Friday, December 11, 2009

The Best Schools in America?

US News and World Report just ranked the 100 "best" US high schools. In reading the demographics of each school, it's easy to see that many on this list are selective. Take the two schools in Tucson, for example. Coming in at #9 is a school that only accepts high achieving students, requiring--among other things--that everyone take AP courses. Tucson's University High School will only accept students who have scored in the top 5% of state tests. The top school (in a Virginia suburb) accepts students based on "merit;" they have 4.9% minority enrollment, and less than 2% of their students are economically disadvantaged. How tough can it be, then, to end up in such an elite group? How easy to teach at such a school!

Those aren't America's best schools! Check out #13, the IDEA Quest Academy in Donna, Texas, with 96% minority, 77% economically disadvantaged student body. Now that has to be considered a real success by comparison. The best schools are those that take on the challenges of its culture by including all those who struggle and devote resources to meeting the needs of all children. The best don't hide from the disadvantaged, but find ways to help everyone reach their potential in an atmosphere of collaboration and mutual respect.

Whenever some polling body decides to rank anything so difficult as America's high schools, I don't get overly excited about it. Usually they have some over riding or vested interest in the outcome. I seriously doubt that the lists would look anything alike if it were done by, say, the U.N. or the International Peace Institute.


Joyce said...

What criteria were they using to determine "best"? College readiness? Test scores? Advanced curriculum? It is as you say- teaching in schools with a selected "elite" student body is enjoyable and easy. It can't be compared, however, with the heroic mission of providing education to those who have been neglected or denied opportunities. I agree with you. This type of "Report" can indeed leave a discerning person with some unanswered questions.

Parents who are trying to make informed choices about where to send their children, however (and want to brag once their child gets in), look to these reports for guidance. As far as I know, this is the American way at present... and these are American schools under scrutiny.

But what is the situation in Thailand? I've been told that education is valued much more highly in Asia. Does that mean quality education is more readily available there?

John Stiles said...

Perhaps education is more valued in Thailand (and Asia in general) but the quality is not any better. 50 students to a classroom, few supplies, teachers using archaic methods. My situation is different, and I admit, better conditions than in government schools. You get what you pay for.

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