Just before the spring bustle of graduation ceremonies, U.S. News & World Report publishes its rankings of top public high schools in the country. Although schools frequently contest their data collection and standards for evaluation, U.S. News & World Report shapes public opinion and is considered, by many laypeople, to be the ranking of record for U.S. schools. Their classifications for performance are broken into four categories: “National Rankings,” “Best STEM Schools,” “Best Charter Schools,” and “Best Magnet Schools.”
The Ocean State, unfortunately, didn’t place in the top 100 on any of those lists. But to be fair (and a little biased) the editors assess 20,500 public schools across all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C. That’s a lot of competition.
The rankings frequently use two terms, which are often misunderstood: “graduation rate” and “college readiness.” Graduation rate refers to the total number of students who begin as freshmen and remain in that same school through graduation, not the number of students in a particular senior class who earn diplomas. Cities and districts with a high transient population (like Providence) often have students who transfer schools, thereby affecting the graduation rate. College readiness, according to this specific publication, is a combination of College Board Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) scores. Please note that the Prout School in Wakefield is the only high school in Rhode Island to even offer IB courses, and as a Catholic school run through the Diocese of Providence, Prout is not eligible for these particular rankings.
The champion was Arizona, which took the top five spots in the 2018 “National Ranking.” These Arizona schools all scored 100 percent for graduation rate and college readiness. Sadly, Rhode Island didn’t rank nationally, but 11 of our schools received awards for their efforts and achievements: two gold medals, four silver medals, and five bronze medals in our individual state.
Providence’s Classical High School earned a gold medal for its 99 percent graduation rate and 67.4 percent in college readiness, outpacing all other public high schools in the city. Classical High School secured a spot as 281st on the national list. Barrington High School also achieved gold medal status with a 96 percent graduation rate and 65.6 percent college readiness. Nationally, Barrington ranked 316th.
Rhode Island’s silver medal schools included Chariho High School, North Smithfield High School, Paul Cuffee Charter School, and Mount Hope High School. The bronze medal winners were Beacon Charter School, Blackstone Academy Charter, Blackstone Valley Prep High School, West Warwick High School, and Johnston Senior High School.
Again, it’s important to recognize the refined metrics used by U.S. News & World Report. The rankings are popular and acknowledge the achievements of great schools (and we should be proud to have award-winning schools in our state). But the rankings still focus on a limited number of standards to compile data. These aren’t the only indicators of student or school success.