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Student to Student

Brianna Wilson

Is Park City High School slipping? Many Park City residents claim that their reasons for living in Park City include the beautiful weather, great ski slopes, safe environment, and "the best school system in the state."

However, unbeknownst to many Park City residents, the high school no longer boasts this title. According to the magazine Newsweek national rating system, in the past three years we have slipped from the acclaimed 150th in 2005 to 172nd in 2006 to 216th in 2007. In 2006 West High School in Salt Lake City jumped ahead of Park City High to the position of 169th.

West continues to climb above Park City with a position of 167th in 2007. This is a full 49 places ahead of Park City High School. Not only has West High passed PCHS, but by the looks of the ratings Highland High will soon be giving us a run for our money. In the past three years they have jumped from 899 to 450 to 298, only 82 spots behind PCHS. If Highland continues to improve at the same rate, and Park City continues to slip, by the time the 2008 ratings come out they will also rank ahead of PCHS.

Alarmingly, the reason for Park City’s decline in ranking is not just that other schools are getting better faster, but PCHS’s index actually dropped from 2006 to 2007. The rating system that Newsweek uses, created by Jay Mathews, is the most widely used educational rating system in the country.

Any high school can figure out their index to compare to other schools simply by dividing the number of Advanced Placement (AP), Intl. Baccalaureate and/ or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school by the number of graduating seniors. All the schools on the list have an index of at least 1.000 or above having at least as many AP or IB rests as they have graduating seniors. All schools that make the list are in the top 5 percent of high schools in the nation.

What gets high schools on the list is a policy that opens AP or IB to all and tries to get all kids ready for the AP test. Educational experts agree this is the most accurate rating method for high schools because it is these higher level, more difficult classes that best prepare students for college. The high schools with the most students taking AP and IB classes have the best-prepared students and therefore rank higher on the list.

Boasting an impressive list of 24 AP classes, why is Park City High School sliding down the ladder? It is hard to say. Jay Mathews says the reason many schools’ indexes are going down is the imposing restrictions on the AP classes kids are allowed or encouraged to take.

For instance, last year when several PCHS students were sent to TMIS to talk to freshmen classes about their transition to the high school, when speaking about AP classes they were told to say "that when getting into an AP class, the students would not be allowed to switch out." This may have discouraged many kids from enrolling in AP classes. The possibility of getting in over one’s head with no way out was intimidating to many of the freshmen.

The benefits of AP classes need to be emphasized to high school students and parents. These classes not only prepare one for college courses and college workloads, they can also help students save money in college. If one scores a three, four or five on an AP test, depending on the college they attend, they can receive credit for that class.

For instance, 2006 Valedictorian, Derek Painter, took full advantage of AP courses at Park City High School. He started at the University of Utah not only on a full scholarship, but also as a junior. He plans to use the money he saved to attend a prestigious graduate school. 2007 graduate Alexis Brown, who is now attending New York University, one of the most expensive schools in the nation, will be able to graduate a year early due to her five AP classes at Park City High School.

This will save her and her family nearly $40,000 in tuition. Additionally, these high-level classes are extremely appealing to admissions officers. More and more admissions officers are saying they would rather see a few B’s in high difficulty AP classes than straight A’s in regular level classes. They want to see that students are challenging themselves with a rigorous course load.

2007 Newsweek ratings School Rank Index PCHS 216 2.614 West 167 2.851 Highland 298 2.332 2006 Newsweek ratings School Rank Index PCHS 172 2.625 West 169 2.639 Highland 450 1.829 2005 Newsweek ratings School Rank Index PCHS 150 2.494 West 191 2.315 Highland 899 1.142

Editor’s Note: The "Student to Student" article published in the Park Record’s Wed/Thurs/Fri edition from Nov. 28 30, 2007, was mistakenly attributed to Record intern, Jordan Fischer, instead of its rightful author, Brianna Wilson. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.


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