Arizona charters sweep top spots in ‘best high schools’ report
By Kendra Penningroth, Cronkite News | Tuesday, April 25, 2017
WASHINGTON – A U.S. News and World Report ranking of the best high schools in the country gave the top spot to Basis Scottsdale, one of four Basis charter schools in Arizona that finished in the report’s top five.
U.S. News and RTI National, a research firm, looked at more than 22,000 public high schools in the United States and awarded 2,609 of them with gold, silver or bronze medals to indicate their ability to make students college-ready.
Basis Scottsdale finished first, followed by Basis Tucson North, Basis Oro Valley and Basis Peoria in second, third and fifth, respectively. The School for the Talented and Gifted in Texas finished fourth, interrupting the Basis sweep.
In all, eight Arizona schools finished in the top 50. In addition to the top-five Basis schools, Basis Chandler was seventh, University High School in Tucson finished 15th, University High School in Tolleson was 21st and Gilbert Classical Academy High School was in 30th place.
It was an improvement from last year for Basis schools, when Scottsdale finished second and Basis Tucson North took third place, while Basis Oro Valley was ranked sixth.
Basis Scottsdale Head of School Kristen Jordison welcomed the recognition, but said the campus was never chasing the ranking.
“Every year we’re very honored to be ranked,” Jordison said. “Every year we are working to ensure our students have a world class education.”
She attributed her school’s first place spot to its teachers, who she said are often experts in their field and are treated like professionals by the administration. Jordison said the teachers’ expertise and enthusiasm makes Basis Scottsdale the school it is and allows its students to excel.
“All of the BASIS schools share the same high-achieving curriculum,” Jordison said.
U.S. News and World Report said in a statement that it publishes the rankings to “highlight public schools that best serve all of their students, including disadvantaged populations.”
“It is critical that students graduate from high school to put them on a successful path to college and a career,” Anita Narayan, managing editor of education at U.S. News, said in a statement.
“We encourage parents to use the data included in the 2017 Best High Schools rankings to help make informed decisions about their children’s education,” she said.
Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News, explained in a post Monday that the rankings were determined using a four-step process. The first determined whether students at a given high school were outperforming their in-state peers on reading and math assessment tests.
Researchers then looked at whether or not marginalized students – which they defined as low-income, black or Latino – at the high schools that made it through the first round were performing better than students with similar characteristics elsewhere in their states.
If schools passed the first two steps, researchers then compared graduation rates. Basis Scottsdale has a 100 percent graduation rate, according to the report.
The final step is where college-readiness came into play. U.S. News compiled Advanced Placement test scores to determine the college-readiness of a given student body, and compared that to all of the schools that passed the first three steps to determine the best high schools in the country.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas congratulated the Basis schools on this year’s improvement.
“We are always thrilled to see Arizona schools thriving at such a high level,” Douglas said in a written statement Tuesday. “Our hope for the future is that all schools in Arizona will be recognized nationally for their performance.”