Newsweek ranking of high schools
The latest Newsweek rankings of the top 1,000 schools in the nation are out, and, predictably, county school districts are sending out news releases announcing how many of their high schools are in the top 5 percent of schools nationwide. Maryland has 77 high schools on the list. The top seven are in the Washington suburbs. Then come Broadneck, Towson, Centennial and River Hill high schools in that order. Baltimore County has 10 high schools on the list, and Montgomery County has 23.
But perhaps the real question is not who is No. 1 or No. 352, but whether the rankings are relevant to parents whose children attend those schools. The list seems one way to consider the quality of a high school, but it is not the only measure of how successful it is.
The list is put together by Jay Matthews, a Washington Post reporter who developed the system for the rankings a number of years ago. He develops a number for each high school by taking the total number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests given at a school in May, and dividing by the number of seniors graduating in May or June.
About 5 percent of 27,000 high schools make the list.
What the list doesn't calculate is how the students do on the exams. So at times schools appear on the list that don't have very high pass rates but give a lot of the tests. A number of people have argued with Matthews about this over the years, saying that the quality of the classes may be poor but that the school could get a high rating.
On the other hand, Matthews argues back, giving schools credit for high test scores would only encourage them from weeding out less strong students from the courses or the exams.
"The Challenge Index honors schools that have done the best job in persuading average students to take college level courses and tests. It does not work with schools that have no, or almost no, average students. The idea is to create a list that measures how good schools are in challenging all students, and not just how high their students' test scores are," Matthews writes on the Newsweek Web site.
For a list of the Maryland schools and how they rank, go here.