Grauer Seniors presenting their Activism & Advocacy project about Deforestation to other students – December 5, 2023

U.S. News & World Report has, for many years, ranked their top high schools in the country. I personally have long been critical of their ranking system, not only because of the reductionist nature of such rankings, but because of the specific methodology they have used. In particular, the magazine relies heavily on a number of areas that do not incorporate the full student experience. 

Things like scores on standardized achievement, including college entry and AP exams, are literally 50% of their weight, while their rankings leave out areas like happiness, belongingness, safety, mentoring, and many other great predictors of a successful, purposeful, healthy future. In fact, 20% more items are associated enough with test scores that we could say 70% of the US News formula is based on standardized test results of students. So, I remain extremely critical of the US News findings.

Nevertheless, I studied the findings this year and made an amazing discovery. When we check, the results show that among the Top 5 ranked high schools, student enrollment is as follows:

  • #1 – 197 students
  • #2 – 383 students
  • #3 – 266 students
  • #4 – 132 students
  • #5 – 1,902 students

This is amazing! Three (or arguably 4) of the top five schools in the nation are small schools of a size comparable to The Grauer School.

So, while it is true that small schools score BIG when it comes to areas of values development, quality of life and safety, it appears equally true that our small school students are prepared to score high on standardized tests. As a scholar of small schools, it makes perfect sense to me that students who feel more connected and safe will score better. That’s one point. Another point is this: no matter what your scholastic or affective goals are, there is a good chance you will meet it better in a small school.

Photo showing high school girls outside with shirts hanging on a rack.

Grauer students participating in a Clothing Swap of gently-used clothing, to raise awareness about the environmental impact of fast fashion and promote sustainability – December 12, 2023

I only wish our nation’s educational policy makers would measure what matters. Increasingly popular student measures used by The Grauer School over the past decade such as the “Panorama Student Survey,” the “Challenge Success Survey,” and the “High School Survey of Student Engagement” are indicators that interest in measuring what matters is growing.

If you are interested in pursuing this area further, I invite you to peruse and enjoy the website of the Small Schools Coalition, which I have developed over the past 15 or so years with dedicated research associates. Enjoy!

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