Rhinebeck High School Recognized for 7th Consecutive Year by Newsweek as One of the Nation's 'Best'

For the seventh year in a row, Rhinebeck High School has been named to Newsweek magazine's list of the best American high schools. Judged by a set of metrics to recognize America's best high schools, Rhinebeck High School ranked 73rd out of 500 high schools identified nationally, and 13th out of 53 high schools identified in New York State.  "Our rankings," says Newsweek, "aim to identify the public high schools in the U.S. that do the best job of preparing students for college.” 


A companion list, “Beating the Odds-Top Schools for Low-Income Students” factors in student poverty in ranking school success. For the companion list, Newsweek used the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch at each school to measure student poverty levels.


Newsweek devised the following process to rank high schools by how well they do overall of preparing students for college:


Threshold Analysis: First, they created a high school achievement index based on performance indicators (i.e., proficiency rates on state standardized assessments). The index was used to identify high schools that perform at or above the 80th percentile within each state..


Ranking Analysis: For the high schools identified in the threshold analysis, they created a college readiness score based on the following six indicators:


·        Enrollment Rate—25 percent


·        Graduation Rate—20 percent


·        Weighted AP/IB composite—17.5 percent


·        Weighted SAT/ACT composite—17.5 percent


·        Holding Power (change in student enrollment between 9th-12th grades; this measure is intended to control for student attrition)—10 percent


·        Counselor-to-Student Ratio —10 percent


Newsweek rank ordered the schools by their college readiness index scores.


Newsweek partnered with Westat to produce the 2014 Newsweek High School Rankings. Westat is a 100 percent employee-owned research firm headquartered in Rockville, Maryland. One of the nation’s leading research firms, Westat has directly supported and informed the U.S. Department of Education’s research programs through its analyses and data-collection projects.


The 2014 methodology extends on Newsweek’s 2013 ranking methodology in several ways. First, the 2013 methodology relied solely upon self-reported data provided by schools to create a college readiness score. This year, Newsweek used public data, which they maintain are more reliable, collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), to supplement self-reported information about college readiness provided by schools. Student achievement data obtained from NCES were used to select a sample of schools from which to collect college readiness data via survey.


The data that Newsweek used for this year’s rankings came from the following sources:


·      Threshold analysis data (reading/language arts and math state test proficiency, as well as free or reduced-price lunch [FRPL] percentage) came from the publicly available federal database NCES (www.data.gov). Newsweek obtained records for 14,454 schools and applied their threshold cutoff to make a shortlist of 4,400 schools for their list.


 ·   College readiness analysis data was obtained by surveying the more than 5,600 schools that made the above cutoff. Newsweek received responses from 37 percent of all surveyed schools. A portion of the data (namely, holding power and FRPL percentage) used in the college readiness analysis came from NCES. Newsweek ran further checks on the collected data to account for any mistakes, rechecking and/or removing any figures that were improbably high.


All the data used in Newsweek’s analysis was for the 2011-2012 school year. The reason behind this is that the most recent data that is available from the NCES is for the 2011-2012 school year. Newsweek wanted to use this publicly available, government-vetted data for their threshold analysis to make their methodology more stringent and reliable, rather than using all self-reported school data. Then, when they surveyed schools for college readiness data, they asked for 2011-2012 school year figures to maintain consistency throughout the entire methodology process.


Newsweek’s methodology assigned the greatest weights to college enrollment (25%) and graduation rate (20%) because they felt that of the six factors in their analysis, these two were the most significant indicators of a school’s success in preparing its students for college. They chose what they felt was a common sense approach to the weighting and did a separate analysis to ensure that this weighting scheme did not significantly alter  the rankings. In this sensitivity analysis, Newsweek tested an approach that assigns equal weights (16.67%) to all six factors; they also conducted  a statistical approach called a principal component analysis (PCA) , which combines data elements into composite scores. They found that each of these different weighting approaches did not significantly change the rankings so they stuck with the judgmental weights to reflect their view of the relative importance of the factors.



Newsweek urges parents, students and education professionals to consult the Newsweek High School Rankings (http://www.newsweek.com/high-schools/americas-top-schools-2014#.VBA_AuxOeUs.gmail) as a guide to identifying schools where students get the best preparation for college by knowing which schools had the highest achieving students on their college readiness index.


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