Pattye Benson

Community Matters

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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  1. I would think that Conestoga could verify if the email was received or not – there would be a history on the mail server. If it was received, proving whether the counselor actually read it is another matter.

    But shouldn’t this have been on the administration’s and/or the school board’s radar, given that it is an annual publication and the rankings are well-publicized?

    I asked two neighbors who are realtors about this matter – both said that Conestoga’s reputation as the best high school in the area is always mentioned by clients as a reason for choosing to live in our township.

    1. Launching an investigation to review e-mail histories? Demanding to know whether or not some poor guidance counselor read the e-mail?

      Yes…lets lose all sense of perspective. Lets drag the poor counselor before the School Board to be subjected to a harsh public interrogation.

      The mission of the School District is to teach.

      The mission of the Counselor is to provide guidance to our children.

      While responding to Newsweek surveys might be good for our collective egos, it has no bearing on the mission to educate.

      So let’s nip this inquisition in the bud, say a collective WHO CARES (note: there will be no impact on real estate values…no really there will be no impact), and move on to things of greater import (like figuring out when is a good time of the day to go to Handel’s for ice cream without having to wait in line for 40 minutes).

      1. I didn’t recommend an investigation or “demand” anything – I merely pointed out an option to validating the information provided by the school – Pattye’s post DID have that statement underlined.

        Can’t anyone say anything on this blog without being ridiculed and/or misquoted?

  2. I find it surprising that for something as prestige and valuable as this survey apparently is that it would be done by sending an email to a school. I’m sure it’s to save cost. But I would bet if they mailed it and then put a $20 processing fee with it, they would recuperate the bulk of the cost.

    It’s a shame it was a missed opportunity, but I agree with Mr. Roboto in that this is truly a minimal impact issue. Not being listed, after a history of superior rankings is less of a deal to me then if they were to suddenly drop to #400 or something along those lines.

    Because this is based off an equation and we know where they would have fallen, a simple press release locally for the paper would easily calm down the real-estate-value-people.

  3. I completely agree with Mr. Roboto. Let the school district worry about teaching our kids and not about filling out surveys for a “for profit” magazine.

  4. Well, let’s just hope they don’t “miss the email” about the U.S. News & World Report rankings. It’s not the counselor’s fault–but rather, the fault of the Communications Specialist for the district. If these rankings are annual, then Newsweek should have been on that individual’s schedule/radar screen.

    These rankings may seem trifling to some, but our high school’s reputation means a GREAT DEAL to our students applying to college. College admissions offices DO look at the Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report rankings to determine how competitive a high school may be. I know; I work in one. It helps determine whether a kid with a 4.0 from less challenging School A gets accepted over a kid with a 3.6 from more challenging School B.

    Had such an oversight happened at a regular workplace, the employee in question would be in major hot water right now.

    There’s a sense of complacency in our school district that is alarming at times. They’re cutting programs left and right, raising our taxes, etc., but they aren’t doing the most basic things they need to do on their end.

    The communications specialist gets a decent salary, free health insurance, job security and a great pension. How hard is it to keep up with ANNUAL rankings in the major pubs?

    Let’s hope the T/E Administration addresses this issue with the seriousness it deserves. This hurts our juniors and seniors who are hoping to get into the colleges of their choice. Outside of the tri-state area, not everyone knows Conestoga–and college admissions officers are looking at rankings.

    Being a communications specialist for a (supposedly) highly regarded district like T/E should require a lot more than the ability to churn out a couple of outdated T/E Insight newsletters every year.

    1. I just have to comment on this…I have worked with the T/E administration and the communications specialist for years as an active community member involved with school district committees. Knowing this staff member’s work ethic, I can guarantee, if it was this individual’s responsibility and not someone else’s, it would have been done. I’m appalled that you would make such accusations without knowing the details about how this specific responsibility was assigned within the school district.

    2. If you work in an office that uses these national rankings, I am appalled. These rankings are marketing tools for magazines. Conestoga has a fabulous document called the school profile. I would suggest people look at it. It used to be on their website and probably still is. It’s compiled annually and was developed in conjunction with admissions officers at Penn and other schools when Conestoga dropped class rank. Statewide rankings, which are all that I believe apply in this case are clear and annual.

  5. A missed opportunity but not the end of the world.

    But schools do matter to homebuyers, or at least it did to this one. When we moved to Tredyffrin 11 yrs ago, and my eldest was about to enter high school, we wouldnt put in our bid on our house until the realtor confirmed that the house was in the T/E system (we live about 100 yards from the border). But I relied on state data, not rankings from commercial publications.


  6. Apparently the public information specialist/communications specialist is only in the office a few days a week but “checks email every day” according to her voicemail message.

    1. I don’t think she works full time in the summer. Remember – taxpayers are demanding budget cuts. These are some of the things you better get used to.

      1. The Communications person may be part-time in the summer however the Newsweek email wassent mid-May before school was out — so presumably that person was full-time.

        1. It didn’t go to her. Read the whole post. It allegedly went to a guidance counselor. I was responding to the snide post that quoted her voicemail message. TE Parent is right — blaming is SUCH a waste of energy. The point is made and going forward TE will participate in these beauty pageants.
          One caveat — in this budget crunch, don’t assume TE will continue to HAVE a “communications” person. Not sure that job results in better teaching, so I would suggest that public relations (which is what it is) is a luxury unless this community gets behind the nuances of a “top” school district.

  7. Wow – a lot of blaming going on here. So Conestoga will be included in the survey next year. What’s the big deal?? If the survey always went to Conestoga directly in the past, why would the administration expect it to be any different this year? Not a friendly online community.

  8. As a PR/communications person for one of our local private schools for the past 10 years, I can tell you that almost all of these surveys are emailed these days, and every publication wants to have one in order to guess why…sell issues! I fill out at least five surveys a year for publications such as The Inquirer, Peterson’s, etc. Newsweek is particularly egregious because they solicit us for exclusive “profiles” in these issues for $10,000! Ridiculous.

    In any case, the survey needs to be the responsibility of the PR person, not some poor counselor. I always made sure I knew when the surveys would come round and would contact either the organization or people in my school if I didn’t receive the information. Like it or not, people look at them and you need to be in there.

    Rankings really are a very subjective tool and I caution people not to put too much stock in them. You never know where the data is coming from – and just because it is in print is doesn’t mean the numbers aren’t fudged or just plain inaccurate. And just because a school district spends X on a student doesn’t mean the education is great. If you are serious about evaluating schools and districts, talk to other parents. Every good school PR person knows happy parents and students are the best source of marketing – not these types of publications.

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