URBANA — The University of Illinois Laboratory High School in Urbana has ranked among the top 1,000 public high schools in the country by Newsweek and The Daily Beast.
The top high school in Illinois according to the ranking system was Northside College Prep in Chicago (which ranked 28th nationally), followed by Walter Payton College Prep in Chicago and Whitney M. Young Magnet High School also in Chicago. Uni High School ranked highest among high schools outside of the Chicago metro region.
Uni ranked high nationally in college-preparatory exam scores, but did not rank as high in categories that considered Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, which the school does not offer.
The average SAT score for Uni High was 2045, putting the school in 10th place nationally for that category, above such elite Illinois schools as Whiney Young, Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire and New Trier High School in Winnetka.
The average ACT at Uni was 31, also above Northside College Prep. Uni tied for sixth place nationally for ACT scores.
The rankings list was based on six components: graduation rate (25 percent), college matriculation rate (25 percent), AP/IB/AICE tests taken per student (25 percent), average SAT/ACT scores (10 percent), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10 percent), and AP courses offered per student (5 percent).
In previous years Newsweek and the Washington Post collaborated on an annual compilation of top high schools, and for several years in a row Uni was named a "public elite." The newspaper now manages the "Washington Post High School Challenge," and Newsweek and the Daily Beast have their own.
Uni is a public high school on the UI campus with selective admissions. Students apply by submitting an application, SSAT (Secondary Schools Admission Test) scores, recommendations and more. The school has students in grades 9 through 12, plus a combined "subfreshman" 7th- and 8th-grade class.
Because students are admitted selectively, it's not easy to compare Uni to other public high schools, according to Marianne Downey, director of advancement at Uni.
"The Newsweek rankings this year include a heavy emphasis on AP and IB coursework and test scores," Downey said. "We're not an AP/IB school. Our faculty are highly credentialed (with most having at least master's degrees and some with Ph.D.s); they create their own cutting-edge curriculum," she said.
"Our curriculum is as rigorous if not more rigorous than AP coursework. Our students have the ability, if they choose to do so, to take actual college courses on campus. ... They just need to walk across the street," she said.
Another category where the high school ranked lower than some other elite high schools on the list was the percentage of graduates who go on to enroll in college. Downey pointed out that many of Uni's students have skipped a grade and sometimes parents and students choose to wait a year before enrolling them in college, she said.
"About 10 percent (of graduates) go on to have a gap year in public service or traveling abroad," she said before they attend college.
Nationally, Uni High came in at 384 on the ranking list and University High School in Normal was ranked 547 nationally.
According to the rankings, 100 percent of graduates at Uni graduated within four years, 89 percent of graduates are accepted to a college program and 5 percent receive subsidized lunches.