No Matter How You Add It Up, Dallas ISD's Magnets Still Top Best High Schools Lists

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Again, the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center houses some of the best individual high schools in the U.S.
Exactly one month ago we got a look at longtime Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews' list of the best public high schools in the country -- the same list that used to run in Newsweek. The School of Science and Engineering at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center came in first on Mathews's list; the School for the Talented and Gifted at Townview, second. But, as usual, Friends of Unfair Park took issue with the awfully simple and not entirely revelatory method Mathews uses to rank the schools -- by dividing "the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other college-level tests a school gave in 2010 by the number of graduating seniors."

And so Newsweek, which has just published its own America's Best High Schools list, ditched the longtime formula and instead rounded up a small "group of experts" to help with the tallyin', among them a Highland Park High School graduate -- Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach For America. Writes the newsweekly:
Our new criteria have six components: graduation rate (25%), college matriculation rate (25%), and AP tests taken per graduate (25%), plus average SAT/ACT scores (10%), average AP/IB scores (10%), and AP courses offered per graduate (5%).

In all, more than 1,100 of America's top public high schools supplied internal data, and Newsweek culled from there. That brings us back to Dallas's top-rated School of Science and Engineering, which is familiar with accolades (it has landed among the top-five high schools on Newsweek's list since 2006) and the challenges most schools face. Some 62% of its students qualify for subsidized lunch, and the Texas legislature seems poised to subtract $164 million from the district's budget in the next two years.
Yup: School of Science and Engineering is still No. 1, and the TAG magnet's still No. 2. And the School of Business and Management at Townview, which was No. 67 on the Post's list, is at 65 on Newsweek's. The Judge Barefoot Sanders Magnet Center For Public Service, 64 by Mathews's count, plunges using Newsweek's criteria -- down to 135; so too the School of Health Professions, from 68 to 261. But the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts doesn't change too terribly much -- from 141 to 150. And the Cosmos Foundation-operated Harmony Science Academy goes from 159 to 165. And I see Kopp's old school does well for itself: No. 31.
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Joyce Foreman
Joyce Foreman

Thanks to the students, teachers and parents of DISD Magnet schools.  Year after year  these schools do very well in educating and graduating students .  Hinojosa tried everything that he could to gut them, but it did not work.

Baddatesindallas
Baddatesindallas

I think these are top-tier schools, because there are expectations, such as to graduate, and to be able to read when you leave HS. It doesn't have to be about money. If the bar is set high, students will rise to it (or, at least, most will try).

Sammy
Sammy

The graduation rate being used is going to eliminate nearly every school with a significant number of hispanic immigrants.  How much of that drop-out problem can really be corrected in a year or two (freshman and sophomore) by a high school?

TimCov
TimCov

I applaud Dallas' magnet schools. But, it is also not a fair comparison to a regular high school. The schools have students who want to be there and whose parents are more likely to be involved. You can improve any school with these two factors. Throw in admission requirements, and of course they excel.

Anonymous
Anonymous

This is exactly the point I am trying to make. In Dallas, Woodrow is probably your best bet with regards to being a "normal" high school. It did not make the Newsweek list.

Nutty Prof in dallas
Nutty Prof in dallas

Woodrow is rated Academically Unacceptable and Missed AYP. What are you talking about?

DISDMom
DISDMom

W.T White did.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Um, no, it absolutely did not. It made the WaPo list, not Newsweek. Read my post before responding.

Anonymous
Anonymous

So this still begs the question - where do they draw the line between magnets in Dallas and somewhere like Stuyvesant in NYC? A school is either open to all-comers, or it has some form of admissions system where the excess applicants are rejected and sent elsewhere. This list either need to exclude them all, or include them all. As is, it's just a muddled mess. You cannot move to Dallas and know with certainty that your child can attend one of these "highly rated" magnets. Actually, the highest ranked school that isn't a magnet is Highland Park High. Maybe Kopp really did rig this thing.

Alan
Alan

Too narrow a view, Anon!  With a residency requirement at Highland Park HS, in a district that is exclusively wealthy and privileged, that is far more selective than the public magnet schools that rated higher.

Anonymous
Anonymous

That's not the point I was making. You either have guaranteed access to a school by virtue of your residence in the district or you don't. That is the only objective way to divide up the schools.

Dallas_Joe_Schmo
Dallas_Joe_Schmo

Agree that this ranking system fails to differentiate between "selective v/ non-selective" public schools.  However, with all rankings, there will be some component to bitch about. 

Why are you so concerned with this one? 

The problem is that it would be nearly impossible to differentiate between each district's policies.  Garland allows their students to attend any school in the district if they apply first, while cutting off kids who happen to apply a day or so later because the spots have been filled. Would that be fair compared to students forced to go to Woodrow because they happen to live in Lakewood?  Should all Garland HSs be banned from the list?

Mesquite has a program where they ship really smart elementary kids off to another school once a week for TAG instruction.  Would that violate your criteria because the kids have to be accepted into the program?

What about a general policy guaranteeing placement in a school but having to ship kids to another because of overcrowding.  Would that school not be allowed on your list?  what about if the district did it intentionally to limit class size in order to get a higher avg?

Point is, why bitch about a "list" that changes nothing in the way the schools operate?  Are you angry because you aren't sure if your kid will get into TAG?  

Anonymous
Anonymous

That doesn't change the fact that this ranking system fails to differentiate between selective schools and non-selective schools in an objective manner and no amount of complaining about being poorer than HP residents will change that fact. For those of us living in DISD-land, we've got to make a calculated decision very early in our children's school careers. We roll the dice that we can elbow-grease our kids a spot in magnet track, or we go the private route early on, and then maybe have them apply to TAG later on and get in. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. It's not a sure thing. For me, private school is the only thing that seems to make sense. You don't subject your kid to the nonsense that is TAKS, and you take some uncertainty out of the equation as to whether they will end up at an acceptable school. What you get in return are high tuition bills, the headache of private school applications, and the reality that your kid will be grow up even more sheltered than they already would have.

Jay Hawk
Jay Hawk

How about saying it's important to take advantage of every educational opportunity you have. For some, it's living in Highland Park ISD. For the rest of us, it's DISD magnets.

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