In 2013, New Hartford was recognized as a Gold Medal School by U.S. News; however, in 2014 New Hartford was not ranked at all because they failed to get through step 1 and 2 of the process used to determine the best schools according to U.S. News.
The question of the loss of ranking was raised by Lori Zaman, a former school board member, at the New Hartford School Budget Hearing:
Basically, Mr. Condro explained that the way that U.S. News & World Report ranks schools is a three (3) step process and while New Hartford passed the first part of the test, they failed in the second part and therefore could not continue on to the rankings.
According to U.S. News, the system for ranking schools in 2014 is actually the same as it was for the 2013 rankings; the year New Hartford was listed as a Gold Medal School.
We decided to do some background work to see just how the judging was done and what exactly is used to determine the best high schools in the U.S.
First of all, we note that the 2014 rankings are based on statistics from the 2011-2012 school year.
An article found on the magazine’s website written by Robert Morse, lists possible reasons for the change in 2014 rankings. Within the article is a link for a FAQ regarding the rankings.
The reason listed by Mr. Morse that seemed to fit New Hartford’s situation, specifically the failure to pass step 2 of the criteria, was:
1. Changes in relative performance on state tests: Some schools that were ranked in the 2013 Best High Schools rankings fell off the new 2014 list completely because they are no longer among the best performing schools on their statewide tests – meaning that their overall student performance on state tests during the 2011-2012 academic year did not exceed statistical expectations (Step 1 of the rankings methodology) or the performance of their least advantaged students was not as good as the state average (Step 2 of the methodology). Without successfully passing both of these steps of the methodology, schools were not eligible for the national competition for a gold, silver or bronze medal and don't appear at all in the rankings.The purpose of Step 1 was to determine whether each school's students were performing better than statistically expected for the average student in the state. According to Mr. Condro, New Hartford passed step 1.
The purpose of Step 2 was to make sure that high schools progressing to Step 3 successfully educated all students, regardless of their socioeconomic or ethnic backgrounds. New Hartford failed to meet Step 2 for the 2014 rankings; although Mr. Condro did state that we were close to making the cut. However, close is not enough to go on to Step 3 for ranking.
Since New Hartford did not pass Step 2 which was based on the performance of their least advantaged students in relation to the state average, we did some further research to see what if any changes in New Hartford’s demographics might be a factor.
For our comparisons, we went to the NYS Education website to get statistics on ethnicity and economically disadvantaged students in New Hartford; the same statistics used by U.S. & World Report magazine.
According to the New Hartford School Report Card, the number of students in grades 10-12 had been steadily declining until the 2012-13 year. That year saw an increase of 26 students in grades 10 through 12 over the previous year. However, there also was an increase of 15 economically disadvantaged students over the 2011-12 year which is also double the number of economically disadvantaged for the 2008-09 school year.
What does all this mean, if anything? What does this mean for New Hartford Central School? Does it matter if New Hartford is not ranked among the Best Schools in the U.S. according to one magazine? Is the change in demographics a factor in New Hartford's loss of ranking or is there more to the story?
New Hartford is a great school that affords many opportunities to its students; no one would argue that point, but are we serving the needs of ALL students?
In 2015, U.S. News & World Report will be using statistics from the 2012-13 school year as a basis for their rankings. Given the increase in disadvantaged students, how will New Hartford fair in the rankings for Best High Schools in the U.S.? Will it once again be a Gold Medal school?
We would love to hear some of your thoughts on the subject.
Tomorrow is the School Budget vote. Seven (7) people are vying for the two (2) open seats on the school board. Take the time to vote and choose who you think will best serve the interests of all residents; not just the whims of the administration. Take the time to listen to each of the candidates on the video in our last blog.
Place: New Hartford High School Gymnasium
Time: 7:00 a.m. to 9 p.m.