Newsweek

T/E School District Offers Explanation of Conestoga’s Omission from Newsweek’s ‘Best High Schools in America’ Rankings

Following-up on Newsweek’s listing of America’s best high schools; I emailed an excerpt from my Community Matters post to TESD administration, school board members and to Karen Cruickshank, president of the board.  I asked for comment or explanation of why Conestoga High School was missing from the Newsweek best high schools in America list when neighboring high schools (Lower Merion, Radnor, Great Valley, etc.) were listed.

There has been a response from the school district and from Karen Cruickshank.  Like many of us, Karen too was disappointed that Conestoga was not on the Newsweek list and volunteered that she had received phone calls from realtors asking the same question as to ‘why’.  She assures me that the error will be corrected and that T/E will participate in the Newsweek high school survey next year.

To offer an explanation as to why Conestoga High School was not included in this year’s ‘best of the best’ rankings by Newsweek, Karen sent the following response she received from T/E administration:

I am writing to respond to the message concerning the Newsweek Best High Schools List. As you are aware, Conestoga was not included in this year’s Newsweek list of “America’s Best High Schools.” In following up with Newsweek, we learned that an email was sent in mid-May to all secondary schools requesting information. The email, Newsweek explained, was sent to a Conestoga High School counselor. The counselor, however, reported that the email was not received. We subsequently sent our data to Newsweek, and we would have placed around #100 on the list based upon their calculations. We have since corrected the Newsweek contact information to ensure that we are included in its analysis in future years.

Althoughk nowing why Conestoga HS did not appear on this year’s Newsweek rankings may not satisfy everyone, it does help explain the omission.

According to the administration, the Newsweek email was not received by the school district.  After the fact, the school district did submit Conestoga’s survey data to Newsweek but apparently did not make the submission deadline.  Additionally, the administration offers that Conestoga should have “placed around #100”.  Since the data was public when sent to Newsweek, I will ask the school board to provide the submitted information.  Conestoga’s statistical data will be posted when I receive it.

Regardless of how you feel about rankings, it’s the world we live in . . . whether you are looking at colleges or finding a doctor, some of us find the information useful in making decisions.

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America’s Best High Schools But Where is Conestoga High School?

Newsweek has released a list of the top 500 public high schools in America.  Here are high schools in our local area that made the list and their ranking:

  • Harriton High School:  #123
  • Radnor High School: #146
  • Lower Merion High School:  #224
  • Downingtown East High School; #279
  • Downingtown West High School: #339
  • Great Valley High School:  #346
  • Haverford High School: #466

But where is Conestoga High School . . . ?

To create the list of the top 500 public high schools in America, Newsweek used the criteria below, with its corresponding percentage of calculated weight:

  • Four-year, on-time graduation rate (25%)
  • Percent of 2010 graduates who enrolled immediately in college (25%)
  • AP tests per graduate (25%)
  • Average SAT score (10%)
  • Average AP test score (10%)
  • Number of AP courses offered per graduate (5%)

With all the discussion about the quality of TESD schools, does it not strike some of you odd that Conestoga High School is not on the list?  I have to believe that Conestoga High School would not fall short in any of the categories as based on Newsweek’s criteria (above).

There has been much discussion, including on Community Matters, in regards to the quality of our T/E school district.  Repeatedly, people have affirmed that the quality of our school district is helping to sustain our property values.  If that is correct, shouldn’t TESD taxpayers expect the same ‘bragging rights’ as the other school districts?

Unable to explain ‘why’ Conestoga High School is not on the list, I researched further.  Under Newsweek’s category, “Methodology: How we compiled the list” and I may have discovered the answer.  From the Newsweek website, I found the following:

To compile the 2011 list of the top high schools in America, NEWSWEEK reached out to administrators, principals, guidance counselors, and Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate coordinators at more than 10,000 public high schools across the country. In order to be considered for our list, each school had to complete a survey requesting specific data from the 2009-2010 academic year.

Based on Newsweek’s methodology, is the explanation to Conestoga’s MIA status on the list as simple as the administration dropped the ball and did not complete the survey?

Regardless of whether you give credence to school rankings, what does it say that every other public high school in the area is on the list except for Conestoga High School?

If you were moving into the Philadelphia suburbs and had high school age children, would it make a difference to you?  If all was equal, do you think that a family with high school age children would opt for one of our neighboring school districts because they were ranked by Newsweek and TESD was not?

Bottom line, as our property taxes continue to increase, I am guessing that most taxpayers in T/E would like to see their high school on the list.  If nothing more, it helps take some of the sting out of the tax bill.

I would be curious what explanation our school board members would have to say on the ranking and Conestoga’s MIA status on the list.

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As a follow-up note, I have emailed school board president Karen Cruickshank and cc the T/E school board.  If I receive a response, I will be glad to post it.

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