– Magazine ranks one of Kentucky’s poorest performing high schools among the country’s best
Newsweek magazine’s 2009 ranking of high schools is out, and once again there is a Kentucky example of how fouled up this magazine’s rating process actually is.
The case in point is Holmes High School in the Covington Independent School District. Holmes is actually ranked 570 out of all American high schools by the Newsweek nonsense system.
The facts are that Holmes is a perfect example of a school that caters to an elite few who get AP courses (which are the basis of the Newsweek rankings) while very poorly serving all the rest of the students.
For example, Kentucky now tests all of our 11th grade students with the ACT college entrance test. Holmes only outscored 25 of the 232 Kentucky high schools that had scores reported in 2008. That’s all.
Only one high school had a lower school accountability index than Holmes on Kentucky’s CATS assessment in 2008 – just one. As a consequence, the school is in the very worst CATS assessment category – Assistance Level 3 – in Kentucky.
Now, it’s no secret the Bluegrass Institute doesn’t think highly of CATS, but that is because it is too watered down. Any school that manages to mess up on the overly lax CATS is clearly highly problematic.
Actually, things are so bad that the Kentucky Board of Education is running a special monitoring program for the school and the Covington district. The latest hearings were just held today during the board’s June 11, 2009 meeting. I know. I was there.
As an aside, I must mention that I liked what I heard about Covington Independent’s plans to turn their schools around. Covington’s new superintendent made some correct, but difficult, choices that include closing some schools and replacing several principals. However, the fact still remains that there is a long road ahead in this process. Right now, Covington isn’t a top performer – it isn’t even a middling performer.
Returning to my main point, the new Education Week “Graduations Counts” on line search tool shows Holmes had a graduation rate in 2006 of only 48.1 percent, far below the US average of 69.2 percent. This is a very significant drop from the 80.2 percent grad rate the district and its lone high school had in 1996.
EdWeek’s graduation rates may be a little low, but they are not that far off. The key point is that Newsweek’s rankings are developed by dividing the number of Advanced Placement courses taken by the number of graduates. If a lot of kids have dropped out before graduating, the Newsweek formula gets grossly inflated. Making Holmes look good because it drops out a lot of kids isn’t my idea of a solid ranking system.
To be sure, the AP tests are important, but using them the way Newsweek does is a great disservice to many students and educators. The fact that one of Kentucky’s poorest performing high schools wound up as a top performer on the Newsweek list is ample evidence of the problems in that ranking scheme.
Newsweek should discontinue its highly inaccurate rating program, and Kentuckians would be wise not to be fooled by this nonsense.