Friday, April 18, 2014

America's Most Challenging High Schools: What trends emerge. Hume-Fogg ranks 61 out of 2092.

By Hunter, originally posted in TN Edu-Independent 

Jay Matthews, columnist for the Washington Post, came out with an interesting list of the "most challenging high schools" last week. Their methodology:

"We take the total number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a school each year and divide by the number of seniors who graduated in May or June"

It made me wonder how Nashville and Memphis high schools fared in the rankings, and how TN was doing.

Obviously, it's not a perfect way to tease out which are the nation's "best" high schools, since "best" can mean a lot of things to different people. A ranking that looks at outcomes of those advanced level programs would be even better, but this methodology does provide some important insight and reason to reflect on our local contexts (Nashville and Memphis).

Just looking at the number offered relative to the student populations would provide some indication about the level of rigor in many of our high schools (even offering the advanced tests in the first place).

Some interesting trends have emerged, which he details here. Important ones among them include:

  • Low-income students aren't always at a disadvantage (poverty doesn't have to be destiny).
  • the South is a hotbed of innovation
Here are the TN high schools that made the list:
Some takeaways:
  • it's concerning that only 12 high schools statewide made this list
  • really concerning that Shelby Co Schools only had 1 (Germantown's Houston High)
  • Hillsboro was the only non-magnet high school in Nashville to make the list (probably because of its IB focus)
  • Hume-Fogg and MLK did well ranking wise nationally speaking
  • While Hume-Fogg and MLK did well, it's concerning to see the disparity among other Nashville high schools (those not even making this list at all)
I hope we work to raise the rigor of our system to see the day when at least half of Nashville's 12 non selective academic high schools are on this list. 
Doing that means significantly improving the elementary and middle tiers that feed our comprehensive high schools.

We have much work to do.

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