WESLACO – The Washington Post has released its Most Challenging High Schools in America list and IDEA Public Schools has filled half to the top 10.
The rankings of the schools are as follows: No. 3 IDEA Frontier, No. 4 IDEA Mission, No. 5 IDEA San Juan, No. 6 IDEA San Benito and No. 9 IDEA Quest.
Of 30,000 high schools in America The Washington Post ranks the top 2,000 high schools. Tom Torkelson, CEO of IDEA Public Schools said having half of the top 10 from the Rio Grande Valley is great because of the type of rhetoric heard in the media these days that concern the border.
“We have something incredibly proud to announce to the rest of America with all that's happening in our border region,” he said. “Nobody can hold a candle to what our young people from this community can achieve.”
Torkelson said these rankings are important because it means that students will be more prepared for the rigors of college. Whether or not they graduate from college depends on if the students were challenged in high school.
One student from IDEA San Juan who has faced the rigors of No. 5 most challenging school in the nation is senior Leo Tamez.
Tamez addressed those in attendance at the rankings event about his experience with IDEA.
Next year Tamez will attend Brown University as a student in their school of biology. He's been a student at IDEA for seven years.
“The teachers at IDEA San Juan have taught me not only the what but the how,” Tamez said.
His time as a student was spent by asking questions, learning by doing, making mistakes and trying again and again until he mastered each class.
Tamez stressed that the type of education that builds knowledge was not easy. He worked hard and passed four advance placement exams and became a recipient of the Dell Scholarship.
“I come from a low income family and I have heard the statistics that I am not expected to go to college, much less graduate,” he said. “But like 100 percent of my fellow graduating seniors I will attend college and after four years I will attend medical school.”
Currently the national average for low-income hispanic youths graduating college is at nine percent. IDEA Public Schools students are just a hair under 50 percent graduation rate from college.
“It's not good enough,” Torkelson said. “We need to get up there, if you're born in a upper-income family you have a 77 percent chance of graduating college.”
Torkelson wants his schools to close the gap and has a goal of having three-out-of-four kids graduating college.
To get there Torkelson said they need to make sure more students are taking challenging advanced placement courses and advance placement exams.
“Obviously it makes kids smarter with the amount you have to read and sit down four three hours straight,” he said. “That's what it takes to succeed in A.P., succeed in college and frankly to succeed in life.”
Editor's Notes: IDEA Donna appeared on the list at No. 84. They are an International Baccalaureate, also known as IB school. The Washington Post rankings are different when it comes to IB schools.