Rankings aren’t always indicative of progress, growth or improvement. That is the message both local school district leaders are trying to convey after the release of the latest U.S. News and World Report’s Best High School state rankings earlier this week.
After storming into the top 20 statewide last year, Frankfort High School tumbled 78 spots to land in 97th in the latest ratings. However, Frankfort Independent Schools Superintendent Houston Barber cautions folks not to read too much into the rankings, which, depending on the metrics, can change how schools are rated, he said.
“We don’t live and die by the rankings. That’s one report — we can’t let it define us,” he told The State Journal. “We’ve improved in so many areas and, as a district, are providing for our students.”
One of those areas is the graduation rate. In the span of a year, Frankfort boosted its graduation rate by six percentage points to 96%. The four-year school has a total enrollment of 213 and an 11-to-1 student-teacher ratio.
Barber said the district is concentrating more on Profile of a Graduate — preparing students with life and work skills that can be used post-graduation — than worrying about the fluctuation in the rankings, which, he added, don’t tell the real story.
The magazine’s ranking methodology devotes 30% to college readiness, which is defined as the portion of seniors who took and passed at least one Advance Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exam; 20% on math and reading proficiency, based on state assessment scores; 20% math and reading performance, which factors in the proportion of the student body that is economically disadvantaged; 10% underserved student performance, which compares state assessment scores of disadvantaged youth to those of non-underserved students; and 10% college curriculum breadth, the portion of 12th graders who took and passed AP exams in multiple areas with additional credit for passing more exams.
“Profile of a Graduate allows us to focus on every child and what’s right for our kids to better prepare them,” Barber said.
Franklin County Schools Superintendent Mark Kopp was also unflustered by the magazine’s report, which placed Western Hills High School at 88th and Franklin County High School in 109th out of the state’s 382 high schools. Neither school was ranked in 2018.
“We are proud to have the highest-ranked high school in the county and that both high schools are in the top 50% of schools in the state,” he said. “But on the other side, we don’t do what we do at the high schools to get rankings.”
With a total enrollment of 803, Western Hills boasted a 94% graduation rate and a 20-to-1 student-teacher ratio — the same as crosstown rival Franklin County, which has 982 students enrolled and an 80% graduation rate.
Kopp said the ratings placed too much emphasis on students passing AP and IB exams as the basis for college-readiness. Locally, there is a bigger push for dual-credit courses — college-level classes that offer both high school and college credit because not all colleges and universities accept AP courses.
“We try to provide opportunities for every student and we’ll continue to improve over time,” he said.
The U.S. News and World Report rankings can be found at www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/kentucky/rankings.