What about the claim that HPHS dropped in U.S. News and World Report rankings?
Highland Park High School is in the Top 250 high schools in America and in the Top 50 out of more than 1,000 Texas 9-12 schools according to the recent Best U.S. School rankings list conducted by U.S. News. The report provides data on nearly 24,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia.
In addition to traditional high schools, the rankings encompass charter, specialized magnet, and science, technology, engineering and math-focused (STEM) schools, most of which, if not all, have strict entrance requirements, including an application process, for students to be able to attend. While HPHS is ranked #249 in the nation and #42 in Texas because of a change in the list's methodology in 2019 (which factored in underserved student performance), a closer look at the Texas rankings reveals Highland Park High School is the first and only traditional comprehensive public high school in the state listed among the Top 47, making HP the #1 comprehensive (open enrollment/traditional neighborhood) public high school in Texas.
What about the recent rankings of HPISD elementary schools by both U.S. News and World Report and Niche?
Earlier this fall, both U.S. News and World Report and Niche released their own independent rankings of elementary schools throughout the state. While some of the ratings ranked some HP schools very favorably—and in some cases less so, HPISD approaches these with caution for many reasons.
The main reason is that criteria and methodology for ranking schools varies according to the service that is providing the ranking. This is why a school like Armstrong Elementary, which scored an A+ from Niche and is ranked 49th in the state, can be listed significantly lower by U.S. News and World Report, even though they both used test results from the exact same year (2018-2019). Armstrong received an A+ from Niche both for its academics and teachers, but a B for its student diversity, of which it has no control. The school fared lower in the U.S News and World Report ratings, largely because half of its formula emphasizes results in the context of socioeconomic demographics.
U.S. News and World Report has a lengthy description of the methodology it uses to determine its rankings:
“For each state, schools were assessed on their shares of students who were proficient or above proficient in their mathematics and reading/language arts state assessments. Half the formula was the results themselves; the other half was the results in the context of socioeconomic demographics…
U.S. News predicted each school’s mathematics and reading proficiencies using statewide, subject-specific multivariate regressions. To make predictions, these statistical models examined the extent to which schools whose students had similar socioeconomic profiles achieved proficiency in mathematics and reading. The greater an individual school’s actual value exceeds the U.S. News’ predicted value (emphasis added) up to a limit, the better it performed on the ranking factor. Likewise, the more distant a school’s actual value was below its predicted value down to a limit, the worse it performed on the ranking factor.
For the models, U.S. News used the percentages proficient in each subject as its dependent variables, and the following two independent variables: the percentage of students who received free or reduced price lunch, and the composite percentage who were among one of the underserved ethnicity groups. U.S. News chose to combine the different ethnicity groups in part to be more applicable for schools and states with mostly white and/or Asian student populations, or those that had very low representation of a single minority group.”
In other words, U.S. News uses predicted values based solely on student demographics to help determine a school’s ranking.
While methodology is important, there are other factors to consider in ranking and rating elementary school performance, making it nearly—if not completely—impossible to create a system that accurately compares schools. Certainly, HPISD congratulates our schools and others that rank highly in these rankings, but we recognize the complexity in developing a true school-to-school comparison.
Additionally, there are several schools, such as magnets and charter schools, on these lists that have strict entrance requirements that only accept students who have previously “mastered” the STAAR. HPISD is proud that each of its comprehensive elementary schools serve all students in their respective school boundaries.
HPISD could spend a lot of time analyzing these ranking systems but, in the end, because they rely on data gleaned only from one administration of the STAAR test (which has historically not been a point of emphasis in HPISD schools) taken two and a half years ago, rankings don’t influence learning or our overall approach in HPISD. What matters most is what is currently taking place in each of our schools, day after day, in every classroom, to prepare our students for post-secondary success.