Best Rhode Island Public High Schools

New (Citadel?) media site GoLocalProv has compiled a ranking of the Rhode Island Public High Schools. The top 10 comprise some of the usual suspects and some that may surprise:
1) East Greenwich
2) Block Island
3) Narragansett
4) Barrington
5) South Kingstown
6) Classical
7) Exeter-West Greenwich
8) Lincoln
9) Middletown
10) Mt. Hope
Their methodology:

HOW WE DETERMINED VALUE: Our rankings were computed by a statistical method created at Babson College and utilized by Boston Magazine in its annual rankings of schools. We gathered data on area schools by consulting school officials and Web sites, as well as the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. With this information, we calculated mean scores for each data category and then ranked schools based on their distance from the averages.
For schools that did not provide figures, the average was used as a placeholder when computing the rankings.
Public Schools Category Weight Breakdown
* Student/Teacher Ratio 15%
* Per Pupil Spending 15%
* NECAP-English 10%
* NECAP-Math 10%
* NECAP-Science 10%
* SAT-Verbal 10%
* SAT-Math 10%
* SAT-Writing 10%
* Graduation Rate 10%

One quibble I have is with their weighting of Per Pupil Spending at 15%: at some point going too far above the state average isn’t necessarily a good thing, is it? That could also apply–if less so–to the student/teacher ratio. For example, Narragansett came in third overall, but with the exception of Reading SAT (5th), it is no better than 9th in the other academic categories. But it is fifth in per pupil spending ($17,587) and second in student/teacher ratio (7.5/1), which, thanks to the positive weighting that fewer students, more teachers and more cost GoLocalProv has assigned, put it in the top 3. Is that cost effective or an adequate return on investment?
On the other hand, East Greenwich was middle-of-the-pack in both the student/teacher ratio (a little better than average) and per pupil spending (a little below average) categories, but in the top three in each of the academic categories. Finally, Coventry was the average RI High School–average scores, average student/teacher ratio–though they spend a couple grand less/student than average, which could be viewed as getting more than you paid for, I suppose.

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13 years ago

How can ‘student:teacher ratio’ and ‘per-pupil spending’ determine the quality of an education?
If my car is so broken that I have to siphon money into it to keep it running, should it compare favorably to a sports car that just costs a lot to run?
This method of ranking punishes innovation in teaching methods and school administration, favoring higher costs.

13 years ago

Totally invalid methodology. A better approach would have been to (a) calculate value added — weighted test scores above what would have been predicted by student demographics; and divide it by (b) per pupil spending. Value added per dollar of per pupil spending would be much more informative that these ratings.

Brian C. Newberry
Brian C. Newberry
13 years ago

Per pupil spending is a very poor measure. For one thing, many fixed costs are the same regardless of fluctuations in enrollment. So a higher per pupil expenditure may simply reflect a change in number of students with no impact on education.
Second, and more importantly, it does not reflect on efficiency. I note that my town, North Smithfield, ranks 12th but is second from the bottom on per pupil expenditure. We have some of the lowest teacher salaries in the state but, in my opinion as a father with three kids in the public school system, some of the best teachers. This is reflected in the fact that SAT scores in all three categories are significantly higher than 12th. In other words, because we use our money wisely, we get punished in the rankings.

13 years ago

Let’s see a comparison with parochial high schools. And let’s leave out the student/teacher ratio and per pupil spending in that comparison – in other words, let’s compare results.

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