Evanston Township High School placed 17th on the Washington Post’s list of Illinois’ most challenging high schools this year, up from 18th place last year, members of the District 202 School Board were told at its regular monthly meeting Monday night.

Out of the 22,000 U.S. public and private high schools that made the national list, the Evanston school ranked 585th, according to Superintendent Eric Witherspoon.

The rankings, started by the newspaper in 1998, are calculated by taking the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a school each year, divided by the number of seniors who graduated that year.

Witherspoon noted that about one-third of the Illinois schools that ranked higher than ETHS were either private or magnet schools.

While the superintendent did not mention it at the meeting, a check of the list reveals these Illinois rankings of nearby suburban Chicago schools:

Rolling Meadows, 21; Glenbrook South, Glenview, 23; Glenbrook North, Northbrook, 34; New Trier, Winnetka, 55; and Niles West, Skokie, 57.

Witherspoon said that many of the nation’s finest high schools are in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Why should failing a test help the ranking?

    It does not make sense to count tests taken instead of how well students do on the tests.  The author of the study states that he did not want to measure how well students did on AP tests because

    "… I found that many high schools kept those rates artificially high by allowing only top students to take the courses."

    That is a reason not to count passing tests divided by tests taken, but it does not explain why he should not have counted tests passed divided by graduating seniors.

    I have noticed that people at ETHSencourage taking ap tests and the number of students doing so is reported to the school board.  This is not constructive, and the board should not buy into it just because someone at the Washington Post ranks schools this way.  The school could probably get many more students to take the test if they tought them that it would be acceptable to simply sign up and turn the test in 2 minutes after getting it.  ETHS Challenge Index would shoot way up, but the students would not be better off.

    WP article is here.

    1. AP vs. college

      The question about AP taking vs. passing is a good one.
      Still several years ago a psychology professor compared the scores on exams of students who took his Intro. course with those who passed the AP and his test which they agreed to take, and took the class [I don't know why they took both] with students who just took his class.  Those with AP and the class and class only scored about the same.  Those with AP only scored lower.
      I don't know if others have studied/publish the same kind of comparisons.
      From the ETHS Math pages and a number of what I thought similar size/ranked schools, I find it hard to tell what actual advanced math courses are offered—a listing of AP Math is about the most I see.  As above the results of AP vrs. a college course is an open question.  I do see New Trier has AP AB, BC and MV Calculus, Linear Algebra which does sound like it would be equivalent to 1st year college Calculus, how many schools do have such ? I do see Penny and Edwards are listed on Amazon for AP.  If this is the same as the standard edition used for college Calculus, and the whole text is covered, that would answer at least some questions.
      It would be interesting to see how many ETHS students take, pass and are successful in schools like NU Math courses who skip first year calculus.
      ETHS, New Trier and some other high schools may offer tutoring beyond Calculus and students are able to take some classes at schools like NU [community college equivalence is unknown] while in high school, I've seen very little about that.  [Maybe every three years EvanstonNow or DailyNorthwestern has an article about an NU prof. who teaches at or in conjunction with ETHS].
      In other words for non-parents of current students, there is not a lot of detail—the schools don't "toot their own horn" and thus leave many [who pay taxes] in the dark of what is taught.
      Another question I not found anyone who could answer [would probably take a British parent who's child went to middle school in England and then moved to the US] how the two schools compared. Those British and Russian parents 20-40 years ago, said US 8-12 grades bored them.
      Oxford and Cambridge Math undergrad is 3/4 years "math only" [aside from physics or chemistry].  Do their high schools cover all US colleges [social science, humanities, etc.] do and should, or do they just think they cover all necessary material in high school ?

      1. ETHS is doing just fine

        To the question of how kids core on AP exams, that information is hard to get from ETHS and the College Board.  However, ETHS has made clear that their push to increase the number of AP exams being taken is not only to affect rankings or bragging rights.  They indicate that even kids who score 1 or 2 (out of a possible 5) on an AP exam benefit from a course designed to teach for a nationally normed exam, they gain excellent study critical analysis skills, and many gain the confidence to know that they do in fact belong in an advanced class alongside kids who end up scoring 4 or 5.  These are valuable for all students, and form a large part of the stated reason the administration keeps trying to increase enrollment — and success — in AP classes.  The school board and parent community are very supportive of these efforts as they increase overall opportunity and achievement rather than taking resources from one group to help another.


        To the math questions, there is a course selection guide available on the ETHS web site which has a detailed list of offerings.  I'll grant you that the New Trier's web presence is more navigable than ETHS' but that is more reflective of differences in the marketing and communications staff than in the academic offerings.  MV calculus is offered together with Linear Algebra at both, just like at many other high schools.   ETHS has indicated that for kids who "top out" in all the school has to offer in math or other areas, they regularly send them to NU for college classes.  There is a special topics class with more than a dozen kids doing advanced math (graph theory and other things my student can explain better than I can) with a NU instructor who comes to ETHS rather than sending so many kids to NU and disrupting their schedules.


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