Photos by Caroline O'Kane '16 and Claudia Landowne '15, graphic by Cadence Neenan '15 and Claudia Landowne '15
On April 23, U.S. News and World Report released its annual lists of the best high schools in the country and the best high schools in each state. Staples, which was named the top high school in Connecticut in 2008 by Connecticut Magazine, dropped to seventh in the state and 269th in the country this year. Even so, it was awarded a Gold Medal for placing as one of the top 500 high schools in the nation.
U.S. News, which partnered with the American Institutes for Research, collected data from over 21,000 public high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia (Nebraska did not report enough data to be included in the rankings).
According to the rankings methodology, a school must be able serve all of its students well and must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes across a range of performance indicators, such as the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) and Advanced Placement (AP) tests.
There was a three-step process to determine a school’s national standing. The first step was to determine if a school’s students performed higher on state proficiency tests than the average student in the state. The second step focused on whether the school’s least-advantaged students—blacks, Hispanics, and people of low-income—performed higher than average when compared to similar students in the state.
If a school made it past the first two steps, it then moved on to the last step of the process. U.S. News created a college-readiness index based on the number of students who took AP or International Baccalaureate tests and recorded how well they did on them. The score they received on this index indicated a school’s national ranking.
State rankings were then derived from the national rankings.
Principal John Dodig said that he was happy that Staples was named one of the top ten high schools in the state.
“When you get up to the top five, 10 or 15 high schools by somebody’s ranking, the ranking doesn’t make a difference. You’re just being recognized as exceptionally good,” he said.
Robby Gershowitz ’14 echoed Dodig’s beliefs.
“I think the rankings are important, but they aren’t the most important thing,” he said. “I think all of the top schools are similar with hard working and motivated students.”
Arlene Gottesman, principal of Darien High School, which was ranked number one in the state, said that she was happy to receive the news about her school’s ranking.
“It is always exciting to receive great news that validates the hard work our students and teachers demonstrate,” she said.
Gottesman also added that credit for Darien’s success belongs to every teacher in the district, the Board of Education, and the community, among others.
Westport School District Superintendent Elliot Landon believes that, despite Staples’ ranking, it is the atmosphere of the school that is most important.
“The ‘feeling tone’ of individual high schools is never measured, such as whether students feel safe within the school and are made to feel worthy by school staff,” he said. “On that measurement, I would place Staples High School as number one on any national list.
Dodig echoed Landon’s beliefs.
“In Westport we have a high concentration of well-educated people who want a top notch education for their children,” he said. “We spend a lot of effort to make sure kids enjoy high school and feel safe and valued. And we send the message, along with families at home, that even if you’re great, we still expect you to be respectful, kind and caring.”