- Niche, a company that researches and compiles information on schools, recently released its 2016 ranking of the best public high schools in America.
- In its review of the 23,861 public high schools, Niche looked at graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, Advanced Placement tests, and student/parent reviews.
- First place was secured by Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology of Alexandria, VA, in part due to the school's robust and thriving STEM learning programs and an average SAT score of 2230.
It's interesting to note what U.S. schools do to be considered high-performing against the context of what schools in other countries, like Finland, do to inspire learning. In Finland, children don't receive formal academic training until age seven, yet the small nation is one of the world's top education performers. According to Australia's Brisbane Times, homework is sparse for Finnish children and schoolwork is also stress-free. Kids are required to have 15 minutes of outdoor free-play every hour of every day, and "fresh air, nature and regular physical activity breaks are considered engines of learning."
Meanwhile, some U.S. schools are cutting recess, a trend that may finally be on the decline. Recent legislation in New Jersey calls for public school students in grades K-5 to have at least 20 minutes of recess every day, preferably outside, and a new 3-year pilot program in four Fort Worth, TX, schools is testing the cognitive and physical consequences of giving elementary school students more recess time in the form of shorter breaks four times per day.
Finnish students also don't take standardized tests and are assessed daily through direct observation, check-ins and quizzes. Schools also aren't strict about dress codes or disciplinary minutiae like making students walk in straight lines. They encourage play over everything, and lesson planning comes second to creative exploration and child-driven learning.