Photo: Belmont High School
The cliché about Belmont is that you don’t come for the roads, you come for the schools.
That saying was reinforced last week when US News & World Reports announced the 2023-2024 Best High Schools rankings and Belmont High School was rated the 290th public high school in the US out of nearly 18,000 schools in the country on its performance on state-required tests, graduation and how well they prepare students for college.
In the four ranking categories compiled by USN&WR, Belmont High School is:
- 290th in National Rankings
- 8th in Massachusetts High Schools
- 5th in Boston Metro Area High Schools
- 36th in STEM High Schools
When all the numbers were crunched, Belmont High’s overall percentage “scorecard” is 98.36 out of 100, with the school in the top two percent of high schools in the country.
“Having access to a strong high school program is paramount for students as they face an ever-changing world,” says Liana Loewus, managing editor of education at U.S. News. “Making data on our high schools available helps parents ensure their child is in the educational environment that best sets them up to thrive.”
The highest ranked public schools in the 2023-2024 Best High Schools national rankings are those whose students achieved exceptional scores on state assessments for math, reading and science. These schools also had strong underserved student performance, college readiness and curriculum breadth, as well as graduation rates.
“It’s a great honor to be on that list. I think that it is a reflection of the strength of Belmont,” said the recently appointed Belmont Schools Superintendent Dr. Jill Geiser.
While Geiser looks at the rarified ranking as an accolade, it’s not the district’s only metric to measure “how our students are doing.” But it is still “a reflection of the strength of Belmont public schools.”
The statistics of students at Belmont High include:
- 70 percent took at least one AP® Exam
- 65 percent passed at least one AP® Exam
- 88 percent were Mathematics Proficiency
- 89 percent were Reading Proficiency
- 86 percent were Science Proficiency
- a 100 percent graduation rate
US News used six ranking indicators and their weights to produce the overall score.
- College Readiness: 30 percent. The proportions of 12th graders who took and earned a qualifying score on at least one AP or IB exam. Earning a qualifying score is worth three times more than just taking.
- State Assessment Proficiency: 20 percent. Aggregated scores on state assessments that students may be required to pass for graduation.
- State Assessment Performance: 20 percent. How aggregated scores on state assessments compare with U.S. News’ expectations given the proportions of students who are Black, Hispanic and from low-income households.
- Underserved Student Performance: 10percent. Scores on state assessments aggregated just among students who are Black, Hispanic and from low-income households. These scores are compared with what is typical in the state for non-undeserved students, with parity or higher being the goal.
- College Curriculum Breadth: 10 percent. The proportions of 12th graders who took and earned a qualifying score on AP and IB exams in multiple areas. More exams are valued more than fewer exams up to a maximum of four. Earning a qualifying score on an exam is worth three times more than taking.
- Graduation Rate: 10 percent. The proportion of entering ninth graders who graduated four academic years later.
The final score involves summing each school’s weighted scores across the six indicators of school quality, then computed a single zero to 100 overall score reflective of a school’s performance across these metrics. The overall scores depict how well each school did on a national percentile basis. For example, a school with a score of 60 performed in the 60th percentile among all schools in the rankings.
While the US News annual High School rankings is a popular and anticipated – at least for those schools which find themselves rated highly each year – the rankings have come under increasing criticism, including that top performances are boosted by a student body that is richer and more homogeneous than their districts or in general.
An article published in the Oct. 2021 in the online publication Degreechoices, Bob Schaeffer, executive director of The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, said:
“By relying almost exclusively on school rating factors that strongly correlate with family wealth, U.S. News guarantees that schools serving relatively affluent student bodies will rank at the top of its lists. In addition, the magazine’s formula assumes that standardized test scores are a fair and accurate measure of academic performance, rather than a narrow snapshot of one set of skills. It is similar to trying to rank basketball teams based on their players’ free throw shooting percentages. Like most U.S News’ rankings schemes, this is another example of ‘Garbage in, garbage out’.”