Best High Schools: Frequently Asked Questions

International Baccalaureate programs and what it takes to get a bronze medal.

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What have been the two most frequently raised issues since the America's Best High Schools 2008 list was launched?

First: Why was our school not good enough to earn a bronze medal when we are similar to others in our state that were?

Answer: There are three steps to the methodology. The first two (which must be cleared to earn a bronze medal) focus on the students' performance on state tests and are used as screens to determine eligibility for evaluation on the third step, which focuses on college readiness.

The criterion for the first step is probably the hardest for schools to meet—outperforming statistical expectations compared with other schools within their state. All high schools have been compared with other schools in their state by an analysis that calculates how well a school's students should do on state tests based on each school's relative proportion of student poverty. Only those schools whose performance significantly exceeds this expected value meet the first of two requirements for a bronze medal. The second step determines whether the school's least advantaged students (black, Hispanic, and low-income) were performing better than average for similar students in the state. We compared each school's math and reading proficiency rates for disadvantaged students with the statewide results for these student groups, then selected schools that were performing better than the state average. A school had to do well in both of these two steps to be a bronze and go on to compete nationally in college readiness criteria for a chance to win a silver or gold medal.

Second: Were International Baccalaureate (IB) program results included in America's Best High Schools 2008 methodology?

Answer: No. We were unable to include IB, a very challenging high school test-based curriculum given around the world, in the Best High Schools ranking but are working to do so in the future. We are meeting with officials from the IB program to try to get access to high-school-specific data on the number of students participating in IB at each school and some measure of the school' s performance "quality," which could mean the number of students at that school who take and pass the IB test. There are several "bronze" schools that could not advance in this initial America's Best High Schools rankings because of their specialization in IB rather than AP exams. We are eager to incorporate IB into our analysis and will strive to do so for the next rankings.

If you are interested in more information about the America's Best High Schools 2008 methodology you can go here. For those interested in a much more detailed version of the methodology, there is a PDF version from School Evaluation Services that includes details about which tests are used in each state and how "outperfomance" is determined. If your questions still have not been answered, try the website of School Evaluation Services, a K-12 education and data research and analysis business of Standard & Poor's that compiled the rankings for U.S. News.