''The Wilen Index"--a new high school ranking, sort of
My esteemed colleague Jay Mathews recently published his annual, well-known and controversial Challenge Index, in which he ranks high schools with this formula that he devised years ago: The number of Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate and/or other college-level tests taken by all students at a school, divided by the number of graduating seniors.
The index has its many critics--I have been one of them--who say that it's not fair to judge a school by a single test score. Jay says he isn’t just using test scores--which are generally a measure of average family income--but, rather, showing how much a school is challenging its students with rigorous curriculum.
I received some letters and emails from readers who said they agreed with me, so I decided to challenge them to devise a better way to rank high schools.
(I played around with my own ranking--which would require schools to make mandatory the reading of my favorite books, which include “Anna Karenina” and “Jane Eyre”--but quickly thought better of it.)
Here is one response from Louis Wilen, a Montgomery County parent of two Magruder High School graduates and one Magruder senior.
"The problem with all of the high school ranking systems is that none of them establishes a baseline. How can you determine how effective a school is at teaching -- in other words, how 'good' it is -- if you don’t take into account what students know when they enter the school? I’ll offer a solution that solves that problem. Most of the schools in our area administer the PSAT in 10th grade (as well as in 11th grade). The PSAT is supposed to predict how well students will perform on the SAT."
So here it is, The Wilen Index:
- Calculate the mean 10th grade PSAT score (Reading + Math) for each school as a baseline (multiplying by 10 to normalize the scores with the SAT).
- Calculate the mean SAT score of the same students in 12th grade (Reading + Math). (In other words, use only the scores of students who took the both the PSAT and SAT, and who were at the school throughout the 10th, 11th and 12th grades.)
- Subtract the normalized PSAT from the SAT score, and you get: The Improvement Delta.
Readers, what do you think?
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| February 20, 2010; 2:29 PM ET
Categories: High School | Tags: high school rankings
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