High School Rankings May Not Be As Good As They Seem

Patricia Hawke

High school rankings seem to be getting a lot of attention these days.  Parents and officials are always on the look out for new information about how their child’s school is ranked.  High school rankings can be a nice way to get an idea about a schools performance, but parents should understand that not every ranking system is as good as it may seem.
Newsweek’s High School Rankings
One of the most popular high school rankings comes from Newsweek.  Newsweek publishes their high school rankings yearly.  They started doing this in 1988 and it has shown to be quite influential. 
Newsweek’s high school rankings are based upon the number of AP tests that are given at a school.  It is not based upon test scores or any actual academic information whatsoever.  The actual formula for the high school rankings is the number of AP tests given at the school divided by the number of graduates for that year.  Many people reviewing the Newsweek high school rankings have no idea that this is the criteria for them and believe that something more complex goes into the ranking results.  Since the initial Newsweek high school rankings were released the number of AP tests given at school has doubled.
US News and World Report’s High School Rankings
Another magazine that has started ranking high schools is US News and World Report.  This magazine bases its rankings upon test scores.  It compares the test results of schools with similar demographics.  It also gives some weight to AP test scores.  This ranking system is more detailed than that of Newsweek.  It actual has some academic basis and may be a better choice for parents to review than Newsweek’s high school rankings.  It offers a better view of the school’s actual performance and academic achievement.
What Parents Need to Know About High School Rankings
Parents have to understand a couple key factors.  First, they have to actually understand the high school rankings system.  They should see what criteria were used to rank the schools, so they can understand what the rankings actually mean.  Second, parents need to consider multiple ranking systems so they can get the best idea of exactly how their school is really doing compared to other schools.  High school rankings are not clear cut.  They can not be relied upon as the sole means of determining a school’s performance.  Instead they should be a part of how a school’s performance is determined by parents.  The bottom line is that parent’s should get involved in their child’s education.  They should make the determination on their own if the school is doing an adequate job of teaching their child and not leave that decision up to high school rankings by some random third party.