You can see if your high school ranked here: U.S. News National Rankings Best High Schools.
Our own local high school is ranked, and moved up well in the rankings, but what does it mean?
According to U.S. News, the rankings are based on “overall student performance on state-mandated assessments, as well as how effectively schools educated their black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students. We then used participation in and performance on AP and IB exams to evaluate how well schools prepared students for college-level course work.”
So basically, the schools are ranked according to how schools perform on standardized tests. Because even AP tests, for all their lofty standards, are still just standardized tests. It also means that it ranks high schools only by how well they prepare students for college, not on how well they prepare students for life, careers, or creating their own jobs. All things I’m thinking about with what I want my kids to get out of their high school experience.
The fact that the ranking is based directly on how the schools performed on AP tests got my attention, because I’ve really been trying to figure out if a heavy load of advanced placement courses is the best path to success or if the answer to success is to not take a full load of advanced placement courses.
I couldn’t help but contrast this to a TED Radio Hour I recently listened to, that challenges how modern society defines success: Ted Radio Hour, Success. You can also find the TED Radio Hour on itunes. I listened to it using the app IPP Podcast on my android phone. In particular it made me think of the points that Angela Duckworth measures success more by “grit.” I’ve encountered her research in my reading about education. It also made me think of the assertion of Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs that the way we define success means that society is now in dire need to train people with skills.
The way U. S. News ranks high schools doesn’t take any of this into account. It seems biased in that after standardized state tests the only criteria used is performance on AP and IB exams. I think, however, that AP exams are much more prevalent. And when you look at the fact that the College Board administers both AP exams and the all-important SAT and PSAT exams, it appears that one company is getting rather an over-sized share of influence on how we’re educating our high school students.
While you can find plenty of critics for U.S. News college rankings, their high school rankings don’t get much attention. But I found a few references.
And it looks like a local blog breaks it down in terms of what they know about their local school in BASIS and University High Are Top U.S. High Schools, Which Means . . .?
And there are some common sense analysis at Surprise! School for gifted kids is nation’s top high school.
As for our own local school, I think it’s a great high school. But I’m not sure that the number of AP classes the students take is the most important aspect. More on that in future posts…
What do you think? Was your high school in the rankings?