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Are Public School Rankings Necessary

Once again, public school rankings are in the news. Some high schools have chosen to boycott an attempt by Newsweek to select America's best high schools. The reason is that this ranking will be based on a very narrow set of criteria.

Current System for Public School Rankings Flawed

In my opinion, it's impossible to determine whether one school is better than another based solely on the results of standardized academic tests. In the case of Newsweek, the magazine is ranking schools based on the number of students who took the Advanced Placement exams. I fully support any school that refuses to provide information where public school rankings will be based on one item.

To assign public school rankings based on one factor is flawed and narrow-minded, to say the least. The true measure of how good a job teachers in a school are doing cannot be found by looking at the number of students who took an exam or how well they performed on one day. Education is an ongoing process and we won't know how well the schools prepared our young people for the adult world until they are adults.

We all like reading Top 10 lists for different things. The idea that just about anything can be sorted and ranked gives us a sense of order, perhaps. The fact is that life is much more complicated than a list of Top 10 or Top 100 items and public school rankings as released to the public don't tell the full story about what is happening in schools. You know you are going to continue to read the public school rankings when they are published; just take them with a grain of salt.

Instead of Focusing on Public School Rankings, Focus on Learning

The problem with public school rankings is that they don't tell you about how much progress the students have made over the school year. That is a much better way to evaluate teacher performance than pumping students full of the information they will need to perform well on the standardized tests.

This view of what teaching is all about and what schools are for is just wrong. Schools are for educating students and teaching them how to think for themselves. Nowhere on the public school rankings is there a category that lists these types of achievements. I'm all for throwing the public school rankings away and focusing on the students and their needs.