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Scarsdale Chief Compares High School Rankings To Groundhog Day

Superintendent of Scarsdale schools Michael McGill.
Superintendent of Scarsdale schools Michael McGill. Photo Credit: File photo

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – The U.S. News & World Report's Best High Schools rankings have become the Scarsdale School District’s own Groundhog Day, Superintendent Michael McGill said.

The 2013 rankings list Scarsdale High School as the 51st best school in the state and 340th best in the country, but McGill isn’t buying it. He calls the rankings “an annual ritual no responsible adult really believes in, but one that gets attention anyway.”

“While some schools are obviously stronger and others are weaker, there's no legitimate way to rank them with mathematical precision, any more than anyone can really say that a Harvard is better than a Stanford or vice versa,” McGill told The Scarsdale Daily Voice .

The magazine teamed with American Institutes for Research, a behavioral and social science research organization, to evaluate more than 21,000 public high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia. They ranked schools based on student performance on standardized tests and advanced placement exams. Based on these criteria, it awarded schools either a gold, silver or bronze medal.

Scarsdale received a gold medal because 99 percent of its students tested as proficient in English and 98 percent in math. Scarsdale students had a 52.2 percent college readiness index, based on how many students took advanced placement (AP) and international baccalaureate (IB) exams and the percentage of students who passed at least one AP exam.

The U.S. News and World Report website says Scarsdale students “have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement coursework and exams” and that 56 percent of students take AP exams. However, McGill said participation is low because the school no longer offers AP courses.

“Scarsdale dropped AP courses several years ago to offer a program that's more like what graduates will encounter in college,” McGill said. “Large numbers of students still want to take AP tests and do very well on them. We believe that makes Scarsdale High School better than it was, not worse.”

Some students take AP tests because they think it will be beneficial for them, the superintendent has said. Those students are scoring as well or better on the tests than they did when Scarsdale offered the AP program, based on follow-up evaluations on Scarsdale graduates that McGill said the district does every year.

Based on data from 2010-11 that the magazine used to rank schools in 2013, 96 percent of students who took an AP exam passed it.

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