Karl’s fair correction of my blog

In the previous post I linked to a very smart commentary from a 2008 East Grad’s blog arguing for passage of the levy. In case you didn’t wade through my post to the end here it is again. Karl deserves bonus points for some kind words for Art Johnston.

He also took me gently to task for misinterpreting the District’s kudos of East High’s recent Newsweek ranking among American High Schools. I do think the District’s verbiage was vulnerable to my misinterpretation but I was too eager to heap abuse on the District. Here’s Karl’s email on the subject.

Hi Harry,

I’m going to have another blog post on ISD 709 stuff later in the day, but I did want to correct one thing that went up on your blog today, in which you interpreted the results of the Newsweek ratings as saying East’s rating at 1089 puts it in the “bottom half” of all high schools. You’ve got it wrong: there are way more than 2000 public high schools in the country, and simply making this list at all puts it in the top tier of high schools.

Also, if you dig into the fine print of that rating, you’ll see that East is dragged down considerably by its lack of AP tests; ISD 709 doesn’t offer half of the AP courses that many of those other highly rated schools do. They do, however, have a bunch of courses that count for college credit at UMD and other local schools. Those credits didn’t transfer to the east coast college I went to, but they do transfer to most (if not all) Minnesota and upper midwestern colleges, and make up for the lack of AP courses somewhat. Those courses were good enough for me and a bunch of other East kids to take AP tests in certain subjects and pass them, even though we didn’t take the actual AP class. That’s something that Newsweek’s one-size-fits-all formula misses.

I’m not saying all is love and roses at East. (How can it be, with 40+ kids in classes?) I also think rankings like this can be a real crapshoot, since many of the schools that do well tend to be in affluent areas and don’t face anywhere near the number of obstacles that schools with less fortunate student bodies do, from funding to involved parents. (Take a look at the Minnesota list, where Edina leads the pack and a bunch of wealthy suburbs come right after it; only 5 of the 20 schools ahead of East have a higher free/reduced lunch percentage than East.) They also take a bunch of unrelated things and try to cram them into a single number that supposedly is an accurate measure of something. But whatever that ranking says, it certainly doesn’t suggest that East is a mediocre high school.

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