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Rank lists inconsistent for Forsyth County high schools


Publications use their own methodology, not always encompassing



May 13, 2013
CUMMING, Ga. — Newsweek, the Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report recently published their annual best high schools lists.

School ranks were determined based on varying factors developed by the publications.

Forsyth County schools were ranked on two of the three lists.

West Forsyth High School ranked 893 out of 2,000 top public high schools listed in Newsweek's May 6 article.

Newsweek ranked schools based on their effectiveness in preparing students for an advanced education, and rankings were based on six components including graduation rate, college acceptance rate, advanced placement tests taken per student, average SAT/ACT scores and other course programs as well as a percent of students enrolled in at least one advanced placement course.

There are about 24,000 public high schools in the United States, but Newsweek invited only 5,000 to participate in their evaluation. Of those, only about 2,500 schools responded and 2,000 were chosen.

Newsweek's list represents about 20 percent of public high schools nationwide and the publication does not report how they determined which schools were invited to participate.

West was the only school in Forsyth County asked to participate.

"We have never been able to figure out who gets invited and who doesn't and what their calculation is for the list," Jennifer Caracciolo, a spokeswoman for the school district said. "We've tried to contact them about this, but cannot get anywhere."

South Forsyth High School Principal Jeff Cheney was surprised South Forsyth was not invited to submit their data for the list.

"South has been ranked very high from 2006 to 2012," Cheney said.

In April, Jay Mathews of the Washington Post published his list of most challenging schools and included about 1,900 schools nationwide.

The publication determines school rankings based on the total number of AP and Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) programs given at a school yearly, divided by the number of seniors who graduated in May or June, but actual test scores are not a factor for their ranking.

In his article, Mathews writes, "Aside from a few exceptions, public schools that achieved a ratio of at least 1,000, meaning they had as many tests in 2012 as they had graduates, were put on the national list."

To make the list, schools had to have an average SAT score below 2000 or an average ACT score below 29.3.

Mathews said schools with higher averages were listed on an elite list.

Forsyth County high schools all placed on the most challenging schools list, not the elite list, but the county website reports schools to have above average national SAT scores and the highest ACT scores in the state.

South Forsyth ranked highest on the list at 160 while West ranked 514. Lambert followed at 590; Forsyth Central ranked 1,421 and North Forsyth landed in the 1,572 spot.

Perhaps the most comprehensive and telling list was that of U.S. News and World Report, published in April.

About 21,000 schools were evaluated and of the over 2,000 on the published list, none were Forsyth County high schools.

U.S. News evaluated public high schools based on state proficiency standards and graduates' college readiness.

Their methodology was based on principles of measurable academic outcomes showing that a school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators and service to all students, not just those who are college-bound.

The publication worked with one of the largest behavioral and social science research organizations in the world, the American Institutes for Research, in developing a three-step process to determine their list.

Schools were required to pass two steps, ensuring the school served their students well based on state proficiency test standards and whether the school's least-advantaged students (black, Hispanic and low-income) were performing better than average for similar students in the state.

Schools that passed were then assessed on their college readiness performance using AP and IB test scores as benchmarks, depending upon which program was largest at the school.

Each school's rank was determined based on how high it scored on all three steps.

U.S. News also listed state ranks for schools, but Forsyth County schools didn't qualify to make that list either.

Last year, the state of Georgia adopted a new index to determine college and career readiness.

The College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) was designed around the level of achievement required in order for a student to enroll in two- or four-year colleges and universities and technical colleges without remediation, fully prepared for college-level work and careers.

Forsyth County high schools received a score of 89.9 out of 100.

The Georgia Board of Education website shows Forsyth County ACT scores for 2010-2011 at 23.6 with the national average being only 21.1. The site also shows Forsyth County SAT scores for the same period at 1562 with the national average being only 1483.

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