Frequently Asked Questions: Best High Schools Rankings

Here are answers to common questions about the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings.

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  1. What is the Best High Schools project and why did U.S. News & World Report create these rankings?
  2. Was every public high school in the United States eligible to be evaluated as part of the rankings?
  3. Why were private high schools not ranked as part of the Best High Schools rankings?
  4. What were the sources of information that U.S. News used to calculate the 2013 Best High Schools rankings?
  5. What methodology was used to calculate the 2013 Best High Schools rankings? What role did the American Institutes for Research play in these rankings?
  6. How were schools evaluated using the three-step process? What data and/or indicators were used to identify the high schools?
  7. What distinguishes a gold medal high school from a silver or bronze medal school?
  8. Were there any changes to the rankings methodology used in the 2013 Best High Schools rankings?
  9. Did U.S. News publish any new rankings or other demographic information along with the 2013 Best High Schools rankings?
  10. Why did some schools' rankings change in the 2013 Best High Schools rankings when compared with the last rankings published in May 2012?
  11. How were the 2013 Best High Schools rankings in each state and the Best Magnet and Best Charter Schools rankings calculated?
  12. Why is a school not listed or not ranked in the U.S. News 2013 Best High Schools rankings?
  13. Why did U.S. News list a school's AP or IB data even if that school did not win a gold or silver medal?
  14. How did U.S. News decide if a school was a charter or magnet school? Where did descriptive information about each high school come from?
  15. Why did one school in the same county rank lower on the U.S. News 2013 Best High Schools rankings than another school in the county that it outperforms on state tests in terms of the absolute level of results?
  16. Do the Best High Schools receive a reward?
  17. Whom should I contact if I have questions about the 2013 Best High Schools data, the current rankings or the rankings methodology?
  18. Whom should I contact if I have questions about my school's historical rank in the previous Best High Schools rankings?
  19. 1. What is the Best High Schools project and why did U.S. News & World Report create these rankings?

    The Best High Schools project identifies the country's top-performing public high schools. The goal is to provide a clear, unbiased picture of how well public schools serve all of their students – from the highest achieving to the lowest achieving – in preparing them to demonstrate proficiency in basic skills as well as readiness for college-level work.

    The first-ever list of the U.S. News Best High Schools was posted online on Nov. 30, 2007. The next edition was posted online on Dec. 5, 2008, followed by the one published online on Dec. 10, 2009. The 2012 edition was published online on May 8, 2012. The current 2013 edition was published online on April 23, 2013.

    Since U.S. News & World Report's editors believe high schools are among America's most important institutions, adding the Best High Schools to its series was a natural progression. Education drives our country's future. Recognizing schools that are performing well and providing them as models to other schools will inspire educators and communities to do better.

    Also, by sharing this information, parents across the country will be armed with information to help them make better-informed decisions about their child's education.

    The 2013 Best High Schools rankings do not have an accompanying print guidebook; however, the rankings and data may be used in future U.S. News publications.

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    2. Was every public high school in the United States eligible to be evaluated as part of the rankings?

    Yes, all public high schools were eligible and nearly all were evaluated in the process of calculating the rankings. The U.S. News Best High Schools methodology collected state test data from state departments of education.

    We analyzed 21,035 public high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia. This is the total number of public high schools that had 12th-grade enrollment and sufficient data from the 2010-2011 school year to analyze. (Nebraska was the only state that did not report enough data and therefore was not evaluated for any part of the rankings. None of the high schools in Nebraska are listed on usnews.com.)