U.S. News lists America’s Best High Schools 2008 based on college readiness. Eighteen charter schools rank in the top 100, although charters make up only 5 percent of schools nationwide.
Many of the top-ranking schools are specialty schools that take only top students, but here’s the list of open-enrollment schools. (New York City’s Stuyvesant High, which takes only very high-scoring students, somehow is listed as an open-enrollment school.)
Most of the top-scoring schools have few minority and low-income students, but there are exceptions. The top 100 includes four charters with very high percentages of disadvantaged students: Idea College Prep in Hidalgo County, Texas, YES Prep in Houston, and Green Dot’s Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter High and Animo Leadership High in Los Angeles.
In a debate on high school reform, everyone agrees that high school should prepare graduates for college-level learning, whether it occurs on the job or in a two- or four-year college. But Justin Cohen, a D.C. public schools administrator, sees “kids who are six, seven years behind in reading and math” at the start of ninth grade.
. . . we look at the trajectory of a student within the D.C. public schools and shockingly enough, and not to our credit at all, the longer a student stays with us, the poorer his or her performance gets. Just let that sit for a moment. The kids get less effective as they go through our schools.
High school success starts long before high school. Idea schools, started by Teach for America veterans, began with a middle school but now is a K-12 program. YES schools began with a middle school and now serves 6th through 12th graders. Green Dot, which has stuck with high schools, is an exception.