Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Failing Grade? Several of Newsweek's 'Best' High Schools Are Not Doing Enough for Their Minority Students, Report Says

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Failing Grade? Several of Newsweek's 'Best' High Schools Are Not Doing Enough for Their Minority Students, Report Says

Article excerpt

Many of the high schools on Newsweek 's popular annual fist of the nation's Top 100 schools have glaring achievement gaps between Whites and minorities, according to a new report.

Education Sector, an independent, nonpartisan education think tank, collected student performance data for the 100 schools in Newsweek's 2005 "America's 100 Best High Schools" issue. Its report--"Why Newsweek's List of America's 100 Best High Schools Doesn't Make the Grade"--suggests that the formula the magazine uses to compile its list is too narrow.

"While some schools on Newsweek's fist may be among the best in the nation, a closer look at the data reveals that many do not meet a reasonable definition of a good high school," the report says. "Indeed, some of the schools on the fist have such significant achievement gaps that they should be on a list of schools needing improvement rather than one for best schools.

"So many of the schools on the list have such significant gaps in achievement among their student subgroups that it calls into question that entire Newsweek enterprise."

Sara Mead, co-author of the report and a senior policy analyst for Education Sector, says the formula that Newsweek uses for the rankings doesn't take into account how schools serve students from different racial and income groups.

"We don't think that a school that only serves some population well should be on a list with the best schools in the country," she says.

Since its inception in 1998, Newsweek's list of the Top 100 American high schools has grown in popularity. The formula--called the Challenge Index--is simple: divide the number of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests taken by students at a high school by the number of its graduating seniors.

Eastside High School in Gainesville, Fla., ranked third in Newsweek's 2005 fist even though only 12 percent of the school's Black students read at grade level in 2004. And the magazine ranked Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Fla., as the nation's 10th best high school despite the fact that a mere 17 percent of its Black students and 26 percent of its Hispanic students read at their grade level in 2004.

According to the study, several of the high schools also recorded sizeable gaps in test scores between racial groups. …

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