How Many Dallas High Schools Made Washington Post's Best-Of List? Quite a Few.

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The Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center, home to some of the best schools in the country, says The Washington Post
How about some good news for the Dallas Independent School District? That would come from today's online edition of The Washington Post, where longtime education columnist Jay Mathews ranks more than 1,900 public high schools across the U.S. -- the first time he's done so for the paper, after 13 years of just looking at the best and worst of what D.C. has to offer. This, incidentally, is the same list Newsweek used to publish -- till, that is, the Post's parent company sold Newsweek. Hence the reason the national list has jumped ship.

The School of Science and Engineering, which came in fourth on last year's Newsweek list, now sits at the top of the list, which Mathews assembles using something he calls the Challenge Index. Which is?
The formula is simple: Divide the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other college-level tests a school gave in 2010 by the number of graduating seniors. While not a measure of the overall quality of the school, the rating can reveal the level of a high school's commitment to preparing average students for college.
The TAG Magnet at Townview was tops in 2010; it's fallen all the way to No. 2. Other DISD schools making the best-of list: the Judge Barefoot Sanders Magnet Center For Public Service at Townview (No. 64), the School of Business and Management at Townview (No. 67), the School of Health Professions at Townview (No. 68), the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts (No. 141), W.T. White (No. 271), Woodrow (No. 588) and Hillcrest (No. 598). And the Cosmos Foundation-operated Harmony Science Academy also makes the list -- at No. 159.

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34 comments
truckrental
truckrental

aim high as you live life ,, make it to the fullest..always make it sure for best result.

Jessy
Jessy

I thought Woodrow Wilson was a typo. I mean, have they actually SEEN it? 

Roscoejett
Roscoejett

Congratulating the comprehensives: White, Wooodrow and Hillcrest where the students also enjoy a myriad of extracurricular activities Namely, sports, cheerleading, marching band, drillteam, choir etc. This makes for well-rounded adults. I've seen a lot of kids at WW benefit from these. This year the Wildcats went to the playoffs in nearly every sport and I can't say enough about their musical and theater productions.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

If you really want to see some interesting stats, you need to get a copy of the slides the district shows at summer trainings.

For example, last year, WT White and Booker T had tons of kids taking tests, but Hillcrest had higher scores.

WTW/BTW had high "bars" (they are bar graphs) for everything that merely tracked number of kids attempting, but Hillcrest's bars were higher than White's when counting the number of kids who actually made a 3 or above.  Hillcrest was neck-and-neck with Booker T on many counts and Hillcrest is AU.

WTW= high participation percentage, top middle schools feed into it but slightly lower AP resultsHillcrest=higher actual performance.  Franklin, though, is AU and many families bail before HHS.BTW=invalid for comparison, since it is a magnet and screens out the weak/behavior problems which can cause lots of distraction for serious students.Poor Kimball was included in the comparison and it was just sad.

Basically, accdg to the graphs, Hillcrest seems to do a better job of preparing kids for the AP tests.

That said, any list that ranks schools based on number taking AP is worthless.  DISD kids ARE PAID to take the tests (by a donor, not by the taxpayers).Rank schools based on number of kids who get college credit and then the lists will be a bit more valid.

As to planning ahead, forget it.  DISD is at the mercy of the school board and the people in Dallas who want to keep DISD property values low (so their HP values stay high). Pershing and Preston Hollow used to be top elementaries; a terrible but protected principal at Pershing killed Pershing and a racism lawsuit that even included the completely innocent Anglo PTA president at Preston Hollow killed PH.  Kramer was good, but it now has the highest percentage of teachers quitting at the end of the year. Hexter, Withers, DeGolyer, Lakewood, and Nathan Adams have great reputations now.  Hexter and Lakewood are wonderful but are hurt by the middle schools they feed into.

The instability makes buying a house in DISD a crapshoot unless you have money for private.You are always 1 principal away from chaos at a good school.  Today's great principal may be gone tomorrow and replaced with a complete loser. 

