Sunday, May 21, 2006

Stupid Newsweek Trick

Newsweek Magazine, in an attempt to make money by playing the same game as US News and World Report, put out a report card ranking the twelve hundred or so top high schools in the country.

I can assure you that everyone I went to high school with assumed that ours would be in the top ten, if not number one. Just ask Donald Rumsfeld.

There is good reason for this. High SAT/ACT scores, National Merit Scholarship finalists/winners, percentage of graduates who go on to college, the quality of the colleges attended, AP courses offered, AP test scores, the variety and quality of the athletic programs [more state championships that any other school in the state], the fantastic range of extracurricular activities from the creative arts to the radio station to the math teams -- you get my drift. 

But according to the magazine, my high school was rated at No. 407. To say that ranking rankled a few people would be an understatement. Then we found out why we have a right to be pissed off.

Apparently the only, emphasis on ONLY, criterion for a high school's rating was the number of AP TESTS taken by students divided by the number of students at the school.

What a crock. There are almost four thousand students at my high school. The rating system automatically penalizes large schools.


The guy at Newsweek who devised the system apparently thinks that more and more students should be encouraged to take the AP tests, no matter what their scores may be. The reason he doesn't want to factor in the scores is because he's worried the schools would only let their smartest students take the tests. And the problem with that is?

Here's what reporter Michael Winerip of the New York Times wrote on May 17th:

Newsweek ranks Eastside High in Gainesville, Fla., as the sixth best high school in America. The state of Florida gives Eastside a C grade, which means there are 1,846  A or B schools rated ahead of Eastside in Florida alone. The Florida report card reveals that Eastside has 1,028 students, more than half of them African-American; only 13 percent of those 589 African-American children are reading at grade level. At the sixth best school in America?

For the whole article, go here or type in this URL:

He goes on to say:

Los Angeles has 700 schools, and last year it singled out the nine lowest performing for reorganization. All failed to make adequate academic progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law for five straight years. On the city's nine-worst list were Locke High, 520th best on the 2005 Newsweek list, Fremont High, 872nd best on the list, and Roosevelt High, 990th best.

Locke's high dropout rate — two-thirds of the students leave between ninth grade and senior year — actually helps its Newsweek rating. It means the number of graduating seniors is so small that even if they take a modest number of AP exams, Locke's ratio looks great. (Not that it matters, but Locke students failed 73 percent of their AP exams with 1's or 2's.)

. . .And so, it is not hard to find busloads of educators who agree with Daniel Hastings, M.I.T.'s dean for undergraduate education. "It does not make sense to evaluate high schools on this basis alone," he said. Asked about Newsweek's rankings, Les Perelman, a director of undergraduate writing at M.I.T., quoted H. L. Mencken, "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.

My high school isn't the only one that got the short end of the Newsweek stick. There are plenty of others around the country equally flabbergasted by this incredibly stupid, inaccurate rating system.

How about rating the high schools by how many students would choose to go there if they had the chance?  Or how many parents would send their kids?

Lincoln Park High School got the highest ranking in the Chicago area. It's not even one of the ones you might expect, like Roberto Clemente.

I guarantee if you told the kids that go to Lincoln Park and Roberto Clemente what would be offered to them if they went to my high school, both those schools would be empty tomorrow. 


mombzbe said...

I knew there was a reason that Newsweek was lining the bird cages at PetsMart...

screaminremo303 said...

Welcome to the second-worst source for information available to the American public. The first?

The AOL Welcome screen.

swibirun said...

My brother's school was one of the top ranked ones in the US News and World report a few years ago.  He is a drama instructor at Stanford College Prep in Jacksonville.

I hear The Enquirer is coming out with a list next week.