US News & World Report rolls out best high school list; few metro schools

At this rate, I will have to share my vast Get Schooled fortune — it’s all in pencils — with Ernest, who alerted me to the release of the US News & World Report best high schools list:

Maureen:

Per the subject, this is hot off the presses. Redan High School was the only DeKalb County High School to make the US News list. I saw one in Cobb (Marietta), 2 in Gwinnett (Central Gwinnett and Norcross) and 2 in Rockdale (Heritage and Rockdale County) from the metro area on the list. Ernest

The only Georgia high school to make the Top 100 Gold Medal list of overall best schools – coming in at No. 100 — is John S. Davisdon Fine Arts School, Augusta.

Georgia appears more frequently in lesser categories, For instance, Norcross and Calhoun high schools earn silver medals for their IB programs.

Among the high schools somewhere on various lists (There is a decided absence of metro schools for some reason.):

35 comments Add your comment

ATLNative

December 10th, 2009
7:58 pm

Maureen did you get my previous comment before you updated this post? I think the missing metro schools are explained in the fine print of the methodology…

HATL

December 10th, 2009
8:07 pm

I think it’s important to note that this ranks public schools. Atlanta area private schools are some of the best in the southeast, particularly Westminster, which is easily one of the top schools in the country, given its endowment, test scores, campus, etc.

Maureen Downey

December 10th, 2009
8:10 pm

AtlNative, I did not get that comment before the blog went down by mistake.
I did just read through the methodology, and still don’t know why it would rule out metro schools. (Other urban centers have schools in the top 100.)
What I read was that the magazine and its partner looked at whether test performance was better than statistically expected for the average student in the state. Then, they looked more closely at school’s least-advantaged students (black, Hispanic, and low income) to see if they were outpeforming their counterparts. And then they look at college readiness, using AP as an indictor.
How would that penalize us in particular, more than New York or Florida, both of which have more schools in the top 100? Did I miss something in the fine print?
Maureen

ATLNative

December 10th, 2009
8:22 pm

Maureen, I agree with you that the lack of metro schools initially looked suspicious. Using the methodology that the magazine implemented (AP exam passing rates, participation rates, AP classes per student), I would say at least 8-9 metro area schools would have made the list. Newsweek has a similar rating system and the results would probably look very similar. I compared a few sample schools and their rankings were similar under both lists. However, the caveat is that not all schools were even considered for this ranking…

The report states that only 288 out of 388 Georgia high schools were considered for this report (I think there is a summary page that I will try to find that lists the numbers by state). I suspect that some counties did not release detailed enough data to U.S. News for some of their schools. The lack of Fulton and Cobb schools in the list is especially glaring in this respect. Furthermore, given the strong rural representation on the list, I think it is highly likely that these 100 missing high schools are concentrated in metro Atlanta. Perhaps you could email the US News editor and inquire more into this.

Maureen Downey

December 10th, 2009
8:28 pm

ATLNAtIVE, Thanks. What’s interesting is that it would seem that the metro schools would have greater participation as they have more central office staff to respond to requests for data than the rural schools — at least that’s what I would assume. I will check this out with the magazine.
Thanks for the sleuthing.
Maureen

ATLNative

December 10th, 2009
8:45 pm

Normally that’s what I would assume too but when school districts as large as Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb and Gwinnett, which together have about 40% of the state’s enrollment, have so few schools on the list, I think lack of data at the county level is a logical explanation. I also wonder, however, given the methodology, if several schools were knocked out because they don’t have enough students of some subgroups for statistical analysis by the editors Some wealthier high school districts, for example, may not have enough “least advantaged” students for the magazine to compute numbers.

However, even if this is the case, there are several very integrated schools in the metro area that by my calculations (i.e. Grady, Decatur) should have made the list so I think lack of data at some level is responsible for what we are seeing.

barneyb

December 10th, 2009
8:48 pm

These results are not just highly suspect, they are largely a joke! I am very familiar with some of these school, and academically, socially, and crime-wise many of these school I would not wish on my worst enemy. To those deserving schools, congratulations. But we all know the story here- this is beyond laughable.

tcherlady77

December 10th, 2009
8:52 pm

Marietta high school is not a Cobb County School..it’s Marietta City.

V for Vendetta

December 10th, 2009
8:57 pm

ATLNative,

I’d say your reasoning is correct. I’m surprised by the absence of schools such as Lassiter, Walton, Northview, Brookwood, etc. They are far “better” schools than some of their neighbors on the list.

Consider this...

