Park City absent from U.S. News and World Report’s Best High School Rankings |

Park City absent from U.S. News and World Report’s Best High School Rankings

Park City High School has fallen precipitously from its perch as one of the best schools in Utah, according to the latest U.S. News and World Report’s Best High School Rankings.

But district officials say the school’s conspicuous absence from the rankings — it had been listed previously as the top school in the state, and among the best in the nation — is not a result of a dramatic decline in the quality of PCHS’s education. Rather, it’s a reflection of the list’s methodology, which puts an emphasis on the performance of disadvantaged students.

To qualify for the list, a school must meet three requirements: have students who perform better than state average, have disadvantaged students who perform better than average and perform well in college-readiness measures.

Bob O’Connor, principal of Park City High School, explained in an email to The Park Record that PCHS’s disadvantaged students didn’t perform well enough for the school to be considered for the rankings. However, in the four "academic indicators" used to judge qualifying schools (college readiness, math proficiency, language proficiency and student-teacher ratio), PCHS performed better than the top schools in Utah that did make the list.

Superintendent Ember Conley said missing the list shows the district is failing its disadvantaged students.

"The bottom line is our lowest-performing students are not growing at the rate they need to," she said.

The district is taking several steps to improve the education low-income students receive, Conley said. Initiatives such as all-day kindergarten, changes to the reading program and new benchmark testing are directed at closing the achievement gap.

"It’s not going to be overnight to see the results at the high school," she said. "But we are going to do everything we can.

"I really believe that by the end of this next year, and for sure at the end of the following year, we’re going to see some significant improvements."

Conley added that she believes the district is still offering a top-flight education overall, which is reflected in the high school’s strong performance in the ranking’s "academic indicators."

North Summit High School and South Summit High School also failed to make the rankings. However, both were given bronze medals, awarded to "high-performing schools based on state exam performance."