Guest
Guest

The two problems with this list: 

1)  I'm not sure it measures anything meaningful, as discussed by others.  Assuming this data is meaningful, I'd prefer to look at the Equity and Excellence rate, which is the percentage of all graduating seniors, including those who never took an AP course, who had at least one score of 3 or above on at least one AP test sometime in high school.  The DISD magnets still do well, particularly TAG and Science/Engineering (both tying with several other schools for the top spot).  The regular DISD schools do much worse when ranked using the Equity and Excellence rate.  The best is White, which would rank 878th of the 2000 schools ranked by the Wasington Post.  Hillcrest would be 1072nd, and Woodrow would be 1348th.  

    2)  I have a kid and the magnet schools are irrelevant to me because I can't be sure my kid will get into them.  I certainly can't buy a house in the DISD based on the assumption my 1-year-old will beat the odds.  You have to go all the way down to number 878th before you have any meaningful opportunity to send your kids to one of the DISD schools on the list.  So if I'm making a decision what school district to buy a house in, the only relevant question for me is whether 878th is good enough.   

Alexander
Alexander

 I've written in and asked Matthews why he chooses to include some magnets, like TAG and SEM, and not others like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science. Basically, he says that the NYC schools require an entrance exam and screen much more than the Townview schools do.

This, of course, makes no sense to me because TAG has admissions requirements at least as rigorous as the NYC schools. In fact, most of the top schools have some form of admissions requirement. The highest ranked traditional-comprehensive high school is Corbett High in Oregon, followed by Gainesville Eastside in Florida.

I'm not trying to take away from TAG and SEM, just seems to me they should win or lose against peers and this study weirdly takes out a lot of east coast magnets. Hunter College is the best public high school in the country. Corbett seems to be in the running for best traditional-comprehensive high school (as is HP). 

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

Congratulations to my dear alma mater, The Shrine of East Dallas! 

Kennetron
Kennetron

Here has been and always is my problem with this list - it means absolutely nothing and the formula posted just confirms it.  I'm a teacher and this list is used over and over by school districts to say, "hey, look - we made the list," but the reality is that many school put many kids in AP classes (whether they belong or not), have them take the tests just so they make the list.  Remember, the list NEVER SAYS anything about students who actually PASS the test. You could make all the students in your school take AP classes, every kid fail, but as long as they enroll in the test, the school could be ranked number one of this list.  People need to stop ranking schools on nonsense.

Nic. Hernandez
Nic. Hernandez

Looks like you have your #1 and #2 schools mixed up.

Enrique De La Fuente
Enrique De La Fuente

Great.  I would have been a W.T. Who grad (GREEN GOOCH GATOR BABY!!!) but the family left for Allen because of the "better schools".  It turns out Who ain't that bad. 

Mediawonk
Mediawonk

A quick correction: Lake Highlands is in Dallas, but is a Richardson ISD school.  Speaking of, all four Richardson ISD high schools made the list, with Richardson, Pearce and Berkner ranking ahead of Lake Highlands (all four are good - I'd send my kid to any of 'em).

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

Woodrow has been on the list since 2006 I believe. It also was the top comprehensive high school in Dallas, ranking ahead of many suburban schools, the last time D Magazine did rankings.  It received the ACT College Readiness Award over a year ago and was the only Dallas high school to win - only the top 5% of high schools are considered. 

Jay Mathews of the Washington Post, who does the list, is familiar with the Woodrow's successful quest to become the first IB World School in Dallas. He spoke to a group of us about two years ago.

Anonymouse
Anonymouse

I believe students are paid if they pass the test, not to take the test (other than the cost of the test is zero for low income students). 

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

I don't think you can really compare the middle school situation at Hexter to that at Lakewood. 73% of Lakewood Elementary students in sixth grade last fall went on to J.L.Long Middle School.  Long always places high in state math and science competition - this year it finished third. Several years ago it beat St. Mark's in Mathcounts competition. It has applied for International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) and has a foundation to back that up. The principal grew up in Lakewood and graduated from Woodrow, so she is committed to the school.  Sure there are some kids at Long that have come from 'lesser' circumstances and schools but they are joined by the successful kids from Blue-Ribbon and Exemplary Lakewood and Stonewall Jackson (you forgot that one).  It makes for a unique mix that cannot always be measured by statistics. 

Alexander
Alexander

I will point out that if you have the foresight to think ahead like that your child will have no trouble getting into a magnet. I also recommend he plays the Bassoon, I guarantee if your child plays the bassoon, takes lessons, all that jazz, he will get into Booker T.

