This year, once again, Tucson will bask in the knowledge that two of its charter schools–Basis and University High School– are among the top schools in the nation, according to the US News and World Report survey.

But, says, Tim Steller, these schools are atypical. He says that because the schools are so highly selective, the rankings don’t mean much.

He writes:

“Both Basis and UHS are selective – UHS formally so through an entrance exam and Basis informally so through high workloads that lead to attrition – meaning they end up with the students who perform highest at academics in the Tucson area. The rankings also reflect the number of kids taking Advanced Placement exams, an old-fashioned measure that doesn’t necessarily reflect the best education available.

“They’re gauging success on the fact that a lot of their kids take AP tests,” Tucson education consultant Jonathan Martin, the former head of St. Gregory school, told me. “It’s an absurd gauge.”

Basis and UHS then use the rankings to attract the area’s higher-performing students, which ensures that they’ll be highly ranked again the next year. Both schools feature their rankings prominently on the opening page of their websites.

In the end, U.S. News and World Report is happy, the College Board, which runs the AP system, is happy, and the schools are happy.”

These two successful schools prove the obvious: any school that seeks a high performing student body will get high scores.

The best part about the story is that a wise journalist had the good sense to realize the importance of looking at admission practices and attrition. That’s a good sign.