Posted by Frances, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Jul 29, 2009 at 3:06 pm
While I agree that Mountain View and Los Altos High Schools are very good, this ranking by Newsweek is a crock. They should title it "high schools with the most number of AP tests taken with socio-economic status considerations taken", not "top high schools".
Posted by Aren't we cranky?, a resident of another community, on Jul 30, 2009 at 12:28 pm
I think top 600 out of 21,000 is, indeed, good. The argument that since the Bay Area has a high cost of living our schools should necessasrily be best is nonsensical. For one thing, a lot of the states where the top-ranked schools are located spend a lot more per student than California does (most, actually). For another, even some areas that have lower incomes and housing prices might still be upper middle-class communities; since prices are so inflated in the Bay Area, lots of communities where people earn a lot less than we do are quite well-off. Kids' performance tends to follow parents' education levels and socioeconomic status; whether you make $100K a year in Kansas or $250K a year in Los Altos, if you're a family with college-educated parents, your kid is most likely going to do well academically.
Also, if you look at the list, a lot of those top-ranked schools are charter, magnet, gifted, honors, or "college prep" schools -- meaning they have a self-selecting population of highly motivated families. Our high schools take all comers, highly motivated or not.
I agree, though, that since this is just a measure of how many kids take AP or IB tests relative to the student population, it doesn't really give you a sense of the school. I don't even think it's a measure of the kids' scores, just the number of test taken relative to school size. A lot of kids in our schools take multiple AP classes.
Posted by Frances, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Jul 30, 2009 at 5:00 pm
Congrats, did you look at how they measured the "top schools"? The formula is some sort of combination of the number of AP tests taken and the percentage of students who qualify for free lunches. I don't buy that this gives the "top schools". I am guessing in the MVLA school district there are fewer students that qualify for free lunches as compared to some of the areas where the "top schools" are (actually, just looked it up, it's 7% at MV and 19% at LA). And then there are the list of schools Newsweek excludes because they don't have any "average" students. Web Link
Regardless, I stand by my comment that MV High and LA High are very good schools.
Posted by eric, a resident of another community, on Jul 31, 2009 at 11:04 am
I read the authors rationale for his methodology and find it quite reasonable. He doesnt claim that this is the only way to measure school quality. I certainly find this preferable to benchmarking schools based on asinine standardized tests.
Measuring the number of optional AP tests taken tells us something about how deeply ingrained high achievement is within the culture of the school. It shows that high standards are valued.
Posted by localmom, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Aug 1, 2009 at 10:46 pm
I just checked the list, and I attended 2 of the schools on the list in the top 40-120, both east coast. They are in neighborhoods with MORE kids receiving free lunch than around here and more diversity (socioeconomic and otherwise), etc. I suppose that if you spend less, as we do in CA, you offer fewer AP courses. We get less if we spend less, period. That's why we're in the 350-550 range, despite the fact we have world-famous internet enterpreneurs and VPs of multinational companies. We aren't investing in what's really important, the future of our children. Perhaps we should all drive less outrageously expensive automobiles, and give another grand to the public schools to try to match what they are spending in Texas, VA, and NY. Certainly our bankrupt state can't do it, and if we want to measure up we might have to. Otherwise just accept mediocrity.