School rankings disregard “the golden years”

January 27, 2009 — by Sophia Cooper and Tiffany Tung

The U.S. News & World Report recently released their rankings of the Top 100 high schools in the nation. SHS fell eight spots from the 2007 ranking, coming in as 80th of all schools in the United States. The national rankings, however, were based on state-wide standings and students’ college-readiness, gauged by AP test scores and participation ratings, with complete disregard for the actual lived experiences of high schoolers.

High school is considered by many to be “the golden years” and the “best time of your life.” But if the high school experience is ranked solely on tests, how can that be representative of the golden years?

The media tend to portray high school life as youthful and carefree, as the time where students can embrace life to the fullest before having to deal with the realities of adulthood. In reality, students at schools like Saratoga are stressed over grades, physical appearances, friend problems, trying to beef up their college applications, and attempting to sleep a healthy amount each night.

U.S. News calculates the rankings based on a series of ratios: the school’s state ranking, the corporation’s belief of students’ “college readiness,” the number of students who took AP tests compared to the number of students in the school, and the resulting average scores of the AP tests per student.

When U.S. News and Newsweek release their rankings, they only think about the test scores received on one day and don’t consider extracurricular activities, or the fact that some of the top ranked schools are solely dedicated to AP tests and college preparation. They also don’t include things that are immeasurable in high school, such as students’ happiness, mental well-being and stress.

Parents are always concerned with their children’s welfare, and if they see a school with a higher ranking on a list than another, it’s likely some will choose the school that’s rated higher. In reality, however, these rankings shouldn’t be a factor, because they don’t reflect upon all the components necessary for healthy and balanced high school experience.

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