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At Monday night’s Commissioner’s Meeting, the Commissioners discussed the recent U.S. News & World Report National High School Rankings. As you may already know, there was a precipitous drop in PHS’s in-state and national rankings. Supposedly, the drop is the result of the magazine using different evaluation criteria and either not being provided all the relevant data or not evaluating all of it for Poolesville, Walter Johnson and Churchill high schools.
The Commissioners are concerned that this drop may impact our Fair Access efforts and the Poolesville/Western Montgomery community. They requested that I contact Ms. Deena Levine/PHS’s Principal to ascertain what is being done to correct this error. Below is an email exchange on this with PHS Principal Levine, and we have also expressed our dismay and concerns on the ranking drop to Dr. Smith/Superintendent MCPS, the MCPS Board of Education and Councilmember Friedson. We will keep you informed as more information becomes available.
7 May 2019
Subject: Missing Data for High Schools in Montgomery County, Maryland
At last night’s Commissioner’s meeting, the Commissioner expressed their dismay over the recent precipitous fall of PHS in the U.S. News & World Report high school rankings. We do not see this as an inconsequential thing and are concerned that this may have negative implications on our efforts to get a new PHS, and for our Poolesville Community. To us, this is more than a “poke in the eye with a sharp stick”.
The MCPS press release says:
“there was a discrepancy in the data” and “several schools…did not have the full complement of their data as part of the magazine’s review.”
The Bethesda Beat article (link below) says:
“Walter Johnson, Poolesville and Winston Churchill high schools were missing reading proficiency data and John F. Kennedy High was missing mathematics proficiency data, adversely impacting their ranks.”; and “using that proficiency data would have increased the schools’ scoring and altered rankings,”
The article quotes the magazine’s Strategist Robert Morse said:
“In those cases, U.S. News factored in state assessment data only on subject exams for which enough data was available, which is consistent with our methodology.”
We cannot understand why if all the necessary data was provided for other MCPS school, why it was not provided for PHS? Who did not provide the data? PHS, MCPS, or MD Dept. of ED? Beat article quoted MCPS rep as saying: “the school system doesn’t expect the list to be altered” and it is our understanding that the magazine has said it is not going to change the ranking.
MCPS spokesperson Derek Turner said: “We just know people look at this and should know the data may not be completely accurate”; however, we doubt people will research it beyond the U.S. New & World Report article to find out the data set was incomplete.
Regardless, this mistake needs to be corrected. We want to know if anyone PHS, MCPS, or MD Dept of ED has a strategy to correct the mistake, which affects more than just the PHS and the Poolesville Community.
Jerry Klobukowski,PresidentCommissioners of Poolesville & Fair Access Committee MemberPresidentMontgomery County ChapterMaryland Municipal League
8 May 2019
PHS does not supply the data to US News and World Report. MSDE supplied the data but according to Derek Turner, MCPS Director of Communications, US News omitted the data. Please, see Mr. Turner’s letter below.
As you can imagine this ranking was stunning to us especially since we were one of only four high schools ranked as a Five Star School in the county with the data used by MSDE in their new grading system for every school in the state. (Wootton, Churchill, and WJ were the other three.)
We are planning to put something on our web site to address his inaccuracy. We are working on this now. Parents and staff members have made suggestions which have been very helpful.
I also spoke with Derek Turner about the Town Commissioners’ concern that this ranking may affect the status of obtaining a new building. He assured me that the rankings have absolutely no bearing on the efforts for a new PHS.
Subject: Re: [EXTERNAL] Re: Missing Data for High Schools in Montgomery County, Maryland
Good Afternoon Eric,
Thank you for your response. I wanted to provide an update based on follow-up. Our district connected with the Maryland State Department of Education and determined that a complete file for the schools referenced was submitted to U.S. News and World Report in response dated January 16, 2019. (See below and attached). However, it appears the reading data for Winston Churchill, Walter Johnson and Poolesville HS were inadvertently not included by your organization, which has skewed the outcomes for these schools. We ask that you review this oversight and correct the listings.
Further, our data team did a full analysis of our schools data and outcomes based on your methodology and it appears three schools with suppressed data were not given the appropriate point allocation for mathematics and therefore may not have been included in your organization’s calculations as they were not reported on the website. These schools are John F Kennedy, Albert Einstein and Wheaton. We ask that you also review this matter.
Finally, it is worth noting for your methodology moving forward, that the vast majority of MCPS students take the Algebra I assessment in 8th grade or before. As MCPS does not administer the state assessment for Geometry or Algebra II to our high school students, our outcomes for our schools’ proficiency is significantly skewed downward. We hope that you will consider an adjustment in the coming years.
Also included is our data team’s analysis and comments for context as part of your review.
Thank you for your additional consideration on this matter.
Thank you for your prompt reply.
The rankings may not affect our efforts to get a new school, but from the Commissioner’s perspective they have may have harmed the Poolesville/Western Montgomery community by making it a less attractive place for families to locate and raise a family.
That is something that may only become apparent in the months ahead.
As U.S. New & World Report omitted data when performing the rankings, the onus is on them to correct their mistake.
We can only hope they honor Mr. Turner’s request and they take steps to issue a correction.
If you believe it would spur the magazine to do the right thing, the Town could send a letter to them encouraging them to make the correction.