Park City High School finishes near the top of the class
May 27, 2008
The latest rankings are in and Park City High School finished as the 292nd best high school in the United States according to the annual Newsweek poll.
This ranking represents a substantial drop from last year’s ranking at 216 in the same poll. The overall index rating drop from 2.614 to 2.479 is relatively insignificant though, according to Jay Matthews, Washington Post reporter and Newsweek contributing editor.
The poll conducted by Newsweek since 1998, compiles indices by comparing the overall number of AP, IB, or Cambridge tests administered to the number of graduating seniors. Consequently, the more AP classes that a school makes available, the higher their index and ranking will be.
Matthews started using this system as a Washington Post reporter in order to encourage schools to offer more AP classes and to better expose the exemplary work of some schools that prove that low-income students can be high-achievers if provided the opportunity.
In that sense, PCHS is somewhat limited in its ability to improve in the rankings because, realistically, as Matthews explained, once AP classes have been opened up, as they are at PCHS, there are few places a public school can go. Many of the top-ranking schools on the list are magnet schools that essentially require the students to take an exorbitantly high number of AP courses. In order to move up the list, PCHS "would have to make AP the default mode for all courses," said Matthews. Although this may seem and enticing proposal, realistically, Matthews continued, this sort of arrangement could draw criticism from some students who might object to the additional workload.
For an affluent community where educated parents can provide support to their children, Matthews said that a lot really depends on the individual students and their desire to push themselves. Matthews pointed to Highland Park High School, in a suburb of Dallas, as a school similar to PCHS in which students are under more pressure to attend Ivy League colleges and consequently take more AP courses. The difference, to Matthews, however, is not terribly important in the real world. No student really needs more than five AP courses and Matthews also said that students who graduate from Brigham Young University, in the long run, are as successful as those that graduate from Harvard.
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Matthews commented that the most impressive aspect of PCHS, to him, was the Park City School District that has visited him in the past to discuss the rankings. They even greeted him on the road when he had a flat tire, he said. Superintendent Ray Timothy would agree as he said, "there isn’t a district or a school that makes a greater effort than Park City"
For the district, although they look at the rankings, they place equal interest in exit polls that ask students where they are going and what their post-high school aspirations are. "We try to look at other things, how to we compare in the state and in the nation," said Timothy.
All the same, this ranking, that puts PCHS in the top two percent of all schools in the nation "sets the bar, the standard of expectation and it validates in my mind our efforts," said Timothy.