SHS Among Newsweek’s Top 500 High Schools
By: Alex Scofield
On Wednesday evening, a family member told Sandwich teacher Lisa A. Cahill that Sandwich High School was being mentioned on the TV news.
“I thought, ‘Dear God, what now?’ ” Ms. Cahill said to the Sandwich School Committee at open session later that night.
This was good news, as it turned out. Sandwich High School was named one of the nation’s top 500 high schools in Newsweek magazine’s annual rankings. Ranked No. 484 overall, SHS was one of 11 Massachusetts high schools on the list.
Sturgis Charter Public School, with a student body that draws from Sandwich, was No. 301 on Newsweek’s list. SHS and Sturgis were the only two Cape schools in the rankings.
What Were The Criteria?
How did Newsweek magazine determine that Sandwich High School was one of the 500 top high schools in the US?
Newsweek has been in the business of ranking America’s public high schools for more than 10 years, but used a new methodology to rank schools this year.
The rankings were tabulated according to a formula created by three industry leaders (an executive from Teach For America, one with Open Education Solutions, and a Stanford professor who founded the School Redesign Network) whose goal, Newsweek said, was “to develop a yardstick that fully reflects a school’s success in turning out college-ready (and life-ready) students.”
Under this method, each high school received a score based on six criteria:
• Graduation rate (25 percent of the score)
• College matriculation rate (25 percent)
• Advanced Placement tests taken per graduate (25 percent)
• Average SAT/ACT scores (10 percent)
• Average AP/International Baccalaureate/Advanced International Certificate in Education scores (10 percent)
• AP courses offered (5 percent)
“All the credit goes to the staff and students, as it should,” said Ellin S. Booras, principal of SHS. “It’s nice that the rest of the world will see what we already know.”
Newsweek determined its rankings quantitatively, through a formula that considered six criteria. The most prominent factors in the formula were a school’s graduation rate, college matriculation rate, and Advanced Placement scores per graduate.
Of these three factors, SHS was best served by its 99 percent graduation rate.
Among the 11 Massachusetts schools in Newsweek’s rankings, one is a select public school (Boston Latin) and two (Sturgis and Mystic Valley) are regional charter schools. Among single-town school districts, this puts Sandwich in the company of Hopkinton (No. 95), Belmont (No. 110), Westwood (134) and Longmeadow (484).
Newsweek’s rankings were released at a time when the district is attempting to assess the reasons many families have for choosing to send their students to charter schools, private schools or other district systems through school choice.
At Wednesday night’s school committee meeting, Superintendent Mary Ellen Johnson presented members with large binders containing the results of a survey administered to Sandwich’s 8th grade students on their plans for high school. Dr. Johnson said that 63 percent of the 8th graders planned to go to SHS.
Ms. Booras said in response that of the town’s 307 8th graders, SHS had actual schedules for 257 students.
Based on experience from previous years, Ms. Booras said that there is usually a discrepancy between how many students plan to attend SHS at this point in the year versus how many actually attend, in part because not every student accepted at another school chooses to attend that school.
After the meeting, Ms. Booras said she was pleased the Newsweek survey demonstrates that the data for SHS “shows up healthy” on a national scale.
“It’s a clarion call to remind us of our responsibility to these kids,” Ms. Booras said. “They deserve our efforts to keep them challenged. … It’s nice to know that we held up.”
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