11 Gwinnett schools best in US
Berkmar has highest rank in the county

LAWRENCEVILLE - Eleven of Gwinnett County's high schools are among the top 5 percent of public schools in the nation, according to a list published by Newsweek.

Berkmar High School's rank - No. 336 on the list of more than 1,300 schools - was the best in Gwinnett. The Lilburn school was also honored this month by the College Board for increasing the number of advanced placement tests taken by students.

The school's principal, Ken Johnson, said the Newsweek ranking is a "neat recognition."

"It's absolutely indicative of the hard work our faculty and students have put into the AP program," he said.

In seven years, the number of advanced placement exams taken by Berkmar High student quadrupled. In the 2000-01 school year, 219 AP tests were taken; in 2006-07, the number had climbed to 864.

Johnson credits the growth to "stretch performance" - an initiative that encourages students to take more rigorous classes. He said he wants the number of college-level tests taken by students to continue to grow.

"We're sending additional teachers to AP training this summer," he said. "I want the philosophy of the stretch performance initiative to permeate the entire building."

The schools on Newsweek's list are ranked by the Challenge Index, a formula developed by Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews. A school's rank is determined by the number of advanced placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge exams taken by all students at a school in 2007 divided by the number of graduating seniors.

The other Gwinnett high schools on the list are North Gwinnett, Norcross, Duluth, Brookwood, Central Gwinnett, Parkview, Peachtree Ridge, Grayson, Dacula and Collins Hill.