Blog: The Educated Reporter

More on U.S. News’ ‘Best High Schools:’ Top-Ranked Campuses Include Magnets, Charters

Among the top 20 campuses in U.S. News & World Report’s new rankings for the “Best High Schools” were two magnet schools and four charter schools, indicating that some students are indeed thriving in alternative public education environments.

In addition to the overall rankings, the publication also had separate rankings for charter schools (BASIS Tuscon in Arizona was the highest ranked) and magnet schools (the top honor went to Connecticut International Baccalaureate Academy, in East Hartford).

Magnet schools are also public schools, and offer specialized programs in areas such as science, math and technology, and enrollment is typically determined by a competitive application process. Given that magnet schools attract standout students who are highly motivated to succeed, why include them in the rankings of traditional campuses that can’t practice selective enrollment?

“That’s a fair question,” said Robert Morse, U.S. News’ director of data and research. “In our view, a public school is a public school. Magnet schools are free to attend, even if there are some barriers to entry. The education system has set them up for a reason, and they are competing with other public schools. By including them in the rankings, it shows that these types of schools are producing really good results, and that deserves to be pointed out.”

Charter schools are publicly funded, but are typically granted more autonomy in staffing, instruction, and student enrollment. A criticism of the charter school movement has been that on the whole, according to some studies, these campuses haven’t performed much better than their traditional public school counterparts. The new rankings are a reminder that each sector of the public education system can point to pockets of excellence that merit attention.



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