Are they really the best?
The latest Newsweek rankings are out, and once again Florida looks amazingly good, with 22 of the Top 100 high schools in the country, including four from the Tampa Bay area: Lakewood High at No. 22, Hillsborough High at No. 26, King High at No. 39 and St. Petersburg High at No. 66. But take a closer look at each of those schools, and you can’t help but scratch your head.
Last year, Lakewood High earned a D grade from the state. Only 39 percent of its ninth- and tenth-graders could read at grade level (down from 43 percent from the year before). And only 74 percent graduated on time. Among black students - who made up 40 percent of the student body last year - only 14 percent of ninth- and tenth-graders were reading on grade level.
So, how can Lakewood be seriously considered among the best in the country? Blame (or credit) the Newsweek formula, which takes the total number of AP and IB test-takers at each high school and divides by the number of graduating seniors. High schools with poor graduation rates are rewarded with higher scores. So are schools that offer AP, IB and specialized academic programs to a minority of students - for example, Lakewood’s fine Center for Advanced Technologies - but don’t seem to get much traction with the majority.
The Gradebook apologizes for being a party pooper. But as long as the Newsweek list keeps getting gobs of media attention, and keeps rewarding schools that look like they need help instead of accolades, isn't it right to keep raising the question? To see the Newsweek list, click here.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter