Cooperstown Central School was recently listed in the Washington Post's 2011 High School Challenge as one of the top public schools in the nation when it comes to preparing students for college.
The formula used: Divide the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other college-level tests a school gave in 2010 by the number of graduating seniors.
Eric Carr, Cooperstown high school guidance counselor, said the rankings also somehow weighed in poverty level and the number of seniors that get a score of three or higher on an AP exam. According to Carr, Cooperstown High's index score is 1.473.
Carr said that according to Jay Mathews, administrator of the High School Challenge, an index score of 1.000 is a "modest standard."
"A school can reach that level if only half of its students take one AP, IB or AICE test in their junior year and one in their senior year. But this year only 9 percent of the approximately 22,000 U.S. public high schools managed to reach that standard and be placed on our list," Mathews wrote on the Post's website.
There is a kicker, however. CCS' ranking has already changed at least once since the Post released its list. On May 24, CCS was listed 114th in the state and 1,465th in the country. On June 7, Cooperstown moved down three spots to 117th in the rankings of the 132 New York schools included and moved to 1,499th out of the more than 1,900 schools included nationwide.
Carr said the data from schools may change data after submission. Friday morning he read the form that said, "Please note that even after you submit your form, you may return to it to update data."
"I'm not sure how long they leave that open, but it sounds like it could be that schools are going in and updating their data or maybe late entries. I don't know," he said. Cooperstown has been ranked by the Post or Newsweek for the past 11 years, according to Carr. He said Mathews has been doing the survey the past two years for the Post and before that for Newsweek. No other schools in the local area were included on the list.
According to the Washington Post's website, Mathews has ranked Washington-area public high schools using the Challenge Index, his measure of how effectively a school prepares its students for college since 1998. In 2001, the Post expanded its research to high schools nationwide.
"We are usually in the top 5 to 10 percent," Carr said. "Just last year, according to my numbers, at one point last year they considered us within the top 4 percent. We were within the top 6 percent as of two weeks ago."
Cooperstown Superintendent C.J. Hebert said there are several different kinds of ranking systems, but is pleased to be highly ranked by the Washington Post.
"I believe it speaks to the strength of our program in Cooperstown and the number of AP opportunities that we have for our students," he said.
"It certainly is a balancing act," he continued. "In times of fiscal constraint we certainly have to be careful in regard to our class numbers, but we are always looking for opportunities to provide advance course work for our advanced students."
Carr said there are other opportunities besides AP courses for Cooperstown students to take college credit work. For example, he said students can take a statistics course at Hartwick College, a math course through the State University College of Technology at Delhi and an in-house college-credit course.
Hebert said: "We have had conversations. Looking forward, we hope to be able to provide even more advance course work to students through collaborations with other school districts or in a face-to-face dynamic or digitally."
He said the district is also exploring the idea of using distance-learning services.
"We want to see if it will make sense for us and see what kind of course work we could open up to students or offer to other districts."
According to Carr, Cooperstown offered eight AP classes this year and plans to provide seven next year.
The school has had as many as 10 in any given year, and the number is based on student demand, he said.
Hebert said just because a district does not offer AP coursework does not mean it is not a quality high school. There are other programs that are effective that would not qualify for this ranking, he said.
Most of the schools on the Post's ranking are larger schools.
"I would assume that we are able to rank with these schools because of the number of AP courses we can offer per student population," Hebert said.
Carr said he believes Cooperstown offers a lot of AP courses compared to other schools of the same size.
"To offer as many as 10 is a very high number compared to other schools in the county," he said.
Carr said he agrees with Hebert about other schools possibly having other options for students to further their education. It is just one measure, he said.
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