Features

The Explainer: North surpasses South

—By Liam Knox & Hannah Mitlak—

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!  NORTH TO SURPASS SOUTH IN THIS YEAR’S U.S. NEWS STATE HIGH SCHOOL RANKINGS!  Wow!  No way!  That’s incredible!

Not really, as it turns out.  It’s true that for as long as most of us can remember, our crosstown rival has been a few pegs above North in U.S. News’ annual flex contest, but the reasoning behind this well-known factoid isn’t so well known.  At a school board meeting on November 18th, Assistant Superintendent Martin Smith pointed out that North students are now taking more AP tests than South students.  “One of the criteria in many news magazines’ school rankings is the number of AP tests administered,” Smith said, “so North may end up being ranked slightly higher than South when the new rankings are released.”

According to U.S. News’ Webmaster, the paper ranks state high schools according to methodology developed by the American Institute for Research (AIR).  “A great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college -bound,” the Webmaster said.  “It must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators.”

As it turns out, U.S. News is concerned with only one performance indicator: the number of students who take AP tests.  Not even the scores they get, just the quantity of scores processed.  In an email, Smith told The Knightly News, “The differences between North and South in any ranking system are not significantly different and should not lead anyone to believe that one school is any better than the other school.”  It seemed at first like the kind of knee-jerk defensive answer any parent-fearing administrator would give, but maybe he’s right.  Maybe, just maybe, our academic rivalry with South can’t be measured numerically.

Many students are beginning to agree. “The variation in ranking is probably more a reflection of the student body, which changes constantly,” senior Ralles Liu said.  Even our own principal, Michael Zapicchi, is skeptical, arguing that the excellent colleges North students are accepted to are a much better indicator of the school’s success than the highly publicized rankings.  But he’d never really bought into the rankings anyway.  “I don’t put a lot of stock in the rankings when South is above North,” Zapicchi said, “so I don’t put too much in when we think North will be higher.”

But with all the hype surrounding the rankings, there must at least be some tangible ramifications, right? Differences in state funding, for example, or at least bragging rights among New Jersey high school administrators?  Alas, Smith says this is not the case.  “There is no correlation between funding and the rankings,” he said.

So we can conclude this edition of The Explainer with the assertion that our academic rivalry with South can only be played out in the comments section of social media, and that any attempt to use statistics to argue for one school’s intellectual supremacy is unfounded and should be shut down immediately by waving this article in the air and pointing out the eloquently written evidence herein.

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