Stuyvesant ranked 15th in the 2008 U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best High Schools, released Thursday, November 29, and earned a Gold Medal for a high college readiness score.
The report rated 18,790 public high schools across 40 states using data from the 2005-06 school year. Schools in the remaining 10 states and the District of Columbia were not included in the ranking.
This is the first time U.S. News, in association with School Matters (an independent organization for school data collection and analysis), has released a ranking of America’s best high schools.
Public high schools were rated based on three performance indicators: a poverty-adjusted performance index, the disadvantaged students performance gap and a college readiness index.
The performance index was a measure of the amount by which a school exceeded statistical expectations on statewide reading and math tests, adjusted for the percentage of economically disadvantaged students in the school. A value of one was considered adequate. Stuyvesant scored 2.95.
The performance gap measured the extent to which the school’s disadvantaged students (considered those who are black, Hispanic or low-income) performed better on state tests than other disadvantaged students in the state. Positive values met the criteria for selection. Stuyvesant’s score was 46.6.
Only schools that qualified for the first two performance indicators were considered for the college readiness index.
This index was the weighted average of the Advanced Placement (AP) participation rate—the percentage of high school seniors who took at least one AP test—and the quality adjusted AP participation rate—the percentage of seniors who took at least one AP test and received at least a score of three out of five. Schools with a college readiness index of 20 were considered proficient. Stuyvesant received an 89.3.
The 100 high schools with the highest college readiness indices were given the distinction of Gold Medal Schools and were ranked according to these evaluations. The next 405 schools earned silver medals and another 1,086 schools were given bronze medals.
“[The ranking is] not bad, although I expected a higher standing,” junior James Leung said. “Stuyvesant is slowly climbing down.”
“I didn’t know much about the schools outside of Stuy,” junior Sabrina Khan said. “For a public school, Stuy seems to be great. We have some genius students so it’s hard to imagine that any other school has smarter students than some of the ones who go here at Stuy.”
“No matter the ranking, do we really need someone to give us a gold medal to tell us who we are?” Principal Stanley Teitel said. “No ranking is going to tell us differently. We know who we are.”
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia—ranked best high school in the nation—topped the list of Gold Medal Schools with an index of 100. Four other high schools received a perfect rating.
Like specialized high schools in New York City, Thomas Jefferson has selective admissions criteria. Eighth graders who apply must take a reasoning examination that includes two essay questions. Students who score high enough on the exam become semifinalists. In the next round of the admissions process, their middle school grade point averages, three teacher recommendations and personal statement are considered.
The school has partnerships with about two dozen corporate, governmental and university libraries that provide laboratory facilities, research space and mentoring.
Teitel said there were fundamental differences between Thomas Jefferson and Stuyvesant that had an impact on the results of the ranking.
For one, Thomas Jefferson had only 1,738 students at the time the demographic data was collected for the report. “That is [approximately] one-half our size,” Teitel said. “We […] have to commute to get to our school. It’s a much different atmosphere when you have that kind of school.”
Thomas Jefferson and Stuyvesant regularly face off in math team competitions. For example, the two schools participated in the spring 2007 New York City Interscholastic Math League competition, in which Thomas Jefferson’s highest-scoring team received 11 points higher than Stuyvesant’s highest-scoring team.
Parents’ Association Co-President Paolo de Kock said the criteria for evaluation were limited because they did not include class size or amount of funding per student. “If you look at [that] list of schools you’ll see that a lot of them don’t have 34 [students] per teacher class size,” she said. “It [is] not really comparing apples to apples in terms of public support.”
Stuyvesant had the highest ranking among New York City high schools. The other city schools that earned gold medals were Bronx High School of Science (20), Staten Island Technical High School (22), Brooklyn Technical High School (39), Townsend Harris High School (45) and New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math (74).
“It’s outstanding that six of 100 on the Gold Medal List belong to New York City,” Teitel said.
In past years, Newsweek has also released a list of the best high schools in the nation. This method ranks schools by the Challenge Index, calculated by dividing the number of AP and International Baccalaureate tests all students in a school take in one year by the number of graduating seniors in that year.
The list does not include Stuyvesant, Thomas Jefferson and other so-called “Public Elites” because their average SAT or ACT scores are too high.
Newsweek’s measure of quality means that schools can be highly ranked even if they fail to provide a high-quality education to most of their students,” said Andrew J. Rotherham, co-founder and co-director of Education Sector (an independent organization focused on improving national education policy) on the U.S. News Web site. “Because the U.S. News list uses more data to judge schools, it paints a clearer picture.”