Also, having the foresight means your child will have no problem using any high school as a stepping stone to college. The question is really: do you prefer the Park Cities, Lakewood, Lake Highlands, Preston Hollow, West Plano, Coppell, or Southlake? Your child will get into UTexas from any of the public schools in those neighborhoods and then use it as a backup for the more competitive private school of his/her choice. Choosing an "urban" school will just count as one extra diversity point in the applications Vanderbilt and Princeton. 

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

However, Woodrow has virtually the same Equity and Excellence rate as Southlake Carroll. 

Guest
Guest

He does claim to use objective criteria to screen the most selective schools out, but it is based on outcomes rather than admissions criteria, so it doesn't do what he says it does.  Any school with an average SAT over 1970 or ACT over 29 automatically gets taken off the list and put onto a "Public Elites" list.  In other words, this list is what you might call the second tier. 

Yeah That Guy!
Yeah That Guy!

The Washington Post loves Texas because they see it as a conservative state. They view the East Coasters as leftwingers.  

Anonymous
Anonymous

 the real question is whether students pay out of pocket for the tests. at one extreme, you've got HPISD where you tell your parents that you want 2 weeks off school and sign up for every AP test you can possibly imagine, and even if you plan to bomb it - it's not like your parents cared very much about those couple hundred bucks. you do have parents pushing you to overachieve, but that's just part of the story. at the other end, you've got DISD, where I believe they pay for the tests (and offer cash incentives for passing). I don't support taking that away because poor students could really use that college credit and probably can't afford the tests. but the reality is that when it's not their money, there is no honest self-assessment of whether taking the test is a fool's errand, or there is hope of passing.then there are the school districts in between. families are well enough off that they haven't decided paying for AP tests is a prudent use of district money, and parents mostly can afford to cover the tests for their students without much hardship so they don't demand it. here you have students and parents making honest decisions about whether they are truly AP-level students or not. those are often really good schools but they will never make the rankings.I don't say this to diminish anything that TAG has accomplished. I just think that if you beat your chest about an article like this where there is specious correlation to actual learning and progress, that you look the fool.

tracker
tracker

Actually you don't have to enroll in an "AP" class to take the test. They can be "honors" classes or just regular classes with outside study of the AP test materials. But you are right, it may mean something or it may not. Can't tell from the ranking. A school like TAG that leans hard on all the kids to take all the AP tests will naturally rank high. Especially since they have so few students.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

You're correct. Which I blame on two things: I had Schutze in my office while I was trying to write this. And I am a Dallas ISD graduate. It has been corrected. I think.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

It doesn't matter where the money comes in to play.It's the fact that money is involved.

Wave $100 if front of kids and they'll try it.

The point is that rankings based on numbers taking the test are absolutely no indication of a schools' effectiveness at anything other than waving money in front of kids.

Kids have nothing to lose by taking the test and $100 to gain. 

Anonymouse
Anonymouse

And it is limited to math, science and english (possibly language-which I've heard is the hardest). 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

I did forget Stonewall--good catch.Really, there are so many wonderful DISD elementaries with great teachers struggling to serve kids in spite of the insanity at 3700.

And I agree with you with about the difference between Hill and Long.Long certainly has less to overcome than Hill, although I'm perplexed as to why the Long principal has her child at Hillcrest.

Woodrow is definitely one of DISD's superstar high schools.  I simply don't recall the Woodrow bar graphs well enough to compare them to White, Hillcrest, and BTW.  

Another East Dallas school that doesn't get enough press is Gaston Middle School.  An amazing collection of outstanding (and ignored by 3700) teachers and administrators.

DISD's problem schools are almost always secondary and yet DISD admin time and time again overlooks outstanding DISD middle school principals when it comes to promotions.  Instead we get Goodsell and Durant who have nothing to bring to the table.

Again, top-down management is a disaster. Our school board needs to get the 5 or 6 excellent middle school principals we have and let THEM call the shots.  

But no.  Instead, LULAC and the Dallas Citizens Cartel broker a deal over who gets the job in exchange for Latino votes, the school board members bow down, and more children are ignored while the grown-ups play power games. 

