"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ir·rel·e·vant [i-rel-uh-vuhnt]: Jay Mathews High School Survey

Congratulations, Palo Alto Schools, for refusing to join Mathews' self-serving and never-ending promotion of the College Board:

When it comes to being listed among the nation's elite schools, the Palo Alto Unified School District is just saying no.

In declining to participate in Newsweek magazine's annual ranking of high schools, Palo Alto says it hopes to strike a blow against shallowness, student stress and unwanted publicity.

Other schools have declined to answer the survey, which ranks the top 1,200 or so high schools in the nation, based solely on the percentage of students taking advanced-placement or International Baccalaureate tests. But this may be the first time an entire district has dropped out, survey founder Jay Mathews said.

Newsweek's 2007 list was posted on its Web site Sunday and is being published today in its May 28 issue.

This year, 23 local schools made the list. Last year, Gunn High School in Palo Alto ranked 79, and Palo Alto High School ranked 361. But this year, prompted by concern at both high schools, the Palo Alto district refused to send in Newsweek's required forms.

"We don't want to be a part of it," said Gunn Assistant Principal Tom Jacoubowsky.

Said Marilyn Cook, associate superintendent of the district: "It's a very simplistic premise that the quality of a school can be measured by the number of AP tests students take."

Gunn neither ranks students nor chooses valedictorians.

"We're trying to do things to avoid and alleviate student stress," such as reducing pressure to take advanced placement classes, Jacoubowsky said.

Every year after the Newsweek education issue hits the stands, "we get calls from all over the world asking, `How can I get my child into your school?'" Jacoubowsky said.

But the school isn't eager to attract people who want to judge it solely on that criterion, he said.

"It's nice to be on the list," said Nikita Dodani, a Gunn senior and student body president. "But it adds to stress for students" by focusing on the importance of taking Advanced Placement classes. .. . .

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