Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Connecticut's Top Public High Schools

LOTS of reaction to the "Top High Schools" feature in Connecticut Magazine. Anger from inner-city teachers and administrators who feel demographics need to be factored in; dismay from some suburban precincts who feel they didn't finish high enough; joy from those who feel the results perfectly illustrate the disparity between schools in rich and poor areas of the state. Our intention was simply to put the numbers out there to be used however they might. The fact is, these are the "top" schools in terms of the factors we used and they do a great job of preparing the kids they have. Whatever else it says is all in the eyes of the beholder. The results are now available here.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

The results based on the criteria used truly confirms the idea that the wealthy, "lily white" communities apparently test better,spend more money on education, etc and that somehow makes them "the top."
Looking at your top 10, only Farmington and Greenwich are required to report (2008 CAPT)sub-group scores based on ethnicity, free or reduced lunch and ELL. None of the others schools have the required 20 students in each subgroup. Looking at special education results, no school does a significantly better job.
If your interview w/the Staples principal indicated that he felt that all areas should be treated as "varsity", perhaps other criteria should have been used in your study as well. Which schools have had the most success closing the achievement gap? Which schools have increased their graduation rate? Which schools have had the most success helping students from lower socio-economic familes achieve their educational goals?
Those schools are the "real" top public high schools!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to see that Ridgefield High has been rated in the top 6 high schools. I am a college professor and my family left Ridgefield due to the poor school system, reliance on rubrics, and the emphasis of teaching to the CMTs rather than providing a real education. The school is teaching to the CMTs - everything is geared to the CMTs, the teachers grade children relative to the CMTs. My son was told by his English teacher that he should not try to learn how to become a writer, but instead learn the CMT approach to persuasive writing. When he asked questions in class, he was told only to examine the CMT rubric to receive his answer. While gifted children are left to fend for themselves, on the other end of the spectrum, there have been many incidents of parents having to get lawyers involved to care for special education children. My daughter was "on the line" but Ridgefield flatly refused to provide services for her in the special ed category, simply throwing an Alphasmart her way and deciding they were "done" with their obligation to her. There are many stories like these. Apparently you also are unaware of the prevalence of drugs in Ridgefield. If you examine the Ridgefield Press for a few years, you will find incidents of drug dealing in the high school parking lot, in the cafeteria under teacher's noses (there is a special table), in the high school bathrooms, at the Ridgefield Playhouse, and more. If you look through the Police Blog, every week there is an incidence of drug use by "underage minors". Most importantly, when you talk to the high schoolers, it is as if they are kept in prison. The school has a poor communication climate with parents, who must "do battle" with the administration and with teachers to have their concerns recognized. Members of the community recognize there are problems, but are unaware of what to do. The high school is too large to suit the population, there are three guidance counselors for over 450 students in a class, and this is what you consider to be a good high school? I'd suggest that you examine your criteria more closely. Perhaps next year, interviews with townspeople might help you to get the real story behind the statistics.

jim said...

Dear CT Magazine,
Your feature article on Connecticut’s top high schools was, at best, irresponsible journalism, at worst, an insult to the great work that goes on everyday at our state’s high schools. You highlight a school with students characterized as highly motivated, respectful, inquisitive, and responsible. How does one measure motivation, respectfulness, and responsibility? Is it measured by the amount of students taking AP courses, or is it measured by the number of students stretching themselves past their “indentified” potential? You also site that your goal was to find the schools that have the most motivated faculty. How is that measured? The only criteria I perceived that you used is the number of teachers with a Masters degree. That number is usually determined by the average age of the teaching staff. New teachers usually begin their careers at the bachelor’s level and then earn the Masters as part of the state requirement mandated within 5 years of teaching. Retirement turnover can have a significant impact on this number. The term “veteran” does not always translate into “motivated” or even high-level instructional practice. Did you research which schools had school leaders who are in classrooms everyday in pursuit of developing the best instructional practices? Did you research which schools had the best professional development plans? Did you research which schools have developed a culture of differentiated instruction and assessment that guarantees all students are taught and assessed in accordance with their individual learning styles? I work in a school which, according to your own words, should receive high marks because our administration and staff are encouraged to think and teach outside the textbooks. You say these qualities are important, but did you factor them into your formula? Did you research which schools had the most comprehensive selection of clubs and activities. These qualities also make great high schools. Test scores and college placements are important statistics, but are a small factor in how well a high school challenges and services its student body.
Be very careful when equating high test scores with exceptional teaching. While I am positive a correlation exists, it is certainly not a guarantee. Students in high-income towns have more financial resources to pay for tutors and other supplemental learning opportunities when the instruction they receive at school is not sufficient. You factor in CAPT scores. Did you look at schools who have recorded significantly improved scores where real improved learning is taking place? Did you consider whether the schools on your list have scores that have improved, stagnated, or even dropped? Could that infer that teaching and learning has stagnated as well? You factored in the number of students who go onto to college. Did you factor economics into your equation? If a child’s family cannot afford a 4-year college, does that mean that the staff of his or her school is not motivated? Your article highlights all of the unique ways that schools acknowledge and value their students. Your article even quotes a parent who acknowledges that these values have a positive effect on test scores. How is this factored into your formula?
If your objective was to sell magazines by placing a high interest topic on the cover, then I give you an A+. You may have even earned some extra credit for every copy of this issue that now sits in the real estate offices of the towns of the schools on your list. If your intention was to do a thorough search of the best schools in Connecticut based on where all students are taught to their learning style, all students are challenged, all students feel valued, and all differences are respected, then I am sorry to say that you failed this assignment. The education of our children and the impact that education has on the cities and towns of Connecticut is a serious and complex subject; a subject that warrants an in-depth evaluation by professionals who are qualified to do so. Please, in the future, limit your rankings to restaurants and golf courses.

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