13 here make list of top high schools
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U.S. News & World Report, known for its college rankings, for the first time has turned its attention to ranking public high schools nationwide.
The result is a list honoring schools as different as Mt. Lebanon, a high-achieving suburban school, and Duquesne, which was so troubled the state forced the closing of the high school this year.
The top rating goes to 100 numerically ranked "gold" high schools, only two of which are in Pennsylvania: Julia R. Masterman in Philadelphia and Conestoga Senior High in Berwyn, Chester County.
No. 1 in the country was Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Va., a magnet school for science and technology.
Another 405, which are unranked, are considered "silver," including Allderdice, Hampton, Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny and Upper St. Clair.
The next group, called "bronze," comprises 1,086 schools, including City Charter High School, Duquesne Middle/High and Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.
Other area bronze high schools include Leechburg Area in Armstrong County; Derry Area, Greater Latrobe, Greensburg-Salem in Westmoreland County; and Charleroi in Washington County.
The names were released yesterday in advance of a story on "America's Best High Schools" to go on newsstands on Monday and available today on the Internet at www.usnews.com/highschools.
The evaluators considered three main characteristics:
• Performance levels on state math and reading tests that exceed "statistical expectations given the school's relative level of student poverty."
• Proficiency rates on state tests for black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students that are above state averages.
• Student participation and performance on advanced placement tests administered by the College Board. This was used as a measure of how well a school prepares its students for college. It also was used to rank the top 100.
Gold schools had to meet all three criteria; silver schools had to meet the first two but not the one for AP tests.
The rankings cover 40 states -- including 90 percent of all high schools and more than 90 percent of all high school seniors -- for which data were available.
The method that was used to evaluate more than 18,500 schools was devised by School Evaluation Services, an arm of Standard & Poor's, in collaboration with Andrew Rotherham, co-founder of Education Sector, a nonprofit think tank, and writer of Eduwonk.com.
The analysis has its roots in work S&P began doing in Pennsylvania and Michigan in 2001. The work was expanded to a national effort with help from foundations in 2005 in a Web site called www.SchoolMatters.com.
Paul Gazzerro, director of analytical criteria at School Evaluation Services, said the earlier analysis identified schools performing better than might be expected. The look at the least-advantaged students and AP has been added.
"We're hoping this is a meaningful way of thinking of what's important and what schools need to do to improve," he said. "If you're not on the list, you might want to know why and try to improve to get on it."
He's also hoping those already in the top 100 will improve to get higher on the list.
Alan Lesgold, dean of the education school at the University of Pittsburgh, said, "I think what these things do is call our attention to the fact there are schools doing the job."
For years, Newsweek, a competitor of U.S. News, has ranked high schools. Its most recent results in May used a formula that divided the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school by the number of graduating seniors.
The AP measure in the U.S. News & World Report is different. It doesn't consider IB or Cambridge; it counts only students who scored at least a 3 on an AP exam; and it looks at the number of seniors who took at least one AP exam.
Four Allegheny County high schools made the lists for both U.S. News and Newsweek, which in May called them among the top 5 percent nationwide: Allderdice, Hampton, Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair.
The Allegheny County high school Newsweek ranked highest -- Quaker Valley -- didn't make the U.S. News list. Also missing from the U.S. News list were Peters Township and Fox Chapel Area.
First Published December 1, 2007 12:00 am