Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Home to the state's top high schools

My friend's mom, a long time educator in Mississippi, sent me this link to a NOLA.com article naming Thomas Jefferson High School as Louisiana's top ranked high school. The article is news from the recent U.S. News and World Report article. Thom Jeff is a selective-enrollment, gifted school in Jeferson Parish. Great school, with a nice, new campus at the old site of Archbishop Blenk high school. I wondered about the ranking, though, knowing that Thom Jeff was chosen over Benjamin Franklin High which is actually a national competitor, and so many other parishes whose schools out rank the New Orleans metro area. Everything you need to know is always in the data. For a person who hates mathematics, I trust in data and statistics wholeheartedly (it was the only math course that I ever got an "A" in-EVERYONE should know how to read and analyze data). In the complete pdf report, U.S. News details the methods used in ranking the schools.

In the methodology I found that these rankings hinge upon the number of disadvantaged students in a school and how much better those students performed on state tests than expected. There seems to be no determinant for what is the "expected" performance for "disadvantaged groups", which includes minorities and low-socioeconomic families. The last stage of factors is if the school carries AP or IB courses, which are considered college preparatory. This aspect makes sense in considering the effectiveness of a high school, however, it just isn't enough data to print national rankings based on diversity.

My own school was recognized, as it is still an "A" school by Louisiana's standards but does not meet U.S. News' standards because we are not diverse. The student body is primarily Black and we are 84% free or reduced lunch. While I know that our AP scores are less than stellar, falling below the radar as compared to a more diverse and selective enrollment school (which my school was when I attended) feels like a cheat when such standards seem like they're in place to assist in benefiting the minority and poor children. My school consists of those very children!

I can appreciate the rankings, whether I agree with the standards or not. I wonder how other people feel about their own school and district rankings and if other districts, especially teachers who have taught in multiple districts, feel that New Orleans is really doing it better than the rest.

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