High school students have received their grades for the 2017-18 school year. Now, it’s time for the Coachella Valley high schools to get theirs and who better to hand them out than the prestigious U.S. News & World Report in its highly anticipated Best High Schools Ranking issue.

Three desert high schools names are forever pressed in the pages of the iconic national magazine. They are La Quinta High School, Palm Desert High School and Cathedral High School.

The two Desert Sands High Schools  — La Quinta and Palm Desert — earned silver medals in the review. Palm Desert High School ranked 395th within the state of California out of a ranking of more than 2,000 schools. La Quinta High School also earned a silver medal, ranking 485 in the state. More than 20,000 schools were ranked nationwide.

“The recognition of Palm Desert High School and La Quinta High School by U.S. News and World Report is a testament to the rigorous coursework and tremendous effort of Desert Sands staff and students,” Scott Bailey, superintendent of Desert Sands Unified School, said in a prepared statement.

For Dennis Zink, who has been principal at Palm Desert High School since Dec. 14, 2017, it was a first. Though Palm Desert High School has routinely made the list, this was his inaugural win.

“I’m really excited,” Zink told Uken Report. “It’s awesome.

He quickly pivoted to heap praise on those on whose shoulders he stands.

“It’s due to the incredible efforts of staff and faculty for setting high expectations for student learning,” Zink said. “It is also due to the students buying into the fact that rigorous coursework is important.”

As an example of that, Palm Desert High School students completed nearly 1,000 Advanced Placement courses in May with a nearly unprecedented 70 percent pass rate.

This was also the first year Palm Desert completed a two-year AP Capstone program. Palm Desert is one of only 300 high schools in the nation to offer the course.

The exclusive AP Capstone is an innovative diploma program that provides students with an opportunity to engage in rigorous scholarly practice of the core academic skills necessary for successful college completion. It was developed by the College Board, a private nonprofit corporation formed in 1900 as the College Entrance Examination Board to expand access to higher education. This exclusive program is based on advanced placement courses in which students complete graduate level work.

The only other school in the Valley to receive a ranking was Cathedral City High School with a bronze medal and a ranking of 539 in the state.

“CCHS is proud to be recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a ranked high school,” CCHS Principal Guillermo Chavez said in a prepared statement. “We believe that the success of our school is due to the dedication of the staff, students and community. Our Academy, AVID and International Baccalaureate Programs work in unison with our extra-curricular offerings in order to provide a well-rounded experience for our students.”

The process begins with a list of 28,813 public high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Some are eliminated from consideration based on their student population which may be too small to be analyzed. The actual review list was 20,548. A four-step process is used. The first three steps use performance on math and reading parts of state proficiency tests and graduation rates. Schools passing these first steps were then assessed by the number of students preparing for college-level work. This was determined by test data from the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate test data.

Additional information on the list including more detailed ranking information can be found here.