Seven Long Island schools are among the top 200 on this year's America's Most Challenging High Schools list, prepared annually by The Washington Post.
Jericho, Locust Valley, South Side in Rockville Centre, Manhasset, Cold Spring Harbor, The Wheatley School in Old Westbury and Syosset are in the top tier of the national ranking.
The list, compiled by Post reporter Jay Mathews since 1998, is based on the number of college-level tests -- Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education -- given during the school year, divided by the number of that class' graduating seniors. It does not include passing rates, because schools can keep those "artificially high," Mathews wrote in an accompanying article.
He said the Challenge list released Monday has more than 2,000 public schools.
It's important for average students to take the tests, he wrote, so they can "experience the trauma of heavy college reading lists and long, analytical college examinations."
The index's aim is to "identify schools that have done the best job in persuading average students to take college-level courses and tests," he wrote.
In keeping with that aim, Jericho High School has "open enrollment . . . so any student who wants to does not have to jump through hoops or meet prerequisites to take an AP course," said Henry L. Grishman, superintendent of Jericho Public Schools. "We encourage all of our students to challenge themselves."
Jericho ranks number 83 on the national list, and number three on a Northeast regional list, which features 14 Long Island schools among the top 50.
At Locust Valley High School, which was 91st nationally and sixth regionally, students "are not anointed. They self-select and do the very best they can," said Anna Hunderfund, district superintendent.
Students come from homes of "various degrees of wealth, or lack of it," she said. The percentage of the district's students on free or reduced lunch and those for whom English is not their first language amount to close to 20 percent.
"That we would rank at this level is what I think is the American dream," Hunderfund said.
Also featured on the list are percentages of students whose families qualify for lunch subsidies, as well as percentages of graduating seniors "who passed at least one college-level test during their high school career."