On April 25th, The Daily Local News compared and ranked Chester County High Schools based on analysis done by U.S. News and World Reports. Using publically available data and statistics, the analysis comparing Chester County High Schools created a list not all that dissimilar to when one compares the Building Level Academic Scores from the state’s School Performance Profiles.
Comparison of Chester County High Schools
1. Conestoga High School
2. Unionville High School
3. Great Valley High School
4. Avon Grove High School
5. West Chester East High School
6. West Chester Bayard Rustin High School
7. Kennett High School
8. Downingtown High School West Campus
9. Phoenixville Area High School
10. Octorara Area Junior/Senior High School
11. Coatesville Area Senior High School
As in previous analyses, the only school district with a worse performance than Octorara is Coatesville. Of course, this is not breaking news. We have known for a long time about Octorara’s declining academic performance.
However, what I do question is, why The Daily Local News did not list all Chester County high schools? For instance, Downingtown High School East Campus and Owen J Roberts High School also received scorecards from U.S. News, but the media outlet chose not to list them.
What Information Did U.S. News Use?
Octorara scores did not meet certain minimum benchmarks. Therefore, our High School was unranked by U.S. News and World Reports. So, how did they score highs schools? They used 4 steps. First, they examined reading and math results for students on each state’s proficiency tests and then factored in the percentage of economically disadvantaged students. Therefore, they weighted test scores giving consideration to the idea that economically disadvantaged students traditionally score lower.
Next, they correlated each school’s math and reading proficiency rates for traditionally disadvantaged students (black, Hispanic and low-income) with the statewide results for these traditionally underperforming subgroups and then selected schools that were performing better than their state averages.So, those who did better at educating minorities and the poor were given a boost.
Third, they rejected schools from consideration if they had a graduation rate lower than 75 percent. Federal law requires states to provide extra funding and resources to schools below 67 percent.
Finally, U.S. News and World Reports calculated a College Readiness Index, which is based on the school’s AP participation rate and how well the students did on those tests. Regardless, this analysis also considered other factors, and evaluated the participation rate.The poor participation rate on other College Readiness testing. such as SAT and ACT tests, is something I have also highlighted in the past.
What Did U.S. News and World Reports Discover?
Octorora did not make it pass step 1 of the ranking. U.S. News and World Reports measured the distance from statistically expected performance on state assessments given the school’s student poverty level. Octorara received a negative value, which means the school performed worse than expected. Only those high schools that performed better than expected passed step 1.
Essentially, U.S. News used statistical data to predict where Octorara should score on state assessments, factoring in our student poverty level. Octorara failed to meet this adjusted and expected performance. U.S. News weighted all scores. So, those with the best and worst numbers, on Pennsylvania’s School Performance Profiles, had their ranking adjusted up or down based on their actual student demographics. This should have helped Octorara, but it did not,
On the College Readiness Index, Octorara received a score of 20.9 out of a possible score of 100. This is a weighted average based 25 percent on the AP® participation rate and 75 percent on the quality-adjusted AP® participation rate. High school students take AP® exams to earn college credit and demonstrate success at college-level course work. U.S. News calculated a College Readiness Index based on AP® exam participation rates and the percentage of students actually passing at least one AP® exam.
Other Advanced Placement® (AP®) Student Performance data taken into consideration included:
- Participation Rate – 27%
- Participant Passing Rate – 70%
- Exam Pass Rate – 58%
- Quality-Adjusted Participation Rate – 19%
The Participation Rate is the percentage of AP® exam takers. But, the Quality-Adjusted Participation Rate is based on AP® exam takers who passed at least one exam.
Which Were the Top High Schools in Pennsylvania?
So, the question everyone must be asking is, “Which high schools are the very best in Pennsylvania?” According to U.S. News and World Reports’ analysis and reporting, here are the top 10.
#1 Julia R. Masterman Secondary School (Philadelphia, PA)
#2 New Hope-Solebury High School (New Hope, PA)
#3 Conestoga High School (Berwyn, PA)
#4 Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy (Erie, PA)
#5 Unionville High School (Kennett Square, PA)
#6 Radnor High School (Radnor, PA)
#7 Pine-Richland High School (Gibsonia, PA)
#8 Strath Haven High School (Wallingford, PA)
#9 Lower Moreland High School (Huntingdon Valley, PA)
#10 Great Valley High School (Malvern, PA)
Pequea Valley High School
We often compare ourselves to Pequea Valley High School because it is a neighboring district with similar demographics and population culture Pequea Valley High School did score high enough to receive a national ranking. Their rank was #1605 in the U.S. News National Rankings and ranked #46 in the state of Pennsylvania. They were also awarded a Silver Medal for their efforts.
How Do We Fix Octorara’s Academic Performance Problem?
As I stated at the Meet the Candidates event, I believe Octorara can compete academically with other school districts.That said, the fix is not easy, but I do believe the answer is relatively simple. We must acknowledge our shortcomings, and refocus our resources toward academic excellence.
At Octorara, we do have some very successful students who are doing great things. However, a school is not judged by how well their top 20 or 30 percent perform. Those students would do well in almost any school district. A school is judged by the typical student, and how well those without innate gifts or parents with resources are doing.
The typical parent will look at our beautiful campus, meeting our friendly teachers, and instinctively believe this is a great performing school district. They would not even imagine it was possible that each of our schools failed to meet state minimum standards. The status quo is just not working. Taxpayers are repeatedly asked to pay more, and the return on investment keeps going down.
Send a clear message to the District. On May 16th, vote for Timothy Alexander and Rocco Pirozzi Jr as Octorara Area School Directors in Region 3 (Parkesburg-South, Londonderry, and Highland). Your vote will ensure retirees, who cannot continue to see their property taxes go up, have a voice. Your vote will help the young family who wants to live in this community, but is being forced to buy a home somewhere else. Your vote will support the children who need a school district committed to accountability at every stage of schooling, affirms higher expectations for all students, and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations.