News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

South Lakes High School Ranked #308 in the Nation in Somewhat Arbitrary Yet Influential List

Every year, the Washington Post and Newsweek come out with their fancy "challenge index" of national high schools, prompting much hand-wringing and arbitrary comparisons that, when combined with 25 cents, may or may not buy you a dropperful of artiseanal free trade coffee from your local barista. This year, Reston's South Lakes High School ranked 308th among the nation's top 1,900 schools, or 39th in the DC area. That's up from #558 a few years back, a data point selected by the all-important "last time we remembered to check on this arbitrary annual list, which wasn't last year" criteria. Herndon High School ranked 233rd, or 31st in the region. Given that there are more than 26,000 high schools in the country, that ain't bad. But of course, we in Fairfax County have come to expect champagne wishes and caviar dreams, even from our schools.

At 104th nationally, Oakton was the top-ranked Fairfax County high school (and 10th in the region), followed by McLean, James Madison, Langley (go Unredistrictable Anglo-Saxons!), W.T. Woodson, Lake Braddock, Chantilly, Herndon, and Robinson. Centreville, Westfield, West Springfield, South County, Marshall, Stuart, Falls Church, Hayfield, Edison, Lee, Annandale, all scored lower than SLHS. About one in three SLHS students qualify for free and reduced lunch, according to the survey.

So what does all this mean? As with any piece of data rounded to three decimal points, probably less than it seems. The index is based on the proportion of graduating seniors who take college-level AP and IB exams, not test scores that "say more about a school’s average family income than its efforts to raise the level of instruction for average students," as Post education maven Jay Matthews puts it. Critics of the index argue that the rankings don't say how well students do on those exams, and point to schools on the list with high dropout rates and wide achievement gaps among students of different races and income levels. But with "rigor" being the watchword in education circles right now, it's hard to argue with the idea that schools should push more kids into IB and AP classes so they have a slight chance at not spending the next six decades as interchangeable and disposable wage slaves one minor misstep away from irrevocable financial ruin can be "college and career ready."

More troubling is this:

SAT scores.jpg

Either they didn't get any data from SLHS, or we'd suggest checking the water fountains for lead.

In other words, it's all a bit of a wash. We'd frankly spend more time worrying about who the next South Lakes principal is going to be, or why kids there are getting in trouble for being on the Twitters, or what possessed someone to break into the school, the end.


  1. How do you know if you're a top honors student graduate of South Lakes High School?

    If seven years after finishing high school you still have a job at the South Lakes Shopping Center Starbucks, then you're definitely a South Lakes High School top honors student graduate.

  2. "About one in three SLHS students qualify for free and reduced lunch, according to the survey."

    Last I looked, Fairfax County still has the second highest per capita income in the nation. That being the case, why in the world do so many of our students qualify for this kind of subsidy? I shudder to think what the percentages might be in less well heeled jurisdictions.

  3. Anon 4:16, just because lots of people make tons of $ in this county doesn't mean poor people don't exist. We have a homeless shelter in Reston; we have subsidized housing in Reston.

  4. Hey, Restonian, I have a question for you. How does that Artise Anal Coffee work? I figure it's kind of like Civet Poop coffee, where the critter eats the raw coffee bean and then the undigested seed is harvested. In the Civet case, it just comes out with the poop.

    But how do you get the bean from the Artise? Does some schmuck have pluck the seed from the anus of some poor Artise after it has eaten and digested the raw coffee berry? Does the schmuck have to stun the unsuspecting critter first or pin it to the ground in order to get the seed from said critter's butt, or does the Artise willingly cooperate? Are we now supposed to look for labels on our coffee cans/packets that state that no animals were accosted in the harvesting of this coffee?

    And just what the heck is an Artise anyways?

    Sigh. I suppose that if I had taken IB or AP courses in high school instead of doing drugs and skipping school, I might actually know the answer to that question.

    BTW, you know that Civet Poop coffee is expensive. I had heard that it costs $400/pound. Considering how much more effort must go into capturing and "expressing" the coffee bean from the critter's butt, I suspect that Artise Anal must go for something north of $600/lb. No wonder you can only afford a dropperful of the stuff.

    Well, nonetheless, all of this talk of Rectal Java makes me glad that I'm strictly a tea fan.


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