December 10th, 2009
8:59 pm

I believe that the determination for which schools make this list begins with the requirement that the achievement of the disadvantaged students must be more than one standard deviation above the predicted level of achievement, i.e., those affluent schools who normally receive so much attention for having good scores are not really facing the same challenges as those schools serving a more needy population. Check it out and see if I am correct.

Consider this...

December 10th, 2009
9:02 pm

I believe that in order for a school to be considered, the achievement scores of disadvantaged students had to be at least one standard deviation above the predicted level of achievement in order for a school to be considered, i.e., those affluent schools which normally receive so much attention for high scores are not facing the same challenges as those schools serving more needy populations. Can you find out if this is correct?

Michael

December 10th, 2009
9:03 pm

Southside is now Maynard Jackson and it is in Atlanta City Schools

Tony

December 10th, 2009
9:15 pm

I’m not sure, but I think this is the comparison that many high schools decided not to participate in. I’ll check further.

Margaret S. G.

December 10th, 2009
9:32 pm

Ware Magnet will be closing; a victim of the economy and/or politics. The students and staff are devastated.

Legend of Len Barker

December 10th, 2009
9:34 pm

It’s hard to take the list seriously when Mitchell-Baker is on the list. Because Mitchell-Baker does not exist. It has not existed since 2006! Mitchell County and Baker County are back to being separate high schools. At least Southside’s name change was fairly recent (2008).

I also raise eyebrows at some of the selections for the usual reasons. If AP availability is one of the considerations, the smaller non-metro schools puzzle me. My alma mater, which didn’t make the list, offers two AP exams. That’s assuredly as good as (if not better than) Montgomery County, Schley County, Mitchell County, and Claxton. And I wouldn’t be shocked if Washington-Wilkes and Greene County were in the same boat.

Mystifying list.

Legend of Len Barker

December 10th, 2009
9:42 pm

Ware Magnet’s closing? Drat. I’ve always felt the Ware County BOE didn’t give it due attention to begin with. The school opened in 1994 in the old Manor school building. The Manor school should have been a temporary home. A state-of-the-art school should at least be in a reasonably state-of-the-art building and not isolated off in the middle of the woods. I think Argyle has more industry than Manor.

I hate to admit it, but I love their gymnasium. Tiny, carpeted floors. Had personality.

David S

December 10th, 2009
10:19 pm

The best GOVERNMENT schools. What is the point of ranking them. They are all inherently based on the immoral principle of theft. They are all little more than prisons for the indoctrination of youth and the destruction of individuality and free thought.

#1 school in any town is located right at your kitchen table where you or your spouse homeschool your children and give them the best education real parenting can deliver.

zoe

December 10th, 2009
10:45 pm

I think the issue is the size of the schools in the metro area. Our schools are huge. The high school I graduated from is in the top 100 (another state, not Georgia) The school is a magnet school and has only has about 600 students. They also look at the performance on AP exams, not just taking AP exams (like Newsweek does) That is why there are so many Florida and Georgia schools in the Newsweek list, it is stacked to their advantage. Since students in Georgia can take one AP exam for free, whether or not they are prepared, and Free/Reduced lunch kids get to take all AP exams for free, that can drag down a school’s AP pass rate. This list just started a couple years ago, and it does take into account how minority and underserved populations are doing on standardized exams (someone else pointed that out) To me, its basically taking the NCLB subgroups and seeing who is doing a really good job.

Tech75

December 10th, 2009
11:22 pm

The Georgia data must not have been submitted correctly.

There is no way schools like Walton, Northview, or Milton, for instance, don’t make this list somewhere.

Ernest

December 11th, 2009
7:55 am

Maureen:

FWIW I’m partial to mechanical pencils. A nice pocket protector would do also… :)

I did forget to cite Southside in Fulton County. I referred to Marietta being in the county not the school district.

Based on several of the comments, I reread the methodology. It follows:

The 2010 U.S.News & World Report Americas Best High Schools methodology, developed by School Evaluation Services, a K-12 education data research business run by Standard & Poor’s, is based on the key principles that a great high school must serve all its students well, not just those who are collegebound, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators.

There are many GREAT schools in the metro Atlanta area that have historically been recognized for the academic successes. There were a few in DeKalb I expected to see on a list like this. Is it possible this particular study gave greater weight to the ‘diversity’ of the student body and the ability to reach across a wider spectrum to educate students?

Jennifer

December 11th, 2009
7:58 am

Interesting – I would love to see a comparison by subgroup of students “participating” in AP testing compared to the “passing” AP test rates by subgroup. I have been trying to get systems to release the “passing” test rates by subgroup for some time now – to no avail. If you find that information by district or school -please pass it on. It will likely put a whole different spin on why Georgia reports “participation” so frequently and it is very difficult to find the “passing” data. Thanks

RJ

December 11th, 2009
8:19 am

Southside HS is an APS school, not Fulton. This list is definitely a joke. Some of these schools are horrible and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.

