U.S. News utilized its comprehensive rankings methodology to create its lists of Best High Schools. This methodology revolves around the key principles that a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college-bound, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators.
We evaluated nearly 22,000 public high schools in the United States, and 403 public high schools in New York City. This is the total number of public high schools in New York that had 12th-grade enrollment and sufficient data, primarily from the 2009-2010 school year, to analyze. Four high schools were excluded from the rankings due to data errors in the United States Department of Education's Common Core Data that affected the ranking variables.
A three-step process determined the Best High Schools in New York City. The first two steps ensured that the schools serve all of their students well, using performance on state proficiency tests as the benchmarks. For those schools that made it past the first two steps, a third step assessed the degree to which schools prepare students for college-level work.
• Step 1: The first step determined whether each school's students were performing better than statistically expected for the average student in the city. We started by looking at reading and math results for all students on New York state's high school proficiency tests. We then factored in the percentage of economically disadvantaged students (who tend to score lower) enrolled at the school to identify the schools that were performing better than statistical expectations.
• Step 2: For those schools that made it past this first step, the second step determined 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 and then selected schools that were performing better than this state average.
• Step 3: Schools that made it through the first two steps became eligible to be judged on the final step—college-readiness performance—using Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test data as the benchmarks for success, depending on which program was largest at the school. AP is a College Board program that offers college-level courses at high schools across the country. The International Baccalaureate program also offers a college-level curriculum.
This third step measured which schools produced the best college-level achievement for the highest percentages of their students. This was done by computing a "college readiness index" based on the school's AP or IB participation rate (the number of 12th-grade students in the 2009-2010 academic year who took at least one AP or IB test before or during their senior year, divided by the number of 12th graders) and how well the students did on those tests.
The latter part, called quality-adjusted AP or IB participation rate, is the number of 12th-grade students in the 2009-2010 academic year who took and passed (received an AP score of 3 or higher or an IB score of 4 or higher) at least one of the tests before or during their senior year, divided by the number of 12th graders at that school. Any individual AP or IB subject test was considered when determining if a student took or passed at least one test.
For the college readiness index, the quality-adjusted participation rate was weighted 75 percent in the calculation, and the simple AP or IB participation rate was weighted 25 percent. The test that was taken by the most students at a particular school—either AP or IB—was used to calculate that school's college readiness index.
Only schools that had values at or above 16.3 in their college readiness index scored high enough to meet the criteria for being numerically ranked. The minimum of 16.3 was used because it's the median (the statistical midpoint) of all the college readiness index values among all high schools with AP or IB test takers.