SUMMIT, NJ - Summit High School has been listed as the 19th best high school in New Jersey -- and 357th in the nation -- in U.S. News & World Report's annual “Best High Schools” rankings.
The multi-platform publisher of news and information reviewed 28,561 United States high schools, with 109 New Jersey schools making the list. To be eligible, schools had to have earned a national gold or silver medal. Summit has been awarded a gold medal.
According to information found on usnews.com, U.S. News & World Report teamed with North Carolina-based RTI International, a global nonprofit social science research firm, to produce the rankings.
RTI implemented the U.S. News comprehensive rankings methodology, which is based on these key principles:
- that a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college bound, and
- that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show it is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators.
In a major change to the Best High Schools rankings methodology, U.S. News has added a new step this year focused on graduation rates. High schools that make it past the first two steps of the methodology, which remain unchanged and are detailed below, now have to meet or exceed a national standard high school graduation rate to be considered top-performing schools and to be ranked at a national level.
This marks the first time graduation rates have been used in ranking high schools at this scale. As part of this effort, U.S. News has published graduation rates for all high schools on its website for the first time.
A four-step process determined the Best High Schools. The first three steps ensured that the schools serve all of their students well, using their performance on the math and reading parts of their state proficiency tests and graduation rates as the benchmarks. For those schools that made it past the first three steps, a fourth step assessed the degree to which schools prepare students for college-level work.
Step 1: The first step determined whether each school's students were performing better than statistically expected for students in that state.
U.S. News started by looking at reading and math results for all students on each state's high school proficiency tests, then factoring in the percentages of economically disadvantaged students – who tend to score lower – enrolled at the schools to identify schools performing much better than statistical expectations. To pass Step 1, high schools' performance had to be one-third of one standard deviation above the average.
This threshold was applied to a school's performance compared with what would be statistically expected for that school in its state, based on its percentage of economically disadvantaged students.
U.S. News made one important change to Step 1 in the 2016 rankings. This year, for the first time, an absolute performance adjustment was used.
This enabled the 10 percent of schools with the highest absolute performance on each state's reading and math assessment tests to automatically pass Step 1. In addition, schools in the bottom 10 percent of their state’s reading and math assessment test results were barred from passing Step 1.
U.S. News made this adjustment to reward schools for exceptionally high performance on state assessment tests, regardless of their poverty level, as well as to prevent schools with exceptionally low state assessment test performance from being able to win a gold, silver or bronze medal.
Step 2: For schools passing the first step, the second step assessed whether their disadvantaged students – black, Hispanic and low-income – were outperforming disadvantaged students in the state.
U.S. News compared each school's math and reading proficiency rates for disadvantaged students with the statewide results for these student groups and then selected schools that were performing better than their state averages.
Step 3: U.S. News introduced a new Step 3 to the methodology for the 2016 rankings. Schools now have to meet or surpass a basic benchmark for their graduation rate.
As with the assessment data used in the previous steps, high schools' graduation rates were collected from each state. Although there is some variation in how states calculate graduation rates, the foundation of all states’ calculations is the percentage of first-time ninth-graders who were awarded diplomas four years later. For the 2016 rankings, the graduation rate reflects the 2014 cohort – students who entered ninth grade in the 2010-11 school year.
High schools were only allowed to pass Step 3 if their rounded graduation rate was 68 percent or greater. This threshold was based on the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which was passed in 2015 and is the successor to the No Child Left Behind Act. The law stipulates that states are required to provide additional resources to schools whose graduation rates are 67 percent or lower.
The 68 percent threshold is lower than the national average graduation rate as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics, which was 82 percent in 2013-14. U.S. News believes that the 68 percent threshold provides a basic measure to ensure that ranked schools do not struggle to graduate their students. Graduation rates are an important indicator of how well a school is succeeding for all its students. In future rankings, U.S. News may increase the threshold rate needed to pass Step 3.
Schools without a graduation rate value were allowed to pass Step 3 as well, to account for varying state rules about which high schools a graduation rate is calculated for, which high schools themselves have limited control over.
Step 4: Schools that made it through the first three steps became eligible to be judged nationally on the final step – college-readiness performance – using Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test data as the benchmark for success, depending on which program was largest at the school. This step is unchanged and was Step 3 in past U.S. News Best High Schools rankings.
AP is a College Board program that offers college-level courses at high schools across the country. The International Baccalaureate program also offers a college-level curriculum.
South Dakota was the only state that did not give U.S. News permission to use its schools' Advanced Placement data in Step 4 of the rankings. In addition, South Dakota had no schools with IB data. Therefore, no South Dakota schools could be evaluated in Step 4 of the methodology.
This fourth step measured which schools produced the best college-level achievement for the highest percentages of their students. This was done by computing a College Readiness Index based on the school's AP or IB participation rate – the number of 12th-grade students in the 2013-2014 academic year who took at least one AP or IB test before or during their senior year, divided by the number of 12th-graders – and how well the students did on those tests.
The latter part, called the quality-adjusted AP or IB participation rate, is the number of 12th-grade students in the 2013-2014 academic year who took and passed – received an AP score of 3 or higher or an IB score of 4 or higher – at least one of the tests before or during their senior year, divided by the number of 12th-graders at that school. Any individual AP or IB subject test was considered when determining if a student took or passed at least one test.
For the College Readiness Index, the quality-adjusted participation rate was weighted 75 percent in the calculation and the simple AP or IB participation rate was weighted 25 percent. The test that was taken by the most students at a particular school – either AP or IB – was used to calculate that school's College Readiness Index.
Summit High School is listed as have a 12 to 1 student to teacher ratio -- which is at or near the state average -- and a college readiness score of 61.1, significantly above the state average.
Locally, Chatham High School earned the 16th spot, Millburn High School ranked 24th, and Madison High School was slotted at 35th in the state rankings.
High Technology High School in Lincroft was ranked as the top high school in New Jersey.