Unionville High School

US News releases ‘Best High Schools in America’ list but where’s Conestoga High School?

Conestoga High SchoolEach year the US News and World Report releases ‘Best High Schools in America’ list of the top 500 public high school in America.  More than 21,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia. Schools were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals based on their performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college.

Anxious to see how our award-winning high school compared with others based on the 2015 US News ranking criteria, I was very disappointed.  When I searched for Conestoga High School on the US News website, instead of a ranking number, I found the following for our high school:

  • Medal Awarded: None
  • National Rank: Unranked

Why is Conestoga High School not on the Best High Schools in America list?  

For several years, I have reported on the US News rankings and Conestoga’s standing in the state and nationally.  In 2012, Conestoga was ranked #3 in Pennsylvania and #279 nationally.  For 2013, Conestoga  was ranked #5 in Pennsylvania and #313 nationally and for 2014, Conestoga was ranked #5 in Pennsylvania and #341 nationally.  Radnor, Great Valley, Lower Merion, Unionville Chadds Ford high schools are all on US News 2015 ranking list for the state and nationally – so what happened to Conestoga High School?

US News standings of the top 10 high schools nationally:

  1. School for the Talented and Gifted (Dallas, TX)
  2. BASIS Scottsdale (Scottsdale, AZ)
  3. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology (Alexandria, VA)
  4. Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science & Technology (Lawrenceville, GA)
  5. School of Science & Engineering Magnet (Dallas, TX)
  6. Carnegie Vanguard High School (Houston, TX)
  7. Academic Magnet High School (North Charleston, SC)
  8. University High School (Tolleson, AZ)
  9. Lamar Academy (McAllen, TX)
  10. Gilbert Classical Academy High School (Gilbert, AZ)

US News standings of the top 10 high schools in Pennsylvania:

  1. Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School (Philadelphia)
  2. New Hope-Solebury High School (New Hope)
  3. Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy (Erie)
  4. Upper St. Clair High School (Pittsburgh)
  5. Radnor High School (Radnor)
  6. Quaker Valley High School (Leetsdale)
  7. Great Valley High School (Malvern)
  8. Unionville High School (Kennett Square)
  9. Strath Haven High School (Wallingford)
  10. Mt. Lebanon High School (Pittsburgh)

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, why shouldn’t TESD taxpayers expect the same ‘bragging rights’ as the other school districts?

Not that this answer will be OK for some of the District’s parents, but I think I know why Conestoga High School is not on US News Best High Schools in America list.  Similar to US News rankings, Newsweek does an annual ranking of the top 500 public high schools in America.  When Newsweek released their 2011 rankings Conestoga High School was not listed. As a result of questions on this topic, the District released a statement regarding Newsweek’s 2011 rankings, which read in part:

For the T/E community members who follow Newsweek magazine’s annual America’s Best High Schools story, you are aware that Conestoga High School (CHS) has been included in the list for the past several years, yet was absent from the list this year. Since the criteria Newsweek uses to determine rankings did not significantly change, we inquired about our status. We learned that Newsweek changed the way in which they collect data about high schools. Newsweek responded that they sent an email earlier in the year to all secondary schools requesting information. According to Newsweek, the email was sent to a CHS counselor. The counselor, however, reported that the email was not received. We subsequently sent our data to Newsweek, and were informed by the Newsweek staff that CHS would have ranked competitively based upon our students’ performance and Newsweek’s calculations.

In 2011, the local community was assured that the error would be corrected and that T/E would participate in the Newsweek high school survey going forward.  T/E has award-winning schools so there’s little doubt that Conestoga High School should have been on the 2015 rankings of best high schools.  So, I’m left wondering if the same thing happened four years later – was the District’s clerical error of 2011 repeated in 2015 and that US News did not receive the required ranking materials from TE School District?

US News & World Report ranks Conestoga HS #5 in Pennsylvania and #313 in US

US News & World Report ranks Conestoga HS #5 in Pennsylvania and #313 in the US. The annual rankings of the country’s best high schools are out this week from US News & World Report. The rankings offer a snapshot of a school’s performance based on test data from 21,000 public high schools which represented 49 states (Nebraska did not present enough data to be considered) and the District of Columbia. Conestoga High School received gold level standing, listing a distinctive ranking of 313 of all public schools in the country. In Pennsylvania, US News listed Conestoga as #5.

The news outlet’s formula for determining their list of best high schools is a combination of school performance on state proficiency tests and how well they prepare students for college. A review of the individual states, had California leading the nation in 2013 rankings of best high schools with nearly 28 percent of its eligible high school receiving gold or silver levels. Maryland came in second with 25 percent receiving top designations and Connecticut third at 18.9 percent. To be eligible for a state ranking, a school must be awarded a national gold or silver medal. Pennsylvania has 570 school districts and 687 public high schools. In Pennsylvania, 168 high schools qualified for ‘best high school’ ranking by US News & World Report with either gold, silver or bronze medals. Nationally 500 schools earned gold medals, 1,790 were awarded silver and 2,515 took home bronze medals. Magnet and charter schools, which accept a limited number of students through a lottery or application process, accounted for 145 of the top 500 schools.

Here are the top 10 public high schools for 2013 as listed by US News & World Report:

#1 Julia R. Masterman, Philadelphia
#2 Lehigh Valley Academy Charter School, Bethlehem
#3 Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, Erie
#4 Wyomissing Area Jr-Sr High School, Wyomissing
#5 Conestoga High School, Berwyn
#6 Central High School, Philadelphia
#7 Upper St. Clair High School, Pittsburgh
#8 Radnor High School
#9 Lower Moreland High School, Huntingdon Valley
#10 Unionville High School, Kennett Square

Last year on Community Matters, I provided the top 10 high schools in Pennsylvania for 2012, listed below:

:#1 Julia R. Masterman, Philadelphia
#2 Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, Erie
#3 Conestoga High School, Berwyn
#4 Unionville High School, Kennett Square
#5 Wyomissing Area Jr-Sr High School, Wyomissing
#6 Radnor High School, Radnor
#7 New Hope-Solebury High School, New Hope
#8 Mt. Lebanon High School, Pittsburgh
#9 Upper St. Clair High School, Pittsburgh
#10 Central High School, Philadelphia

In reviewing the Pennsylvania ‘best high schools’, it is interesting to note that Conestoga High School as well as Radnor and Unionville high school dropped slightly in the US News rankings (Conestoga from #3 to #5, Radnor from #6 to #8 and Unionville from #4 to #10) yet Masterman, a magnet school in Philadelphia retained first place. Charter school Lehigh Valley Academy in Bethlehem did not make the 2012 top 10 best high schools but is #2 in the state on the 2013 list.  US News & World Report ranked Great Valley High School as #12 in 2012 but for 2013 the school has dropped to #21. Although Phoenixville High School was ranked as #25 in 2012, the school did not qualify for the 2013 rankings.

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