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D-205 assesses rankings, makes improvements

Published: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 10:23 p.m. CDT
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Charles Johns

Recently, many national publications have produced rankings of what they consider to be the best high schools. The educators and community of District 205 are very proud of York High School’s continued high rankings in these annual lists.

In U.S. News & World Report, York is ranked 28th in the state and 809th in the nation, based on a multi-step process that includes analyzing performance on state assessments, demographics and Advanced Placement performance.

York ranks 24th in the state and 449th in the nation in Newsweek’s list of America’s Best High Schools. Newsweek looks at graduation rate, college acceptance rate and the number of students taking AP tests.

In the Washington Post’s compilation of America’s Most Challenging High Schools, York places 31st in the state and 1,099th in the country based on AP participation.

While there are merits to each model, caution should be used when viewing these reports. Simple rankings belie the fact that schools are very complex institutions and that the definition of a successful school can vary widely between stakeholders.

Readers of these reports can be easily led to conclusions with only a narrow slice of information about a school. Since every national report uses a different set of data or weights results differently, results can vary tremendously. For example, one high school in Illinois was unranked in the US News & World Report listing, but was found to have earned a top 10 ranking in another publication.

District 205 uses an array of data to assess its performance and make improvements. Academics are monitored via performance on nine Key District Performance Indicators, including:

• ACT composite score

• Growth from eighth-grade EXPLORE to 11th-grade ACT

• AP participation rate

• Graduation rate

• Fine arts elective participation

• Students on track for college and career readiness

These KDPIs are just the top-level indicators; departments and grade levels have additional indicators that are monitored regularly. Unlike these national reports, D-205 indicators provide evidence of performance on a timely basis and enable the district to make improvements rapidly.

More information can be found at elmhurst205.org.

Charles Johns is the assistant superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction for Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205

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