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WHS Again Named to Best High Schools List

Williamston High School has again been named to the US News Best High Schools List. The national level ranking recognizes schools that excel in preparing students for university studies, as well as graduation rate, advanced placement opportunities, and math and reading proficiency. 

US News Best High Schools

The criteria for making the Best High Schools List is outlined below (source; US News):

Overall National Rankings

Below is the description of each of the six ranking indicators and their weights used to produce the overall score:

  • College Readiness (30%)

The College Readiness Index, or CRI, is measured by the proportion of a school's 12th graders that took and passed AP/IB exams.

There are two elements. One is a participation rate – the number of 12th grade students in the 2016-2017 academic year who took at least one AP or IB test before or during their senior year, divided by the total number of 12th graders at the school. The other is a quality-adjusted participation rate, defined as the number of 12th grade students in the 2016-2017 academic year who took and passed – received an AP score of 3 or higher or IB score of 4 or higher – at least one AP or IB test by their senior year, divided by the number of 12th graders at that school.

Quality-adjusted participation was weighted 75%, and the simple participation rate was weighted 25% toward CRI. The maximum CRI possible is 100 if every 12th grader at a school took and passed at least one AP or IB exam by their senior year.

In cases where schools had both AP and IB results, U.S. News created a blended CRI that gave a proportionally larger weight to the program that had greater participation. All AP and IB subject tests were considered when determining whether a student took or passed at least one AP or IB exam.

Many schools without any AP or IB exam test takers scored a zero on this ranking indicator. But adjustments were made so that schools without APs and IBs would not score significantly worse than schools with very few APs and IBs even after the scores were standardized. In summary, not having any AP or IB exams was not enough alone to sink a school to the bottom of the rankings.

South Dakota was the only state that did not give U.S. News permission to use its schools' AP data, so no South Dakota schools could be evaluated in this ranking factor.  

  • College Curriculum Breadth (10%)

The College Curriculum Breadth Index, or CCBI, is calculated among a school's 2016-2017 12th graders from the percentage who took and the percentage who passed multiple AP/IB exams. Students who took and passed exams in four AP or IB content areas earned full credit. Those passing two or three AP or IB content areas were given partial credit – 50% and 75%, respectively.

For both exams, the percentage of students taking exams in multiple areas was weighted 25% and the percentage of students passing exams in multiple areas was weighted 75% to derive a CCBI score from which the natural log was taken to handle outlier cases. Altogether, high schools where the largest proportion of 12th grade students in the 2016-2017 academic year took and passed AP/IB tests in at least four AP or IB content areas scored highest.

The AP exam content areas measured were English; math and computer science; sciences; world languages and cultures; history and social science; arts; and AP capstone. For the IB exam, content areas measured were studies in language and literature; language acquisition; individuals and societies; sciences; mathematics; the arts; extended essay; and theory of knowledge.

South Dakota was the only state that did not give U.S. News permission to use its schools' AP data, so no South Dakota schools could be evaluated in this ranking factor.  

  • Math and Reading Proficiency (20%)

Each state issues standardized tests measuring student proficiency in subjects related to mathematics and reading. The states often look closely at student performance on these tests to determine whether learning in core subjects is achieved and to review how well schools are educating their students. At least passing some of these assessments may be a requirement for students to graduate.

The math and reading proficiency indicator is a simple measure of schools' student performance on these assessments. For example, if a state's grading system assigns a 1-4 to every assessment and each student at a school earned a 4 for math and a 4 for reading, that school would achieve a perfect score.

Schools' total assessment scores were compared against other schools from their states. The distribution of scores within each state was then considered to compare how a school's relative performance in one state equated to a different school's relative performance in another state.

  • Math and Reading Performance (20%)

This ranking indicator also is derived from math and reading state assessments. But in this case, the total assessment scores are compared with what U.S. News predicted for a school with its demographic characteristics in its state.

In all 50 states, there is a very positive statistical relationship between the proportion of its student body that is black, Hispanic and/or from a low-income household – defined as being eligible for free or subsidized school lunch – and a school's results on state assessments. Schools performing best on this ranking indicator are those whose assessment scores far exceeded U.S. News' modeled expectations.

  • Underserved Student Performance (10%)

This is a measure assessing learning outcomes only among black, Hispanic and low-income students. This evaluates how well this underserved subgroup scored on state assessments compared with the average for non-underserved students among schools in the same state. Schools performing above the 50th percentile nationally in this comparison received the highest score, while other schools’ scores decreased the greater the distance between their underserved students and their state’s median for non-underserved students.

  • Graduation Rate (10%)

Among students who entered ninth grade in the 2012-2013 academic year, this measure is the proportion who graduated four years later by 2016-2017. Graduation rates are an important indicator of how well a school is succeeding for all its students. 

Methodology Continued

Schools were required to have assessment data available in order to be reviewed for a ranking. Some imputations were made, though, for missing data for student body, subgroup level assessment data and graduation. In some cases, data from 2015-2016 were used when 2016-2017 data were not available.

For all six ranking indicators, each school's scores were standardized about their means and divided by their standard deviations to account for statistical variance. For example, the difference between an 89% graduation rate and an 85% graduation rate may not seem like much on an absolute basis, but it matters significantly on a relative basis for the rankings because the national average graduation rate according to the National Center for Education Statistics is around 84%.

The weights were selected based on research and coordination between U.S. News and education experts at RTI on what factors matter most. State assessments contribute most to the rankings because data were used for every school and because states are known to place greater stock on these scores than on graduation rates in assessing schools. Math and reading proficiency and performance received double the weight of underserved student performance because they factor the absolute and relative performance of all students at those schools, including but not limited to underserved students. For college-level exams, three times the weight was placed on College Readiness Index versus College Curriculum Breadth Index because in preparing students for college, providing at least some exposure to AP and IB exams is believed to be of greater importance than whether students take the heaviest AP/IB course loads possible.