Palo Alto and Gunn high schools were ranked among the top 100 in the nation by a U.S. News and World Report survey released today.
Out of 18,790 public high schools, Gunn netted 66th place and Paly trailed only slightly into 85th place.
The survey sought to measure a school's "college readiness" by comparing school scores to state averages and gave Gunn 64 out of 100 and Paly 60.3 out of 100.
Yet the rankings matter little, Gunn Principal Noreen Likins said.
"They will have no bearing at all on what we will do at school," she said.
"We do what we think serves our students best. That is not influenced by what some other outside agency says," she said.
Comparing schools' scores isn't useful, Gunn's student body president Max Keeler agreed.
"I don't think we need to make a big deal out of it because we don't need to focus on comparing ourselves to others schools," he said.
And focusing on rankings can create more stress for students, Paly sophomore Olivia Diamond said.
"A lot of the time test scores bring on a lot of pressure," she said.
To dampen the competitive atmosphere rankings can foment, Paly and Gunn opted not to participate in a Newsweek ranking last year that asked schools to reveal how many students took tests, Assistant Superintendent Scott Laurence said.
Yet the U.S. News survey required no active participation from schools, using data made available by states.
Only 40 states made the information available to the magazine publishing firm and others had incomplete data for the survey's chosen year of 2005-2006, according the U.S. News Web site.
College readiness was determined in a three-step process of comparing students' scores on math and reading proficiency exams to statewide averages, the site states. After looking at the school overall, judges then considered whether disadvantaged students, defined as black, Hispanic or low-income, outperformed averages in those categories.
Then the survey considered how many students took Advanced Placement exams and how many passed.
According to this scale, the number-one school in the nation is Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Va.