- Bloomfield Forward
Dear Bloomfield Hills Schools Families,
The Newsweek High School rankings, which were announced recently, placed Bloomfield Hills High School 32nd in the state of Michigan and 1,111th in the United States. The 2019 rankings utilize data from the 2016-2017 school year and while our ranking of 32nd out of 1,040 ranked high schools in the state puts us well within the top 4%, I wanted to share just a few reactions my team and I had to the ranking release.
First, the use of data dating back to 2016 to talk about achievement of high schools in 2019 is more than a bit concerning. If we utilized three-year-old data to make school or district decisions, we would not be able to progress and make the right decisions in the best interest of our students. The data we utilize to make decisions is usually far less dated than that. While historical data certainly has a place in the conversation, if we are doing our jobs well, we will use more recent reference points to inform change.
Second, one large component of the ranking methodology utilizes the percentage of 12th grade students who took an Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exam, as well as the the percentage of 12th grade students who passed the AP/IB exam. While AP/IB courses and exams are one expression of academic rigor, our high school is strategically designed to offer a broad variety of rigorous academic choices and opportunities enabling our students to pursue their passions and become “architects of their futures.”
Our students are ambitious, highly scheduled, and tightly focused on how their use of time and resources will propel them to their post-secondary institution of first-choice. Students take a large number of rigorous AP courses to bolster their transcripts, but many of these same students will decline to take the AP exam because the return on investment simply is not there for them. The student is making an informed choice, but the district is disadvantaged within the ranking system. Despite some of these inherent disincentives, we have been seeing a rise in the number of students taking AP/IB exams. Since 2016, we have seen a 6.28% increase in the number of BHHS students who take an AP exam and a 14.34% increase in the number of exams taken in the 25 subject areas. To give you a sense of the raw numbers, that’s 491 students who took a total of 933 AP exams in 2018.
Third, we are in the process of reviewing the Newsweek data for accuracy. For example, right off the bat we noticed that the report states we serve students in grades 6-12 at our high school, which appears to be as a result of the accelerated learning opportunities we provide middle school students. Such anomalies and inaccuracies can have serious consequences within a given methodology, causing scores to be falsely lowered, or in some cases for districts to be completely discarded from the rankings. We’ve worked to correct this with the Michigan Department of Education and anticipate that when the rankings are released in 2021 or 2022, the change will be reflected. Should we notice any other inaccuracies in the data, we will work to correct them so as to avoid needless consequences to our rankings.
Fourth, we are far from perfect and recognize that we have plenty of room for growth on several fronts. With regard to curriculum and instruction, we are working intently to make sure our core literacy and math curricula are state of the art. Beyond the core, teams of educators have placed great emphasis this year on on planning for a dynamic set of 11th and 12th-grade educational pathways that will offer our students potentially game-changing opportunities. To learn more about the exciting road ahead, I would encourage you to watch the recent presentation to the Board of Education on the subject: https://youtu.be/iaxgQBxQbPA.
That brings me to the fifth and final reaction I’d like to share with you: Rating and ranking systems are both friend and foe. While they provide an opportunity for individuals shopping for a home to get information about the schools in the area, the data is often stale and sometimes unreliable. And while we may place #1 in some rankings (as in the case with Niche), we may place lower in others, depending on the factors and methodology. We look at each and every ranking/rating program to ask questions, seek understanding, and ultimately see how we compare with our peers. But please remember this: nowhere in our strategic plan is there an objective to be #1 on the Newsweek ratings, the Niche ratings, or any other external ranking system. We all love being ranked at the top when it happens, but that is not the kind of school district for which this community has consistently advocated. At the end of the day, we are are not accountable to Newsweek or Niche. We are accountable to you, our community stakeholders, and the pact we make when we come together to set our strategic goals.
Ratings systems may come and go, but one thing will never change about Bloomfield Hills Schools: our drive to succeed. We will continuously seek to find opportunities we can present to our students and our commitment to forming deep and meaningful relationships will not waver.
I appreciate your ongoing support in this effort. As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me if you have any questions.
Thank you for your support,
Dr. Rob Glass, Superintendent