For Wauwatosa East High Principal Nick Hughes, it isn't quite as much about being good as about getting better.
East has been named the 358th best public high school in the nation by Newsweek magazine in a ranking based on criteria developed by a panel of secondary education experts.
"Being on that list is quite an honor," Hughes said. "I think it speaks to what our kids are doing, what our teachers are doing, what the district is doing.
"It makes me feel really good, but I'd like to move up that list."
Tosa East was ranked sixth among 12 Wisconsin high schools in the Newsweek 500; topped the state in the rankings at No. 174 in the nation.
"Good for them," Hughes said. "That would be more my yardstick, comparing how we're doing with other districts in the area that have similar demographics."
In addition to Brookfield Central, those other area schools are Homestead (205), Cedarburg (258), New Berlin West (325), Shorewood (379), New Berlin Eisenhower (414), Pewaukee (435) and Waukesha West (491), putting Wauwatosa East about in the middle of the best.
The Newsweek ranking is based on six weighted components: graduation rate (25 percent), college entry rate (25 percent), Advanced Placement tests taken per graduate (25 percent), average SAT/ACT scores (10 percent), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10 percent) and AP courses offered (5 percent).
Wauwatosa East couldn't have done much better in graduation (97 percent) and college placement (93 percent), and actually topped Brookfield Central (88%) in the latter category.
Where the real separation seemed to come was in the several criteria involving Advanced Placement offerings and testing. Tosa East's cumulative ranking in the AP categories was 1.2, while Brookfield Central rated a 2.4.
The Wauwatosa School District has been taking steps to increase and broaden its AP offerings and to make sure more students can take them. The district is instituting foreign language AP courses for the first time and recently announced plans to offer more English AP courses by the 2012-13 school year.
"We have to look at other opportunities for our students, though, to start taking AP courses earlier and in more areas that interest them," Hughes said.
"Kettle Moraine is offering freshman AP geography. There are a couple of other opportunities, I think, to expand and get students started, such as looking at AP history.
"Right now, AP is not available in (grades) 9 and 10," Hughes said. "It's possible that students don't get interested early enough and then are overloaded in 11 and 12."
East, along with many other schools, was unable to compile its average of ATC and SAT scores for the year ending in time for the rankings, Hughes said, so he supposed he magazine would have used the 2009-2010 ACT score, which was 24.1.
"Those scores come out in July," Hughes said. "Our goal is to get to 26. That's an elite goal."