In May 2012, U.S. News & World Report published its 4th ranking of the nation's best public high schools. The study covered nearly 22,000 public high schools across the country.
Schools were ranked based on the following factors measured in 2009-2010: (1) how well students tested on reading and math proficiency assessments at the state level, factoring in disadvantaged students, who tend to score lower on tests; and (2) college readiness, based on how well schools prepare students for college-level work via Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) programs.
The median college readiness, measured on a scale of 0 to 100, was 16.3. A readiness index of 100 means that all 12th graders took and passed at least 1 AP or IB test. (More on the methodology)
There were 2,407 California high schools, 87,682 full-time teachers and 1,999,202 students enrolled during the survey period. To be ranked in California, schools must receive either a gold (top 500 nationally) or silver (top 501 to 2008 nationally) medal. 276 Callifornia schools received gold or silver medals.
We checked out local high schools in the Conejo Valley, Ventura County and adjacent areas and summarized the information below. There were 12 local schools that received gold/silver medal status and thus were ranked nationally and in California.
Malibu High School ranked 52nd in the state, with the highest local "college readiness" level. The top academic scoring school locally was Oak Park High School. Thousand Oaks High School and Newbury Park High School both received silver medals and were very evenly matched in the rankings. Westlake High received a gold medal and over half of its students passed at least one AP test. Nicely done!
The methodology is a bit perplexing. While one can understand the rationale for taking "risk adjusted" academic performance by comparing performance of disadvantaged/minority students to state averages, it prevents many schools from being ranked whose scores are on par with or better than ranked schools.
For example: Silver medal winning Fillmore High School was ranked 1806 nationally and 370 in California! Congrats! Fillmore's college readiness and academic performance measures were 18.9 and 737, respectively. As a comparison, Moorpark High School scores were substantially higher, at 34.3 and 812, yet the school was not ranked. Presumably, what prevented Moorpark, Simi Valley and some others from receiving a medal and rank was the "achievement gap" of disadvantaged students.
So while the rankings and underlying detailed information are interesting and informative, before coming to any conclusions, I highly recommend reviewing the detailed school information available at www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/california/rankings.