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high school students

Best High School Rankings

Applying expertise in statistics to assess the performance of U.S. high schools

Each year, U.S. News & World Report publishes a “Best High Schools” list to recognize schools that exceeded expectations across a range of academic performance indicators. Only about one-third of the nearly 20,000 high schools included in the analysis qualify for national ranking and receive a College Readiness Index score. In addition to bringing prestige to these top-performing schools, every school that gets analyzed can use the data to assess its own performance and gauge how it compares with other schools in its district and state, as well as throughout the country.

Using Regression Modelling to Level the Field across Socioeconomic Status

Our statisticians generate these rankings using a methodology that combines three aspects of school performance:

  • Performance of all students on state assessments in reading and mathematics
  • Performance of disadvantaged student subgroups on these assessments
  • Rates at which high school students participate in and perform well on Advanced Placement® and International Baccalaureate tests.

Because household income level plays a significant factor in student performance, the first step in the analysis is to run a regression model to adjust performance expectations for schools with high poverty rates. From this point, only schools that perform above expectations advance to the next step, which is to assess whether a school’s disadvantaged students outperform other disadvantaged students across the state in math and reading proficiency.

For schools that make it to the third and final step, we measure the percentage of students who display college-level achievement after completing Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses and taking final exams. Using these scores, we calculate a College Readiness Index that determines the school’s national ranking.

Rewards That Go Beyond Medals

Schools that rank among the top 500 on the College Readiness Index receive Gold Medal status on the Best High Schools list. Silver Medals are awarded to schools that earn a College Readiness Index above the median, which equates to about 2,000 schools. The remainder earn Bronze Medals.

But the greater rewards are the pride students, teachers, and administrators take in their accomplishment and the recognition schools get within their communities. Schools that earn a place in the national rankings often receive local press coverage for their accomplishments. Those that earn Gold Medal status get even more widespread media attention.

School officials use our methodologies to improve programs within their schools, ultimately promoting college readiness by encouraging students to take placement tests and supporting their efforts to pass.