I’m not sure any more criticism of Jay Mathews’ Challenge Index is really necessary but this article in today’s New York Times is too good to ignore.
Here is just one example cited by the writer for why this ranking is “meaningless,” “ridiculous,” “illegitimate” and “journalistic Barnum & Bailey”. (I love that last one!)
For example, Foshay Learning Center, a high-poverty school in Los Angeles, is ranked No. 414 on Newsweek’s list with a ratio of 1.888 AP tests per graduating senior; Lexington High, in well-to-do suburban Boston, is ranked No. 441, with a ratio of 1.831. For Newsweek, it does not matter that Foshay students failed 83 percent of their AP tests with scores of 1’s or 2’s; while at Lexington, 91 per cent were 3’s, 4’s or the top grade of 5 – qualifying those students for college credits.
And that points up a major problem with a listing like this that receives national attention far beyond its validity. It provides a smoke screen for schools where students are taking lots of tests but not learning.
Read the whole article for Mathews’ defense of his index and of Newsweek calling the schools on it the “best” in America. And imagine the grade you would give a student essay with arguments that weak.