Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews has unleashed his annual Challenge Index for the schools in this area. The index is created by taking the total number of Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) tests taken by students at a school and dividing it by the number of graduating seniors. It doesn’t take into account the scores received by students on those tests.

I have my doubts about the value of such a ranking, although Mathews does say that the Index is “not a measure of the overall quality” of a school but is just “one factor”. Unfortunately, many school administrators will ignore that qualification and grab on to this one number and wave it for all it’s worth. On the other side, the critics of school with lower scores will do the same.

But I also have a problem with an index like this not factoring in the student’s scores. If AP and IB classes are open to all students who want to attempt them, which Mathews strongly supports, then there should also be some kind of measure of how successful they are in those classes. After all, just taking a class is pretty meaningless if a student learns little and scores poorly on the test designed to measure their learning.