Southwest High Slips In Nationwide Ranking

But do the Newsweek rankings tell the whole truth?

Monday, Newsweek magazine issued its newest list of the top 1,000 high schools in America, pegging Southwest High School at number 12 in Minnesota. Recently, as the top one in the state.

If you're starting to feel test score whiplash, it's understandable. Each scoring system uses their own private methods to rank a school against the others, feeding parents' and real estate agents anxieties and dreams.

Both recent reports used Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) scores as a core component of their rankings. But while the US News scoring system focused on academic performance by poor and minority students, Newsweek’s rubric took in:

  • A school’s four-year graduation rate
  • The percent of students accepted to college
  • The numbers of AP, IB or Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) tests taken per student
  • The numbers of AP, IB, or AICE courses offered per student

The Newsweek report didn’t take a school’s percentage of poor students into account—important because, on average, they do worse on standardized tests than their more-advantaged peers, and therefore higher numbers of poor students could be bringing a school’s test scores down.

That percentage was presented alongside a school’s final score, but what we can’t see are how well those poor students are learning. On average, a poor student is more likely than their better-off peers to arrive at a high school’s doorstep one or more grade levels behind. Being good at catching these kids up is not only a moral and legal imperative, it also suggests that a school might be pretty good at the core business of teaching, too.


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