Digging Into The Numbers

How can a parent judge if one high school is better than another?  According to a New York Times article from this weekend, there are a “daunting” number of high profile rankings of the best US high schools published this time of year to help them make that determination.

As a public service to aid “anxious consumers”, the writer sets about to analyze one of those lists in order to understand how anyone could “quantify something as complex and nuanced as a high-quality education”.

Sorry, “challenge” index fans. He chose the one from Newsweek.

The writer does a great job of picking apart their system and it’s worth reading the whole thing.

But for this rant, let’s just cut to the bottom line. Where are the best schools?

Want the best high schools for your child? Move to Texas or Florida. Texas has 15 of the 100 best, placing second over all nationwide, while Florida has 10, the fourth most.

Read that again: 25% of the 100 best high schools in the country are in Texas and Florida.

This is no doubt due in good part to the reform efforts of George W. and Jeb Bush, who — like Newsweek — have made standardized test results a true measure of academic excellence.

That would be my guess.

At all costs, avoid Scarsdale, N.Y. It didn’t even make the top 1,000. Though its average SAT score of 1935 would rank it 21st among the 100 best, the school does not offer A.P. courses, and Newsweek counts A.P. data as 40 percent of the rating.

No AP courses??? I know someone who would consider that child abuse.

However, forget about the quality of Newsweek’s selection process. There’s another, far more important bottom line to consider in their decision to publish a Best American High School list (not to mention the Post’s multiple annual floggings of the “challenge”).

Given that magazines and newspapers are bleeding to death, this is the only plausible justification I can think of: Lists are cash cows.

End of story.

You Call These The “Best”?

A writer at CNET offers Five tools for the world’s best teacher, calling them “five teachers’ aids that stand out from the rest”.

  1. Blackboard
  2. Classroom 2.0
  3. Engrade
  4. MyGradeBook
  5. TeacherTube

Huh?

First of all, numbers three and four are both gradebooks. To me that falls under the category of classroom management, not teaching tools.

While Classroom 2.0 is a wonderful community, it’s about professional development and not for use with the kids.

TeacherTube is also excellent, a great place for both teachers and their students to share their work.

And then we come to Blackboard.

This “technology columnist who has written about everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems” either has a huge grudge against teachers or is clueless to make that his first choice.

Or include it on any instructional “best of” list at all.

Can The Free Continue?

Jim has an entry pointing to yet another list of the best web applications, 100 of them divided into ten categories.

Webware, yet another piece of CNet, evidently selected them based on almost two million votes from “webware readers and internet users across the globe. [Webware readers?]

Anyway, it’s interesting (but probably not surprising) that Google products are listed in eight out of the ten, missing out only in audio and “utility and security”.

They’ll probably fix that oversight in time for the 2009 list.

In looking over the list it’s also amazing how many of these products have become essential for large numbers of us in such a short time.

Then there’s the fact that most of them are also free, at least at a basic level.

I’ve read Chris Anderson’s Wired cover story Free! Why $0.00 Is The Future of Business and I still don’t understand how not charging for high quality applications is sustainable.