"We don't put much weight into any single ranking given," Peterson said. "We try to take a holistic approach."
The Newsweek report states the rankings are based on how hard school staffs work to challenge students with advanced-placement college-level courses and tests. Only 6% of the nation's public schools made Newsweek's list.
The difference between Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report's assessment is how students performed on their AP tests. U.S. News and World Report takes this into account, but Newsweek does not. Their rankings are determined solely by totaling the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests administered each year and dividing it by the number of graduating seniors.
"We put less credence in the Newsweek one than others because we believe it lies specifically on one measure," Peterson said. "We believe any ranking on any single piece of data is probably not one to be taken with too much weight.
"We certainly appreciate if it shows we are doing well among our peers, but a measure of a school's education program is not simply the percentage of students who take AP exams. I don't think anyone would think that would be a justifiable proxy of a program's strength."
U.S. News and World Report's list of the nation's top high schools was based on data taken from the 2007-08 school year. La Cañada made its 2010 Gold Medal List of the top 100 high schools in America. LCHS was also among the top 15 high schools in California.
La Cañada High averaged 3.6 tests taken per senior and a 67.9 college readiness ranking in the U.S. News and World Report's list.
"This is about what our kids are doing and how they're learning," Peterson said. "We just care they are learning the best they can."