Skimming the Surface: The Merits of High School Rankings
Recently, 14 Montgomery County High Schools were ranked among the top high schools in the U.S. News and World Report 2015 Best High School list. Schools were judged based on “college readiness indexes” and test performance. While good test scores and high graduation rates help heighten the prestige of any educational institution, it is crucial to evaluate the true reasons behind the success of so many well performing students. Test scores may give an idea on how well students are doing, but they do not give an idea as to how and why they are doing so well.
All schools and their administration would like to think that the teachers and overall school environment help promote student success, and while this may be true in some schools, that is not always the case. The purpose of a school or any other academic institution is not just to teach students facts about different subjects. It also has a duty to promote positive values within the student body and help students learn to succeed through hard work. So if a school is filled with “smart” students who also have a tendency to cheat on tests, and as a result have overall higher test scores, is that school necessarily “better” than a school whose students do not perform as well, but are honest and always work hard?
Now, I’m not saying that all students are either savage cheaters or honorable hard workers, but higher test score averages do not really make one school better than another. Test scores can be influenced by many different factors. For example, the Montgomery County population is divided into different socioeconomic groups. Parents with higher incomes are going to be able to afford tutors and/or coaching center tuition outside of school for their children more so than parents with lower incomes. Every student struggles with some course material, but the amount of help they receive is disproportionate from student to student and school to school.
Schools should not just be evaluated on test scores and graduation rates. What resources and opportunities they provide for students, as well as the overall environment students are exposed to, are also integral to determining their overall quality. We may live in a society where students’ ability to fill in a scantron correctly is valued more than people would like to admit, but that does not mean the practice needs to be proliferated. The “best” high schools in the United States may be the ones with the highest test scores for the U.S. News and World Report, but they are not for those who believe that life isn’t just a series of multiple choice tests.
High schools are shaped by the students that attend it and the teachers that attend to it. If we only look at how well students bubble in scantrons, then we are ignoring the many different aspects that comprise a school. It is very easy to skim the surface and calculate and compare some statistics from some number data, but if we actually stopped and looked carefully as to how much the school environment was helping shape students’ attitudes toward education, we may see an entirely different picture. It’s about time we stopped judging schools solely on numbers.
By the MoCo Student Opinions Editor Deepti Agnihotri of Poolesville High School
Graphic by the MoCo Student Graphic Artist Michelle Tu of Blair High School