Butler, South Meck, Cox Mill rank in N.C.’s top 10

Butler, South Mecklenburg and Cox Mill high schools are among the top 10 in North Carolina in this year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings of the nation’s best high schools.

The rankings, which were released early Tuesday, grade high schools on student proficiency and by the number of students who take advanced-level courses.

Butler, third in the state in last year’s rankings, was No. 5 this year in North Carolina. South Mecklenburg and Cabarrus County’s Cox Mill, which were not among the state’s leaders a year ago, are seventh and ninth this year.

Suburban schools like Matthews’ Butler High took four of the top five places in North Carolina. Ranked first through fourth were Green Hope High in Cary, West Forsyth High outside Winston-Salem, Panther Creek High in Apex, and Hendersonville High.

Green Hope and West Forsyth were awarded Gold Medal status by U.S. News & World Report. Schools ranked third through 36th earned Silver Medal status.

Green Hope, the top North Carolina school, was 304th nationally.

Other area schools receiving Silver Medal awards were Newton-Conover (13th in the state), Boiling Springs Crest (16th), Indian Trail Porter Ridge (18th), Mooresville (19th), Central Cabarrus (21st), Olympic High’s Biotech and Health School (23rd), Hopewell (28th), Independence (30th), Kings Mountain (33rd) and Lincolnton (35th).

Two schools in last year's top 10 are not around this year’s rankings: North Mecklenburg High was eighth in 2013 and Salisbury High was 10th. Neither are among the top 36 schools that won Gold or Silver awards this year.

U.S. News & World Report said the first level of judging looks at student performance on state tests compared to state averages. At the second level, a school’s low-income students’ test scores are compared to other low-income students in the state. The third level looks at the percentage of a school’s students in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses.

The rankings have come under fire from some critics who say schools with small numbers of low-income students don’t have enough test scores to compare with other schools in the state. Others say schools should be ranked over several years.