In Review: “America’s Best High Schools”

Too often articles are taken up on Facebook’s newsfeed and spread like wild fire.  Most recently, an article titled “America’s Best High Schools” caught my attention in my newsfeed.  Would my high school, Southern Regional High School, make the list?

We’ve had alumni who became famous for their athletics.  We’ve had graduates attend some of the most prestigious Universities in the country.  However, I haven’t seen my Alma ater’s ranking on any list that has been widely published on the web hit even close to the 100 mark.

Granted, there are over 400 High Schools in New Jersey, but I expected better.  The Daily Beast didn’t even rank Southern RegionalUS ranked it at #236 in 2012,  School ranked it at #175 in 2012.  Why is this?

Look at my high school, it’s beautiful.

The Ranking Criteria.

Is the quality of education the route of the rankings?  Does the quality of campus play a role?  Are schools who are more funded benefiting with their ranking?  School shootings or bomb threats?  Bullying?  What about student happiness?  Or teacher happiness?  Let’s find out.

The Daily Beast ranks schools on “college readiness.”  They put that fact about their list out there IMMEDIATELY.  This is the most important factor in their minds.

“Graduation rates, participation in college-level classes via Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, and acceptance into a two- or four-year college program.”  How does this methodology label those who do not go to college?  How should those who don’t pursue a college education feel about themselves?  Obviously they pull their high school ranking down.

Their decision could make future parents unwilling to enroll their children in the school.  Teachers will be let go if the school loses funding because students aren’t enrolling in the next steps of education.  It’s all about the Benjamin’s, baby.

“I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind.” -Snoop Dogg (Yes, I’m quoting Snoop.)

But hey, The Daily Beast recognized the one flaw in their method immediately: “Instead of considering the number of courses offered, which is limited even for the most ambitious high school curricula, we weighed the percentage of students enrolled in an AP, IB or Advance International Certificate of Education (AICE) course.”

Well, good.  Good on you, Daily Beast.

Now the poor schools can still be ranked in with the over-funded schools who turn out “educated” children like hot cakes ready for their brains to be frosted and sprinkled in the college education system.   Maybe now that they have some fire under their asses to compete in the ranking system, the poor schools will turn out more college-driven drones.

US News also failed to steer away from the stereotypical ranking methods.  “College Readiness.”  The highest schools on their list have the highest rankings in college readiness.  Which makes sense, right?  High Schools who aren’t turning out students who are willing to be in debt up to their eye balls without a promise of a job are failing, right?  The schools who are not producing college students are failing their students, right?

NJ Monthly had “Leflein Associates, an independent research company in Ringwood, (analyze) the data by first standardizing individual indicator scores so that small differences did not have a disproportionate impact on the ranking, but very large differences were not minimized in the relative scores.

These indicators were grouped into three categories. Two of the categories—Student Performance and Student Outcomes—were given a weight of 1.5; School Environment was given a weight of 1. The weighted summary scores for each category were added together to arrive at the final overall score. The schools were ranked according to this score.”

For NJ Monthly, “Student Performance and Student Outcomes,”  basically means HSPA, SAT, and AP scores averaged with graduation rates inncluded.  Let’s just ignore the fact that students who come from high-income families can afford extra tutoring and training to excel on these exams.  Because poor people don’t matter.  Once again, another ranking based off of the same ranking system where students are highly judged on their ability to pursue higher education.

My university is quite beautiful at times, too.

As a student at Rutgers University who has plenty of friends pursuing an education to become a teacher in the state of New Jersey, I see a side of the table that not most see.  The teacher’s uncensored side: their fears, their dreams, their hardships, their stress, their frustration.

An aspiring teacher who doesn’t have a placement at a school yet, but can already see the problems with the teaching business.  And yes, it is a business now because education means money and profit in a consumer driven and capitalistic society.

The main fear of the mindless education system was heightened in an undisclosed source’s attendance to a New Jersey high school assembly.  The main focus in the assembly was one thing: students have to go to college.

It’s not a question of whether or not their future career ambitions need the extra four to eight extra years of education.  It’s not a question of whether or not they are talented or gifted.  It’s certainly not a question of whether or not they can afford the pursuit of a higher education (obviously there are plenty of scholarships and grants out there in the Department of Education’s imaginary steel vault).

In this level-headed assembly, students were told they have to go to college because college graduates are more likely to get a higher paying job, that in fact college graduates make nearly three-times as much a year than a simple-thinking, humble-bumpkin high school graduate.  Let’s ignore the fact that these facts are taken from about thirty years ago because relevance only matters when it’s convenient.

The fear that was and still is being instilled in the young minds of America is monumental.  The anxiety to perform compared to not only the peers in the same classroom, but the entire country, drives students to become education consumers rather than educated minds.  Education becomes a source of competition and the lessons learned only matter when an essay question or an exam demands a timed response.

I’m not saying my school deserves to be on any list, ranked state-wide or nationally.  I would still be proud of my high school even if it was ranked last.  It did me justice and I thank Southern Regional for that.

I am simply saying that there should be different ways to rank schools other than standardized test scores and college acceptance rates. The education system is failing students if we only demand they average with their peers and go to college. Where are the dreamers? The trade schools? The craftsmen?

They are made to feel inadequate.  The dreamers are told to wake up.  The trade schools are hidden and told to keep quite, there are people talking about college.  The craftsmen are forgotten about and their trades will die within a few generations.

They are all ostracized and pointed at for their choice to save time and money.  But they already have an advantage over the sheep who go to college just because: not a cent of student debt and a guaranteed job.

Can’t say that much for myself and my college peers.

Full disclaimer: I am a student at Rutgers University.  I graduated from Southern Regional High School.  I took two AP classes in high school because the subjects interested me.  I did not take the AP exams that followed the courses because I didn’t want to pay about $90.00 for each exam.  I’m sure if I asked my single-mother who worked the night-shift at a post-office that she would find a way and scrounge up the $180.00.  But I knew there was a flaw in the logic.  When education has an attached price, performance becomes more coveted than practice and the meaningful lessons learned are easily forgotten after the test.


Article taken from my other blog.


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