Guest
Guest

It isn't that easy to get into the magnets.  Say I move to Lakewood figuring if the kido can't get into a magnet then at least he will go to a good school in the DISD.  This, in and of itself, makes it less likely that the kid gets into a magnet.  Slots are a awarded by area, and Lakewood is far more competative than other areas in the DISD.  Basically, he will be competing with parents who have exercised the same amount of foresight.  By definition, most of us don't win that competition.  That, and I couldn't imagine trying to cram Booker T. down his throat if he doesn't have a natural love of music.  

I agree that the outcome is far more related to what I put into it than what school my kid goes to.  But that sort of defeats the purpose of chatting about this list.   

Alexander
Alexander

Ah, good catch. I agree, it'd be more on an honor to be excluded from consideration from the list. ha!

guest
guest

I'm aware. That's my point.  What's your "actually" about since it doesn't apply to my post?

DISD72
DISD72

I think because you started out saying "How about some good news for the Dallas Independent School District?"  RISD does not need good news.  That's where all the "good parents" fled in the 70's.  Remember?  I do.

Anonymouse
Anonymouse

Again they are NOT paid to take the test, they are PAID IF THEY PASS.  Big difference that you seem to want to lump together.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

@ anonymouseTrue or False:  DISD kids have a financial incentive to take the test.

No error on my part.

They are paid so they will take the test.  That's the goal. 

I personally have no problem with paying them, but it sort of diminishes the validity of rankings in a magazine.

Also, kids in private schools are told that it's better to make an A in a regular class than a C in an AP class in terms of college adminssions.

DISD kids are hearing, "The test is free, you can get $100, take the class, take the test."How a low grade in an AP class might affect their GPA, class rank, and potential for scholarships is not discussed.

Urban public school kids have no one to defend them.  They are used for every money-making scheme adults can think of. 

Anonymouse
Anonymouse

I know of NO kids that want to take a huge test if they're pretty sure they'll fail, $100 or not. And there is no $100 being waved in front of anyone's face, that's a pretty big lie. 

I love how points become "irrelevant" when you're shown an error. Is that how you teach?

Alexander
Alexander

I don't think it's a crapshoot at all. In 1980 all 5 high schools north of 30 that weren't North Dallas were good middle class schools, about 1990 TJ dropped off the list and about 05 BA dropped off the list.

Despite its current high performance, White will most likely drop off the list in the sooner rather than later.

Woodrow and Hillcrest are where any parent with foresight will move. The Hillcrest borders have been highly subject to change over the last decade moving to include and then exclude areas like Bluffview and Ridgecrest.

If you live between the tollway and central you'll be fine. Woodrow has had the most improvement in the region and is in fact one of the only schools I've seen nationwide to reverse white flight. Woodrow has had very stable borders since we started building schools in Vickery Meadows. The borders of Lakewood and Stonewall have been the same for years- though I would advise against living north of Mockingbird and expecting to be in district. You could also take bets on Lee and Lipscomb, but it's not as if housing costs are so much higher in the better schools that'd you'd need to.

This is a long way of saying that if you really pay attention it's not at all hard to figure out. But admittedly, I know the city better than most.

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

All 'redesigned' DISD high schools have a magnet component in that students may apply to transfer for programs not offered at their home school.  For instance at Woodrow, four college prep academies are being 'rolled-out' over four years (we are finishing year one):

Academy of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)Academy of Business, Finance and EntrepreneurshipAcademy of Performing ArtsAcademy of International BaccalaureateOther schools offer some of the same academies, but many are different -- TJ offers an Asian Studies Pathway/AcademyWoodrow was accredited as an IB World School in March. As a candidate school it was able to offer Pre-IB in the ninth grade this year. 120 were accepted into the program. Before the official designation, 160 were accepted for ninth grade Pre-IB for next fall. Applications were accepted from inside and outside the Dallas ISD district. About 40% of those accepted were from private schools, from what I hear. 30-something percent were from the feeder school, J. L. Long Middle School and the rest were public school students from outside the WW attendance zone.Now that it can offer the  offical IB Diploma Programme, International Baccaluareate classes will be offered for juniors and seniors (even though it is a two-year programme). This will be in addition to the 22 AP courses now offered.So I would be looking for Woodrow to be moving up on The Washington Post in the next few years as AP and IB classes count in the criteria.  As demand grows it would be better to live in the attendance zone to assure that your child has a chance "to get in"...

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