by Professor Allen Quist
Newsweek has once again released its “100 best high schools” feature article (May 26, 2008 issue). Newsweek has been highlighting similar stories on what it calls the “100 best” American high schools each spring since 1998.
Unfortunately, these yearly Newsweek articles and ratings are propaganda for the interests Newsweek wishes to promote. The articles are propaganda in particular for International baccalaureate (IB).
Newsweek determines the supposed “100 best high schools” by means of a simple formula that is totally invalid. This formula, as stated by the recent Newsweek article, is: “The NEWSWEEK list of top U.S. high schools was compiled this year, as in years past.”
We count the total number of these tests [IB, AP and Cambridge tests] taken at a school by all students each May, and divide by the number of graduating seniors.
Notice that this formula does not take into account the number of students who passed these test, nor does it include the test scores, only the number of tests taken.
How many colleges admit students on a formula like this, a formula based on the number of tests taken, but not on the test scores? No colleges or universities admit students on that kind of ludicrous guideline, the reason being that the number of tests a student takes tells us nothing about what that student has learned.
Notice also that the Newsweek formula rewards drop-out rates: the fewer students graduate, the higher the score. Do high drop-out rates indicate good schools? It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find an educator who thinks so.
Not surprisingly, the average standardized student test scores in many of the “100 best high schools” are well bellow national averages, the reason being that the
Newsweek’s formula does not measure student learning.
So what panel of fantasy-world educators devised this invalid Newseek “best schools” formula? The formula is actually not the result of any panel of teachers, but rather is the brain-child of one man, Jay Matthews, a journalist, not a teacher.
Jay Matthews writes for the Washington Post and Newsweek, but he also has a cozy relationship with International Baccalaureate The IB bookstore sells a work coauthored by Matthews and former IB deputy director general, Ian Hill. Matthews has additionally written a book promoting IB. The relationship between Matthews and IB is something far less than objective and arms length!
IB typically follows up the yearly Newsweek article with a news release of its own, highlighting the fact that IB schools are disproportionately represented on the 100 best schools list. Since the Newsweek rating system is largely based on schools offering IB, which they must do to give IB tests, the circular nature of such news releases is obvious.
The argument boils down to saying that schools that give IB tests are disproportionately more likely to be IB schools. Newsweek and IB are engaged in manipulation, not education.
Jay Matthews admits that his rating system is controversial. In reality, the formula is not just controversial, it is absurd. We call on the American education establishment to reject this ongoing propaganda.