North Fulton Mom

December 11th, 2009
8:45 am

Without any of the reputable metro area schools on the list, this report is meaningless. I agree with ATLNative, this is either 1) a case of missing data (and probably on a county level given the peculiar absence of a single Fulton or Cobb school on the list) and 2) a case of selective consideration where the 100 schools that were excluded had low numbers of Black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students, thus making it too difficult for the editors to compute numbers.

Maureen Downey

December 11th, 2009
9:22 am

RJ, Thanks for the note on Southside. The state of Georgia list created by US News is showing schools by county of location, so I have updated the post to reflect that Southside is an APS school and that it also has changed its name to Maynard H. Jackson High.
Maureen

Ernest

December 11th, 2009
9:35 am

RJ, which schools on this list do you feel are ‘horrible’ and why? That is a strange thing to say…

Czan

December 11th, 2009
10:24 am

While I would not go so far as to say certain schools are “horrible”, but it seems odd that you have schools such as Norcross and Maynard Jackson, but wouldn’t have diverse high-performing schools, such as Chamblee (Dekalb), Riverwood (Fulton), Grady (APS), Gwinnett School of Math, Science & Technology (Gwinnett), & Walton (Cobb). All of the aforementioned public schools are sufficiently diverse in my opinion, so I think this must be a failure to submit data. Some of the schools I mentioned are charter schools, so perhaps they were not considered?

However, kudos to Norcross & Maynard Jackson for improving test scores for their students – I think that’s fantastic regardless of whether your children go to school there or not. But it seems a bit erroneous to have a “best public schools” list that clearly leaves out the top schools in the Metro area.

RJ

December 11th, 2009
11:06 am

@Ernest, I worked at a school on this list and the students will tell you that it’s horrible! Wouldn’t send my worst enemy there!

[...] more here: US News & World Report rolls out best high school list; few metro … By admin | category: best schools | tags: career-opportunities, ernest, field, finest, [...]

Barney Fife

December 11th, 2009
11:54 am

And so it’s come to this. These days you can’t give a kid a zero. You can only go as low as 50 on a test. Even in sports, everyone gets a trophyl. No one fails. And we wonder why the US has fallen behind, why we arn’t competitive anymore? It’s because we don’t expect it or promote it in our children. This so called list of great schools is a sham! Raise the bar for all. Black, white, red, green. If you expect more you will get more.

high school teacher

December 11th, 2009
2:16 pm

“There is no way schools like Walton, Northview, or Milton, for instance, don’t make this list somewhere.”

According to the Georgia Department of Education’s website, in the 2008-2009 school year:

Northview had a 4% economically disadvantaged population of 2700+ students – that’s 108 students.
Milton had a 5% e.d. population of 2300 students- 115 students.
Walton had a 3% e.d.population of 2300+students – 69 students.

Bowdon High School (Carroll County), one of the schools on the list, had a 56% e.d. population of 476 students – 267 students.

I’m willing to bet that this may be one reason that these schools are absent from the list; they are good schools, but they don’t have the same types of obstacles to overcome as those on the top 100 list. Also look at the percentage of e.d kids enrolled in AP classes. I’m sure that’s a factor as well.

high school teacher

December 11th, 2009
2:23 pm

My post must have gone in the dryer with the other sock…

Anyway, look at the percentage of economically disadvantaged students of the schools on the list. Walton, Northview, and Milton have a 3-5% e.d. population, but Bowdon (Carroll) has a 56% e.d. population. I got my figures from the GA DOE report card section of their home page.

On a side note, the GA DOE website is fairly difficult to navigate, for those who haven’t tried.

high school teacher

December 11th, 2009
3:01 pm

Maureen, I posted two comments that still aren’t here; can you check the cess pool? Thanks!

Attentive Parent

December 12th, 2009
11:35 am

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/ is jay mathews’ story from yesterday asking the same questions about the schools on the US News list.

[...] 25% – Morganton, NC 12% – Charlotte, NC 10% – Hickory, NC US News & World Report rolls out best high school list; few metro … Dec 10, 2009 Among the high schools somewhere on various lists (There is a decided absence of [...]

bee

December 18th, 2009
12:58 pm

Georgia has bad schools when compared to other states — period. I don’t know why anyone is that surprised. We don’t pay enough taxes to have good schools, and states with good schools pay higher taxes (CT, MA — all of New England, basically).