Whitman ranked second in Maryland and 84th nationwide in U.S. News and World Report’s 2012 high school rankings, released May 8. Only Churchill, which was 57th in the nation, finished before Whitman in the state rankings.
U.S. News bases its rankings primarily on student performance compared to state average scores on English and algebra proficiency tests. Whitman scored 3.7 out of 5 on both the English and algebra proficiency indicators, compared to a state English average of 3.1 and algebra average of 3. U.S. News gave Whitman a proficiency rate of 97% for both English and algebra.
The rankings also compare minority and low-income student performance on the proficiency tests with the state average for that demographic. The Whitman proficiency rate for minority and low-income students is 87.9, while non-disadvantaged students received a 98.
Additionally, the system measures seniors’ success in college-readiness classes like AP or International Baccalaureate as well as the rate of senior participation in these classes. Whitman does not offer IB classes, but had an 82% AP participation rate and 89% exam pass rate among seniors.
The high scores are a validation of the teachers’ efforts, English teacher Matthew Bruneel said.
“Our English teachers have been putting in extra work to bring kids up to speed,” he said.
Principal Alan Goodwin said he is glad Whitman received a high ranking, but emphasized that the ranking doesn’t affect what happens at school.
“I don’t get excited about the rankings because I know they don’t make a difference in what happens on a daily basis at the school,” he said. “It does make some people feel very positive about the school, and that’s good.”
Bruneel agrees that the rankings do not impact what happens at the school on a regular basis.
“In general I’m happy about it,” he said. “It feels good to be one of the top 100 schools in the country and second in the state of Maryland. But it doesn’t really have much correlation to the day-to-day education.”
Goodwin has mixed feelings about the ranking methodology because it may ignore some schools. Some schools with hardworking students and staff are not ranked as highly as Whitman, he said.
Whitman could increase its ranking by encouraging students to take more APs, but that could create other problems, Goodwin said. Regardless of Whitman’s ranking, he feels confident in the school’s overall quality.
“I think Whitman’s the number-one school in the country regardless, just because of the other things we do with kids, like extra-curricular activities, arts, music and athletics as well as the academics.”