who qualified for lunch subsidies was the county’s highest potential for low-income test-takers.

Read more details of the rankings in The Washington Post here.

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