Robert Katz, Staff Writer
Last week, news magazine Newsweek published their annual list of the best public high schools in the nation, listing Beverly at a national ranking of 324 and a California ranking of 49. Additionally, Beverly placed 200 nationally and 36 in California out of all “open enrollment” high schools.
The list, the product of analysis of 21,776 schools, was compiled based on six factors, with the most important being the four-year graduation rate, the percentage of graduates in 2011 who were accepted into college (either two-year or four-year), and the total number of AP, IB (International Baccalaureate) and AICE (Advanced International Certificate of Education) exams per student. Also taken into account were the average SAT and ACT score, average AP, IB and AICE exam scores, and the average number of AP, IB and AICE exams taken per student.
Beverly earned its placement with a graduation rate of 98 percent and college-bound rate of 96 percent, the latter being higher than in many higher-ranked schools. Additionally, the school had an average number of AP, IB and AICE tests taken of 0.6 tests per student and an average SAT score of 1730, and average ACT score of 24.4 and average AP score of 3.5.
Beverly’s ranking “indicates a very positive trend for our students as compared to other students around the country,” school Superintendent Dr. Gary Woods said. “Even to make the top 1000 high schools in the US is prestigious.”
Sophomore James Fast agreed, impressed by the school’s ability to stay afloat in such rough economic tides.
“Since the economy in California is so terrible and all the other school systems are losing a lot of their funding, I think we’re pretty lucky to go to this school in which things are pretty stable,” Fast said. “Everything is very nice, it’s very clean. We’re lucky that we get to such a beautiful school with such great teachers and facilities.”
Senior Chloe Revery took issue with the formula for the list, along with those of other “top school” compilations.
“The criteria used to rank schools on these lists often vary widely from survey to survey,” Revery said. “There are a lot of things that can’t be measured that make a school great and every organization that produces these rankings includes some important things and leaves out some other important things. These lists perpetuate an emphasis on standardized testing that we should be moving away from.”
English teacher Bill Hiatt was pleased by both the school’s result and the more expanded judgement system featured by Newsweek.
“We should be cautious about these kinds of things, although I do like that the Newsweek list is based on multiple measures,” Hiatt said. “In the past, some of them have been just based on one thing, which is not necessarily the best variable. You want to see different aspects of a school. I have always been confident that Beverly has been a really great school. The question always is, finding an appropriate way to measure ‘greatness’ and I think that the Newsweek list is at least a start in that direction.”
However, Hiatt was skeptical of the ability of publications to gauge the quality of a school based on the broad categories used in this and similar lists.
“I think, historically, people will probably point out that a lot of the things that we do on campus in terms of actual preparation for people’s careers aren’t counted in any of these things,” Hiatt said. “If you want to be a professional architect, you’re in architecture, but nobody cares what we do in architecture in terms of rating the school. Or, you [might] want to be a professional musician and you’re in band or orchestra, but nobody cares about the quality, or tries to measure the quality, of band or orchestra. So there are some glitches like that, but with that caveat, I think the Newsweek criteria are better than a lot that I’ve seen and I am glad that Beverly is getting some of the recognition that it deserves.”