Rankings lowered, but still high

The Washington Post has lowered the rankings for five high schools in the IDEA Public Schools network in the Rio Grande Valley to be in the top 25 rather than in the top 10 most challenging high schools in America.

The Post said the schools earlier were mistakenly ranked in the top 10 due to faulty data submitted by IDEA.

IDEA issued this statement from CEO Tom Torkelson:

“We messed up. Last month I celebrated and widely announced that The Washington Post ranked five of our schools in the top 10. Those rankings were incorrect because IDEA Public Schools provided Jay Mathews and The Post with faulty information.

“With the corrected data, our school rankings dropped: it appears as though our five schools in the top 10 were in the top 25. I want to personally and publicly apologize to Jay and The Post. They trusted the veracity of the information we provided, and we let them down.

“Ultimately, it was Jay’s transparency that helped bring this mistake to light: He was very clear about what criteria were used to calculate the rankings. Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, did her own analysis of IDEA’s numbers and told Jay she did not think they were accurate given the number of AP tests taken by each IDEA student. Jay asked us to reexamine our data and we fully cooperated to help get to the bottom of this issue.”

Torkelson said IDEA “made an honest mistake; we did not purposely lie in an attempt to inflate our rankings. How did this happen? In short, we were asked to provide the number of Advanced Placement tests our students took in 2016. Instead, we ran the 2016 report that listed the number of tests our students had taken over multiple years. The result is that it looked like our students had taken a lot more exams in one year than they actually had.”

The results came in just days after IDEA celebrated its annual College Signing Day event, where 674 seniors revealed their college choice to an arena full of family, friends, teachers, and staff. Just recently, seven IDEA high schools were also listed on U.S. News and World Report’s annual list of best high schools in the nation, four of which received a gold medal ranking for college readiness and high rankings on the list.

In The Washington Post’s annual ranking of America’s Most Challenging High Schools, six IDEA Public Schools high schools were ranked among the most challenging in the nation. Nearly 2,400 public high schools across the country were analyzed in order to determine the ranking.

Specifically, The Washington Post analyzed the number of students who participated in Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate tests in relation to the overall size of the high schools graduating class.

The Washington Post index considers college test participation a better measure of school success than test scores.

All of IDEA’s eligible College Prep high schools were ranked among the most challenging high schools nationwide, including:

• IDEA Frontier – 6th in the nation,

• IDEA San Juan – 10th in the nation,

• IDEA Mission – 12th in the nation,

• IDEA San Benito – 13th in the nation,

• IDEA Quest – 21st in the nation,

• IDEA Donna – 90th in the nation.

“Now, more than ever, IDEA is committed to ensuring we have the right people, academic programs, and systems in place for the 30,000 students we serve across the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, and Austin,” Torkelson said.

“With our continued dedication to rigorous coursework and emphasis on college matriculation, we know that our students will graduate IDEA ready for college and beyond.

“We couldn’t be more proud to have our schools in the Rio Grande Valley ranked on this list, among the best high schools in the nation.”

How they Rank?

Original Ranking

3. IDEA Frontier Brownsville

4. IDEA Mission

5. IDEA San Juan

6. IDEA San Benito

9. IDEA Quest Edinburg

New Ranking

6. IDEA Frontier Brownsville

10. IDEA San Juan

12. IDEA Mission

13. IDEA San Benito

21. IDEA Quest Edinburg