Press Release

    The Best Texas High Schools in 2005:
    A Response to Newsweek


    COLLEGE STATION--A report released by the Texas Educational Excellence Project (TEEP), Texas A&M University, challenges a recent Newsweek article which contained biannual rankings of the “best” high schools in the nation. TEEP contends that Newsweek’s rankings are misleading as an overall, holistic measure of high school success. Newsweek ranked US high schools based on two indicators of college-readiness: the number of advanced placement (AP) and international baccalaureate (IB) tests administered by the high school.

    While TEEP agrees that college-readiness is an appropriate measure of high school performance, research director of TEEP, Alisa Hicklin, suggests that Newsweek, “fails to consider differences between high schools, specifically with respect to resources available to the school. They also fail to consider how well students perform either on AP tests or anything else.”

    TEEP offers a more scientific, well-rounded way to ranking Texas high schools. They improve Newsweek’s measure of high school performance using five indicators: a school's graduation rate, their TAKS pass rate, the number of students whose SAT/ACT scores indicate college readiness (a standard defined by the state), the percentage of students taking AP/IB courses, and the percentage of students passing AP/IB tests. More importantly, a number of controls are considered in order to identify those schools that “do more with less.”

    Although wealthy schools should still be commended for high levels of performance, it is easy to argue that the "best" high schools are those schools that do the most with what they have. “The real heroes of the public school system are those high schools who can take students from all types of backgrounds and use their resources, though often lacking, to provide the best education possible,” reports Daniel Hawes, TEEP researcher.

    In Newsweek's top 1036 schools, 92 schools are in Texas. Collapsing Newsweek national rankings into a Texas list gave TEEP the ability to compare their rankings with rankings based on new data. Thirteen high schools rank in the top 25 of both lists, with Dallas ISD's School of Science and Engineering and South Texas ISD's Science Academy remaining in the top three. Eight of the schools in Newsweek's top 25 do not make it into the TEEP top 50. Some fall even further down the list.

    For example, Newsweek ranks WT White High School sixth in the state and 77th in the nation. However, when all indicators are considered, only 24% of their students achieve at or above the "college ready" score on the SAT (1110), and only 36% of their students have access to AP classes. Although their graduation rates and TAKS pass rates are not necessarily bad, at 83% and 85%, respectively, they are not among the highest in the state.

    Diamond Hill - Jarvis High School offers another example. DH-J ranks 22nd among Texas high schools on the Newsweek list, but other indicators tell a different story. With a TAKS pass rate of 39% and only 3% of students scoring above the college-ready standard on the SAT or ACT, Diamond Hill-Jarvis is not leading the pack in college readiness. Additionally, there are other schools that, when controlling for school district wealth, also drop in the rankings, though not as substantially. Highland Park falls from 2nd to 6th, and Grapevine HS falls from 7th to 45th.

    TEEP director, Ken Meier, adds that, “We believe the most important findings are the schools that, despite low budgets and large populations of disadvantaged students, seem to make it work.” To bolster the claim, the research team ranked the top 25 high schools in the state of Texas.

    Six high schools, who did not make it into Newsweek top 100, rate among the top 25 high schools in the state. Dallas ISD's School for the Talented and Gifted ranks #1, posting incredible performance scores for graduation rates (100%), high SAT/ACT scores (80%), and the percentage of students taking AP classes (94%). Likewise, Carnegie Vanguard High School in the Houston school district rates 7th in our list, achieving above average performance with 63% of students taking AP classes and 60% of students receiving high SAT/ACT scores.

    Of special note is PSJA Memorial High School in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district which, despite serious limitations in resources and a large limited English and low income student population, still performs above the average in graduation rates, and success on the AP. Other high schools ranking on our top 25 are Hidalgo HS, Medina HS, and Presidio HS.

    To see the entire report visit the TEEP web site at teep.tamu.edu. Any questions or comments are welcome at (979) 458-0104 or dhawes@politics.tamu.edu.

    The Texas Educational Excellence Project seeks to apply scholarly research to educational policy issues in order to make recommendations for greater quality and equity in Texas school systems. Statistical data for all districts used for the report can be found at http://teep.tamu.edu/.



    Click here to to go directly to the full report



    Click here for more information regarding the data and statistical methodology used in the report



    Click here to download the list of top 100 Texas high schools