- U.S. News and World Report on Tuesday unveiled its Best High Schools rankings for 2016.
- The new rankings, which looked at over 21,500 public high schools, have the School for Talented and Gifted in Dallas, TX, grabbing the top spot for the fifth consecutive year, followed by Arizona's BASIS Scottsdale and BASIS Tucson North.
- The magazine also ranked new categories this year, including Best Charter Schools and Best Magnet Schools, with all assessments based on a methodology that included metrics like student outcomes and, for the first time, graduation rates.
When considering high school rankings, it's important to keep metrics and methodology in mind. The measures of states' educational quality can vary widely depending on methodology, and U.S. News also typically offers a ranking of states based on their overall percentage of top high schools.
In 2015, the factors weighed by U.S. News and World Report included a school's student/teacher ratio, math and English proficiency levels, and an overall "College Readiness Index" based on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate test scores.
It can also be helpful to view the individual high school rankings against the context offered by Education Week's annual Quality Counts report. That yearly analysis includes a "State of the States" report card, which grades each state based on a "Chance-for-Success Index," achievement and school finance. For the 2016 version of the report, Massachusetts stayed at the top as the majority of states performed at a middle-of-the-road and largely unchanged level.
Rankings may lead to the greater commodification of high schools, as corporate interests continue to sculpt charter school networks and education landscapes in certain states. At the college level, the history of rankings has, in part, forced colleges to compete in selling value to students and encouraged aggressive recruiting to "foster an image of selectivity."