by Tom Doolittle
The January 2012 Atlanta magazine includes the first of its kind high school rankings. These are public school ratings only. What the magazine terms as “independent” schools do not distribute performance data. The list details nine numerical categories in what appears to be its most objective attempt to date. In previous years, Atlanta magazine provided a more subjective Top list for several subject area strengths, such as math/science, fine arts et al, allowing private schools to be included.
The Atlanta Metro's lifestyle oriented periodical states, “SATs are helpful…but (can) mean a school has little socioeconomic diversity.” The editors write confidently that their nine categories, “present a compelling portrait of how well public schools prepare their graduates.”
Five schools from DeKalb are in the Metro Top 50. In order of composite rank—DeKalb School of the Arts (#3), Lakeside (#16), Chamblee (#18), Dunwoody (#23) and Druid Hills (#42). Compare that to ten (10) each from Gwinnett; Fulton and Cobb. Cobb and Fulton had eight of the top 10 in the composite (overall) list.
In the most striking example of the breadth of the “portrait”, the five DeKalb county schools on the list make up five of the top seven in the “% college prep” category, however they range from #3 (DeKalb School of the Arts) to #42 (Druid Hills) in overall rank. Schools on the magazine ranked list generally have over 90 percent of graduates with college preparatory rather than vocational diplomas. None in DeKalb's top 5 were under 97%.
Like any data, you have to take it at face value and move along. For instance, SAT scores can be skewed by a school’s numbers taking the test; although determinant, neither school size or % of economically disadvantaged students can be objectively considered and no credit is given for progress toward closing the so-called “achievement gap”. It is also not clear how superior technology/vocational programs can be distinguished.
Figures derived from Georgia Dept of Education reveal all five DeKalb schools in the Top 50 have the highest % of economically disadvantaged students taking graduation tests, except two magnet schools in the City of Atlanta—and none less than 30.9% (DSA). Three are above 40% (Lakeside, Druid Hills and Chamblee). Except for DSA, only two schools in the Top 15 (higher than Lakeside at #16) had more than 20%. All Fulton and Cobb schools except one were less than 10%. Review of the data shows a marked gap between scores from the total population and that of the economically disadvantaged group, although those lower performing students did much better in environments with fewer than 10%--all passing AYP. Druid Hills passed AYP with 53.7% in the disadvantaged category, Dunwoody passed with 32.5%.
However, the full picture of the difficulties of high performing schools with large shares of economically disadvantaged cannot be appreciated until “student mobility rates” (ins and outs) are tabulated.
--5 schools in Top 25 overall (3 in Atlanta Mag Top 15)
--Top County for % College Preparatory Diploma--5 out of Top 7 schools
--Highest need for "Learning Support" among Top 5 Counties
--Top 5 in percentage economically disadvantaged (author research, not Atlanta Magazine)
(Data derived from: Georgia Department of Education)
(Modified from an article in The Patch)