Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Most challenging school in CMS? Think artistic ...

Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews has posted his 2013 rankings of the nation's most challenging high schools, and you might be surprised at the highest-ranking school in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

High-performing neighborhood schools like Myers Park and Ardrey Kell made the list,  as did Harding, Cato and Berry,  schools with academic admission requirements. But topping them all was Northwest School of the Arts,  a magnet in West Charlotte that auditions students for their passion for music, theater, dance or visual art.

For 15 years, Mathews has been ranking schools based on participation in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.  He creates a ratio by dividing the number of exams given that year by the number of seniors who graduated.  About 1,900 schools with a ratio of at least 1.0  --  that is, as many exams as graduates  --  made the list.  He explains that he doesn't take scores on those exams into account because he found that schools were inflating performance by limiting participation to top students. "The Challenge Index is designed to identify schools that have done the best job in persuading average students to take college-level courses and tests," he writes.

Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, a Cleveland County charter school,  got the best ranking in the Charlotte region,  landing  at No. 125 with 4.8 exams per graduate.  Northwest was at No. 593 with a 2.6 ratio,  immediately followed by Gray Stone Day School, a Stanly County charter.  Myers Park High was the next CMS school on the list, at 739.

The ratings aren't all that impressive for a district that used to routinely land a handful in Mathews'  Top 100.  That was when the district paid fees for all students to take the AP and IB exams.  That subsidy was scaled back during the recession;  Superintendent Heath Morrison is seeking $1.2 million from Mecklenburg County to revive that payment  and start paying for career-tech exams.

Here are the other Charlotte-area high schools that made the list.  They're in CMS unless otherwise noted:
809. Ardrey Kell.
956. South Meck.
1035. Providence.
1188. Butler.
1211. East Meck.
1287. North Meck.
1295. Lake Norman (Iredell-Statesville Schools).
1299. Harding.
1455. Cato Middle College.
1600. Hough.
1615. Berry.
1865. Mallard Creek.
1881. Olympic Biotech.  


Anonymous said...

This is a tribute to a principal who gave so much to so many.

BolynMcClung said...


Now there's a sparkling school.

If you want to see how a successful public school lives and thrives, then you only need attend graduation for a TJCA senior class.

This school could be the model for L.I.F.T or for Ardrey Kell. It could transform Reid Park into Myers Park.

From the moment I visited the school in 2006 I got what the charter experiment was all about. The public schools run by public employees are too bound by rules to be able to show academic improvements while reducing expenses. Charters have done that.

I can see that it has been a good experiment. CMS has made many request of the General Assembly to allow the district to have the charter advantages. Raleigh hasn't been receptive.

It's great TJCA is at the top. It's not so great that public schools run by public employees will never have charter advantages……..and it's not so great for their students.

Bolyn McClung

spinelabel said...

I've seen the shows the Northwest students put on. The school earns points with me for the challenges in singing, dancing and acting that it sets its students. And they rise to meet them, too!

Anonymous said...

It's Mooresboro and Forest City, NC out 74 past Shelby according to the website. Near Spindale, etc.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Thanks, 4:38; I've changed that. I'm never sure where Mooresboro is and I had googled it, but I bet google "suggested" Mooresville and I didn't notice, because I got Iredell. Doh!

Anonymous said...

Interesting comment that CMS did better in rankings when it paid for all students to take the exams (and also required students to take the test in order to get credit for the class--I don't think that taking the test is a requirement anymore since the system is not paying). I guess our decrease in rankings makes sense since those rankings are based on how many students take the test ). But I believe that most school systems throughout the US do not pay student exam fees, except for low income students. It would be interesting to see what the fee policies were for the top ranking schools' systems.

Anonymous said...

Well what do you know...... what the ignorant call stupid magnet schools that are not worthy of existence.... and look at that - # 1 in CMS..... Northwest School of the Arts...... AWESOME! ----- And I miss Dr. Bowe almost every time the phone rings because I no longer hear his infamous "Northwest is SIMPLY THE BEST"

Anonymous said...

Classes are dumbed down to allow students to concentrate on their "talent". Graduates (ha) go on to low paying jobs.

Anonymous said...

Did you attend one of the "dumbed down" classes to be able to make such a comment? Also, put the punctuation INSIDE the quotation marks.

Anonymous said...

AA = Answers Ann ?

Anonymous said...

forCongratulations NWSA!

Now, how about supporting this school to succeed to the top of the list nationally?

ART for Cultural Competency AND Academic Achievement.


Anonymous said...

I know of at least one NWSA gradate who is serving our country in the military.

If you think top colleges aren't interested in some of the students who attend this school, think again.


Anonymous said...

I have attended these dumbed down "Advance Placement" and "Honors" classes at Northwest School of the Arts for the last two years of my life. I don't know if graduates go on to low paying jobs but I know that Northwest School of the Arts will let ANYONE into an AP class. The amount of students who are in AP classes when they shouldn't be forces the whole class to slow down and dumb down. The more Honors/Standard level students Northwest School of the Arts puts in their AP classes the less challenging the course becomes. So if you want to measure how many average students we can shove in an "Advanced" class, yes, we're simply the best. But if you want to measure how challenging the actual courses are: no, the "Advanced Placement" courses are taught at Honors/Starndard levels.

Anonymous said...

My child graduated NWSA with a semester's worth of college credits. Someone posted these students can then only get low paying jobs. My child graduated Magna Cum Laude from their college and yes they do have a low paying job. They are a CMS teacher making a difference at a school CMS largely ignores because it is not a LIFT school and its FRL is just under 70%. I could not be more proud of them.

Anonymous said...

"For 15 years, Mathews has been ranking schools based on participation in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams. "

Is THIS what people mean by a "participation trophy"?

It sounds like Anon April 16, 2013 at 10:45 PM has some pretty good insight into the final result of this.

Dumbing down sounds about right.

So why give awards for that?

Anonymous said...

593??? That is the BEST we have to offer???? How SAD!

Anonymous said...

I commend you for wanting to be challenged and pushed harder - be it in an art or science discipline. I commend you for intelligently expressing your opinion. In doing so, you epitomize one of the most important aspects of arts in education. Research shows that students who take AP classes perform better in college and are less likely to drop out. Therefore, I think NWSA should be commended for making AP classes accessible to "average" students who have to really work for a "C". "C" is not a dirty letter. If AP classes are easy for you, you are in a position to raise yourself and everyone else in the process to a higher standard. Why not go out and make it so?