BHS Remains High in National Rankings, But Drops From Previous School Year

Photo from Beachcomber archives

Photo from Beachcomber archives

This year, BHS was ranked among the top high schools in the nation (#230) in Newsweek’s rankings of 26,000 high schools across the United States; however, BHS also dropped from last year’s #175.

According to Newsweek, the criteria used to evaluate every school is broad, including student retention, AP/IB enrollment, SAT/ACT composite score, average AP score, average SAT score, average ACT score and counselor-student ratio.

This year, unlike previous years, Beachwood has also met Newsweek’s equity measure by helping low-income students score at or above average on standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT.

“We’re happy our [standardized test] scores have gone up over the past 14 years,” Beachwood City Schools spokesperson Doug Levin told the Plain Dealer in May. “We’ve had a 50-percent increase in AP class participation over the last two years, and [during the 2014-15 school year] we had a record number of AP scholars.”

“I think from my perspective that we should’ve been recognized a long time ago,” agreed activities director Craig Alexander. “The formula was different. The formula has been reevaluated so Beachwood’s hard work is finally being recognized. It’s well-deserved.”

In fact, according to the Newsweek website, 2014’s rankings were largely calculated based on Z-scores while this year’s were calculated by percentages.
Principal Dr. Ed Klein agreed that Beachwood’s high rankings were well-earned as well as a validation of the hard work students and staff contribute.

Despite a significant increase in AP enrollment (by 53% from 2014 to 2015), BHS’s ranking dropped last school year.”

“This continuous ranking is attributed to the conscientiously working towards achieving the school goals,” he said. “I see this come to fruition as I visit classrooms and observe high quality instruction, teachers providing meaningful interventions and students successfully striving to engage with rigorous courses.”

However, despite the accomplishment and significant increase in AP enrollment (by 53% from 2014 to 2015), BHS’s ranking dropped last school year. In Newsweek’s rankings of top high schools in the country in 2014 (based on 2013 statistics), BHS was ranked #175, dropping to #230 in the rankings released in spring of 2015. Similarly, our ranking among high schools in the state dropped from #64 in 2014 to #96. In addition to that, BHS also dropped in rankings according to U.S. News. This year, our school was ranked #1795 in the nation based on 2014 data, a drop from the previous rank of #1344.

Levin attributed this trend to a kink in the U.S. News and Newsweek calculations. He said Beachwood’s enrollment numbers — as reported by the Ohio Department of Education—are inflated because the district hosts classes by Excel TECC, a technical education program involving nine local school districts.

These rankings don’t truly capture the image of our art and extracurricular programs. If these organization took those into account, then Beachwood maybe would have ranked [even] higher.”

— Statistics Teacher John Kaminski

Students attending Excel TECC classes in Beachwood are counted toward Beachwood enrollment, even though their home districts are elsewhere. However, if those same students are AP participants, Beachwood is not given credit for their AP status, thus lowering AP enrollment percentages, which is taken into consideration with both U.S. News and Newsweek rankings.

“I believe our rankings dropped because the formula has been changed,” said Alexander. “They don’t have a standard formula, which causes our rankings to fluctuate.”

“As I reviewed these national rankings, I noticed that drop as well,” Klein said. “But if you look closer, it wasn’t a drop in our score; rather, there were other schools that weren’t on the list in years past that bypassed us.”

“Our scores on those national rankings have continued to increase,” he continued. “However, these scores have minimal impact on our school. What matters is the work and dedication of both students and staff.”

Newsweek calculates the rankings by partnering up with Westat, a survey research corporation, to create a high school achievement index called a threshold, which is based on performance indicators (i.e., proficiency rates on state standardized assessments). Next, for the high schools identified in the threshold analysis, Newsweek creates a college readiness score based on the following six indicators: enrollment rate, graduation rate, weighted AP/IB composite, weighted ACT/SAT composite, student retention, and counselor-student ratio.

“For what we accomplish here at Beachwood, I feel that our ranking is still relatively low,” said sophomore Sridhar Uppalapati. “In all seriousness, it’s not fair how our school size limits us in a way.”

“We’re not disappointed in the ranking but frustrated by the formula that counts dually enrolled students who are not Beachwood residents,” Levin said.

“I think we know Beachwood deserves to be highly ranked,” statistics teacher John Kaminski told the Beachcomber in June, “…but they don’t truly capture the image of our art and extracurricular programs. If these organization took those into account, then Beachwood maybe would have ranked [even] higher.”