U.S. News’ 2009 America’s Best High Schools

U.S. News and World Report  recently published their “America’s Best High Schools” and as predicted, it is ruffling  a few feathers as demonstrated by the comments on their website.  Both this ranking and the Newsweek ranking use a similar formula.

Newsweek’s rankings are determined by taking the number of AP and/or IB exams administered divided by the number of seniors while U.S. News and World Report’s methodology  sounds more complex, but basically boils down to the same thing.  U.S. News there are a couple of preliminary criteria schools must meet in order to have their “college readiness” index calculated.  They also have a factor that looks at the scores students receive on the exams, not just the  number of exams that are administered.

So the big question, is the number of AP/IB exams divided by the number of seniors an accurate measure of the best high schools in America? 

One of the positives to this ranking system is that the AP and IB exams are graded nationally and therefore a good way to compare students nationally.  Individual states have different exams to evaluate students and/or schools.  Due to differences in these assessments it is hard to compare schools nationally.

I guess one of the  problems I have with these ranking systems is that they favor schools with small senior classes.  Locally we have a charter school that gives a large number of AP exams.  The trick is that they also have a smaller senior class as many students choose to switch to larger high schools to get “the full high school experience”.  Since the senior class is smaller their “college readiness” score is higher (lots of juniors taking APs). 

There are some additional stats that are interesting  that make it fairly apparent that a school’s socioeconomic status is a large contributing factor. 

Is it really possible to determine the “Best High Schools in America”?  More likely there are some schools that are better for some students and others that are better for other students.  Of course the problem is knowing which school might be best for your kids.  Personally, the best school for my kids is their neighborhood school, but this is just our family’s opinion.  I have heard it said that 85% of
Americans believe that their kids’ schools  are doing a good job while at the same time 85% of Americans believe that our education system is in deep trouble.  Obviously, perception changes everything.

Please share your thoughts on these ranking systems.  What would you use for criteria if you had to rank schools?

One Response to “U.S. News’ 2009 America’s Best High Schools”

  1. […] is a feather in their cap, something that brings the school great recognition.  With Newsweek and US News and Reports using AP participation in their calculation of the Nation’s “Best High Schools”, […]