McAllen ISD has multiple schools recognized among “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” for the third straight year.

A national publication recognized four McAllen ISD schools on Friday. These are Achieve Early College High School, McAllen High School, McAllen Memorial High and James “Nikki” Rowe High.

The Washington Post’s Education Columnist Jay Matthews released his annual rankings of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools.” Only about 12 percent of high schools nationwide made the cut.

The list ranks schools through an index formula that is a simple ratio: the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a school each year, divided by the number of seniors who graduated that year. A ratio of 1.0 means the school had as many tests as graduates.

Just over 2,300 high schools in the nation and 140 in Texas made the list. Here is how McAllen ISD’s schools ranked nationally:

Achieve Early College High School No. 204

McAllen Memorial High School No. 636

James “Nikki” Rowe High School No. 730

McAllen High School No. 1,617

These rankings come one week after U.S. News & World Report released its “Best High Schools Rankings 2017” list. Achieve Early College High earned a Gold Medal and national ranking while Rowe High earned a Silver Medal and national ranking on the U.S. News list.

“That (national recognition) goes out to everybody in our district working together,” McAllen ISD Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez, Ed.D., said. “We know it all starts at the elementary level. We have very strong elementary schools that push through our strong middle schools and, ultimately, to our high schools that are recognized.”

U.S. News & World Report looks at different criteria than The Washington Post. For U.S. News, schools were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals based on their performance on state assessments, their graduation rates and how well they prepare students for college.

McAllen ISD offers Advanced Placement courses where students may take exams to earn dual credit for college and high school. McAllen ISD also offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at the high school level. This is a globally–recognized advanced academic program, provides opportunity for students to graduate with an IB diploma – worth at least 24 college credit hours at any state university in Texas. The I.B. Diploma Programme is housed at Lamar Academy.

McAllen ISD’s three comprehensive high schools offer a wide range of opportunities for students which include athletics, fine arts and Career Technical Education (CTE) courses.

The Achieve Early College High School opened in 2008. Students are able to attend college while attending high school for dual credit (counts for both high school and college requirements) with the added bonus of taking courses within STC’s modern facilities. It houses approximately 400 students.

Achieve Early College High School is a Texas Education Agency Rewards School – the highest category on state testing. It is the top ECHS in partnership with STC having awarded the most Associate Degrees. The school is a national 2015 Blue Ribbon School. Achieve was one of just six high schools in the state to earn a Blue Ribbon in 2015.

In 2016, 77 Achieve graduates earned their Associate’s Degree before even graduating from high school. This was at no cost to their families. Through a partnership with South Texas College, it is based at STC’s campus on Pecan Blvd. In fact, it is the only ECHS in the Valley to be housed on a college campus.