Rapped knuckles: Winerip gets it right!


Darlings! What makes a good school: Michael Winerip left Newsweek for dead in yesterday’s New York Times.

In his weekly “On Education” piece, Winerip explored the way those lists of best high schools get made. These lists can be highly influential, Winerip cruelly noted at the start.

Soon, he was pounding at Newsweek:
WINERIP (6/4/12): What schools score highest on Newsweek’s index? Of the top 50, 37 have selective admissions or are magnet schools, meaning they screen students using a combination of entrance exam scores, grade-point average, state test results and assessments of their writing samples.

In short, to be the best, high schools should accept only the highest performing eighth graders, who—if the school doesn’t botch it—will become the highest performing 12th graders.

Put another way: Best in, best out, best school.
Oof. But as he continued reviewing the Newsweek list, matters only got worse. Of the remaining 13 schools in the Newsweek top 50, eight are charter schools, Winerip noted.

“The two top charter schools on the Newsweek list are the Basis high schools in Scottsdale and Tucson,” he sweetly said. Then, rather brutally, this:
WINERIP: What does the student body look like at a Basis high school? At Basis Scottsdale—the third best high school in America, according to Newsweek—95 percent of the 701 students are Asian or white.

Asians make up 2.8 percent of the state population, but 41 percent of the Basis Scottsdale students.

There are 15 Hispanics (2 percent) in a state that is about one-third Hispanic.

There are no Native Americans listed on the State Education Department’s Web site, though they make up 5 percent of Arizona’s population. The site lists 13 African-American students and no children of migrant workers. There are no children who qualify for subsidized lunches or who need special education classes.

Clearly, best schools would do best not to get bogged down serving students considered un-best.

The remaining five of the top 50 schools [on the Newsweek list] are in suburban districts where enrollment is open to all, as long as they are residents.

The one thing that these five schools have in common is that they are full of children from the nation’s wealthiest families.
Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow! When will the Times make this stop?

Let’s state the obvious: Every student deserves a good school. Kids who come from wealthier homes deserve to go to good schools too.

But ow ow ow ow ow ow ow! Winerip continued to pound away at Newsweek’s highly foppish list. We'll suggest that you read the whole thing.

Darlings! This sort of thing just isn’t done! When will the Times make it stop?


  1. I don't care about this stuff. Gay marriage! Legalized pot! Stupid, crazy conservatives! Racism! Rednecks! Give me the good stuff Somerby!

  2. Perhaps this article, which certainly caught my attention, got the go-ahead because schools like the high school of Scarsdale, NY (hard to imagine that it's anything but a pretty amazing school) didn't even make it into the top 1,000, if memory serves, in part because the school system did not submit data (a sign of this system's elite self-confidence), in part because (e.g.) the school doesn't offer AP courses (Scarsdale says it can provide much better courses -- I can believe that, even as I appreciate that AP provides teachers in some school systems their only way of providing courses that will stimulate their more intellectually adventurous students -- every school faces its own challenges!).

    Whatever the reasons for the NYT's shift in emphasis, so good to see the rankings mania (big on the college front, too, of course, and just as misleading) being properly debunked. Lately, the NYT has also taken to questioning (at least via guest op-eds and such) individual "teacher ratings," when these ratings are promulgated as a form of public shaming, as a useful method of improving teaching.

    I'd appreciate learning more about how to sort out legitimate, truly beneficial uses of standardized tests (Bob S. has educated me on how many of these tests can still be supremely useful -- I'm not inclined to be a fan given the misuse of these measures so much of the time, but thanks to him I'm not knee-jerk) and of other measures of schools' effectiveness, from the many abuses of all these measures especially by those bringing irrelevant business models to bear in education.