2011 Top Ranked Public High Schools
Our exclusive ranking of the areas best performing schools
Since we started publishing it in 2009, our annual schools ranking has become a popular resource for our readers. We’ve heard from our readers that they use it to gauge their school’s performance against others, to help decide what area of town might be best to live in, and to bolster bragging rights.
To bring our readers the rankings of the area’s top public schools, we again enlisted the help of statistician Zhi Zhang, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at UNC Charlotte, to help analyze the data and prepare the list. As with the past two years, our goal in compiling our exclusive annual ranking of the best public high schools in the Charlotte area was to identify academically successful schools, but also the schools that provide an environment conducive to exceptional learning. We made this comparison based on the data provided by each school, the school districts, and the North Carolina Department of Education.
As always, it’s important to remember that differences among schools on the list are often quite small—any school could fairly exchange places with schools one or two positions higher or lower. Therefore, we offer these rankings not as the final word on school quality, but rather as a starting point for parents, students, and educators.
Not all high schools in this ranking are traditional high schools. We included these schools because we’d be remiss in leaving them off simply because they offer different curricula. All the schools were ranked against one another based on the same data that was available from each school. The list is based on a like comparison.
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How We Prepared the Ranking
The list is based on two overarching criteria: environment and performance. The environment factor includes variables such as proportion of students enrolled in Advanced Placement classes, average class size, proportion of fully licensed teachers, and proportion of board-certified teachers. The performance factor includes variables such as average combined SAT score and four-year graduation rate. Schools with missing data on any of the variables were deleted from the analysis.
Two larger sets of variables were determined: the variables for the environment factor and the variables for the performance factor. For each variable of each set, we organized a separate comparison of all schools, with the smallest value in the ranking being the top-ranked school and the largest value being the bottom-ranked school. If there was a tie, each of the tied schools shared the lowest rank value of that tier. Collectively, these rank scores formed a basis for our analysis. There are several options in establishing scores for ranking purposes. We chose to rank scores because they tend to be more robust—if a school has an extremely low or high reading on a variable, the extremity would not dominate the school’s position in the overall ranking.
For the environment factor, we calculated the average of the rank scores on all variables in that set for each school. Then we repeated the process for the performance factor, calculating the average of the rank scores on all variables in that set for each school.
For each school, a weighted average of the two rank scores, one from the environment ranking and one from the performance ranking, was calculated with a weight of 0.25 on the environment and 0.75 on the performance. The overall ranking was then performed based on the weighted average rank scores among all schools. Schools in a tied tier share the lowest rank value in that tier.
Our primary sources for data are listed below. In cases where information was not available for a particular school, we contacted the school at least twice to gather the data. Some schools did not return our phone calls.
Percent graduation rate for all public schools: ayp.ncpublicschools.org
SAT reports for all N.C. public schools: ncpublicschools.org/accountability/reporting/sat/2010
Enrollment, percent enrollment in Advanced Placement courses, and all teacher data: ncreportcards.org/src
The North Carolina Department of Education’s process for calculating cohort graduation rate: dpi.state.nc.us/newsroom/facts/measurements/graduationrate