Newsweek Ranks Top High Schools in the Country

Published July 06, 2011 |
Newsweek Ranks Top High Schools in the Country
Newsweek’s annual ranking of the best high schools in America has just been released based upon wider criteria than ever before. See where your high school stands and which campuses won the top accolades.
There is no doubt that many high schools across the country have faced serious challenges in light of the current economic slowdown. With shrinking budgets and the pressures of standardized test scores, schools have made difficult decisions regarding staffing, programs and resources. With attention to these circumstances, the annual ranking conducted by Newsweek made some significant changes to take the challenges into account. With an expanded advisory board and a wider range of criteria, the publication recently released its ranking of the top 500 high schools in America. We’ll examine the criteria used by Newsweek to make their choices and highlight some of the schools that made the top of the list this year.

How Best to Rank High Schools?
When Newsweek embarked on this project for the current year, it was no easy task. In previous years, the publication had ranked schools based solely on the number of AP tests taken by each graduate at the school, according to a report at Huffington Post. This year, Newsweek wanted to focus less on mere achievement and more on the solutions high schools were finding to ensure the success of their students. To this end, Newsweek enlisted the assistance of a new set of education specialists to help them develop a set of criteria that would more effectively identify the best schools in the nation.
According to a report at Newsweek, the panel of experts the publication assembled included Wendy Kopp of Teach for America, Tom Vander Ark of Open Education Solutions and Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford professor of education and founder of the School of Redesign Network. These education gurus came up with a new yardstick to accurately measure the effectiveness of each high school that was willing to supply internal data for the project. The criteria developed by this team encompasses a number of factors, which each received its own weight to be calculated into the overall results for the schools.
The criteria for the Newsweek ranking this year includes:
  • Graduation Rates (making up 25 percent of ranking results)
  • Number of College-Bound Graduates (making up another 25 percent of ranking results)
  • AP Tests taken by Each Graduate (for another 25 percent of the total score)
  • Average scores on ACT and SAT examinations (encompassing 10 percent of the total score)
  • Average scores on other exams like AP, IB and AICE (for another 10 percent)
  • Number of AP courses offered (making up the final five percent of the total)
The panel agreed that this criteria makeup was the best available method for determining the college-readiness and life-readiness of every student that attended the high schools in question.
And the Winner is…
According to the criteria set by Newsweek this year, the top-ranking school in the country is the School of Science and Engineering in Dallas, Texas. Last year, this school boasted a 100 percent graduation rate, with all of its 86 graduating seniors headed to college with offers of $9.7 million in scholarships, according to the Huffington Post. However, this school is all too familiar with the challenges faced by other institutions as well. Nearly 62 percent of the students that attend this school qualify for subsidized lunches, and the school is dealing with budget cuts that could exceed $164 million over the next two years.
The principal of the school, Jovan Wells, told Newsweek, “Our major goal is to continue with the standard of service we’ve provided for years and years. This is more of a family atmosphere. When students return home during college breaks, most of them come here first. We get invitations to their college graduations.”
Other Notable Mentions
While the School of Science and Engineering in Dallas took top accolades this year, there were many other schools that had similar results to boast. Westwood High School in Massachusetts was ranked number five within the state and 134th on Newsweek’s national list. The school considers itself a college preparatory institution, with a goal of getting as many students within the school from graduation into a postsecondary degree program. Officials at the school told the Westwood Patch that one of the reasons for the school’s ranking this year may be their strong efforts to improve SAT scores across the board. However, other factors played into the decision as well.
Westwood Superintendent John Antonucci told the Westwood Patch, “Our program is as rigorous as any high school in the Commonwealth. When you see scores and ranking [like in Newsweek], it’s a validation. It’s based on the kind of hard work and effort on making that happen.”
Erie Collegiate Academy was another school that enjoyed a spot on the Newsweek list, but this school has actually maintained their ranking for the past four years. The school is currently listed at 137 on the Newsweek list and was also ranked second in the state of Pennsylvania. Jim Viera, associate dean of Erie Collegiate Academy, told, “It’s really a testament to what the students and teachers do here. It’s nice to see the external validates because we can’t really make these judgements ourselves.”
Despite losing out to the top spot in the state, Viera said that Collegiate Academy has plenty to be proud of. He added, “We’re holding our own against some of the best schools in the state. We have a find institution here.”
For a complete listing of the top 500 high schools in the country, check out the report and ranking sheet at the Newsweek website.

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