BASIS Tucson charter school has once again been named one of the top high schools in the nation.

In fact, three Tucson schools ranked in the top 40.

The school ranked fourth on the Washington Post’s Challenge Index, which was previously published in Newsweek.

The Challenge Index measures the rigor of schools’ academic programs by calculating the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests taken at the school in relation to the number of graduating seniors.

BASIS Tucson was the only Arizona school to crack the list’s top 10 in the country.

Other local schools noted on the list include:

• No. 27: Sonoran Science Academy

• No. 34: University High School

• No. 1474: Canyon Del Oro High School

• No. 1876: Ironwood Ridge High School

BASIS Tucson has been a regular on the national list, coming in sixth last year, fifth in 2009, and first place in 2008.

The school is AP-based, which means all students are required to take at least eight AP courses and six exams to graduate.

AP exams assess college readiness. A score of 3 or higher out of 5 indicates a student is capable of successfully completing entry level coursework in college.

In 2010, 134 Basis Tucson students took 344 AP exams. Of those, 87 percent scored at least one 3, and 37 percent scored at least one 5.

“I am so pleased to see the hard work and talents of the students and teachers at BASIS Tucson recognized in this way,” said Head of School Julia Toews. “The achievements of our students are reflective of the great potential of Tucson.”

BASIS operates schools in Tucson, Scottsdale and Oro Valley and will open three more for the 2011-12 school year in Chandler, Flagstaff and Peoria.

Last month it also received conditional approval to take BASIS to Washington, D.C. for the 2012-13 school year. The school will serve grades five through 12.

The District of Columbia Public Charter School Board indicated there were concerns about how the BASIS academic model will be adapted to the demographic profile of students in D.C. Full approval will only be awarded if BASIS can meet certain conditions.

“Each community presents new opportunities and new challenges,” said Nick Fleege, director of new school development for BASIS schools. “But the BASIS model rests on a proven academic program which can be replicated and adjusted to fit the diverse backgrounds and needs of students in various geographic locations.”

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at or 573-4175.