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U.S. News & World Report has released its annual high school rankings, and nearly every Collier County school lost ground, although they stayed in the top 12 percent of schools ranked nationwide.
The rankings evaluated more than 20,500 public high schools, including more than 700 in Florida, based on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and state test scores; graduation rate; and minority and low-income student performance.
Lorenzo Walker Technical High School was the only high school that improved, rising 875 spots to 1,693rd nationwide. Golden Gate, which did not make the list last year, ranked 2,148th this year.
Gulf Coast hung onto its spot in the top 1,000, coming in at 913th — down from 713th last year. Barron Collier nearly made the cutoff for top 1,000 at 1,093rd, down from 910th last year and 608th in 2016.
Naples High used to be in the top 1,000 several years ago, but it fell from 883rd in 2015 to 1,846th the following year. This year it came in at 1,400th.
Lely saw the biggest decrease among Collier schools since last year, dropping more than 500 spots to 2,408th.
Despite the setback, all Collier high schools except for Everglades City School and Immokalee, which were not on the list, were within the top 12 percent of schools ranked nationwide and the top 23 percent of schools ranked in Florida.
Arizona surpassed all other states with six schools in the top 10, and Massachusetts had the highest percentage of nationally ranked high schools.
Florida ranked fourth for the second year in a row for college readiness, trailing Massachusetts, California and Maryland.
On the list of Florida schools, all Collier schools dropped between 11 to 15 spots, except for Golden Gate, which was not ranked last year, and Lorenzo Walker, which climbed 41 spaces.
Gulf Coast and Barron Collier ranked in the top 100, with others coming in at 162nd or better.
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U.S. News & World Report also ranked the 250 best STEM schools and 310 best charter schools. Collier schools did not make either of these lists.
U.S. News partnered with research firm RTI International to create a four-step process to determine the nation’s best high schools.
The first three steps measured academic outcomes for all students, paying particular attention to minority and low-income students, by using benchmarks for state test results and graduation rates.
The fourth step considered college readiness by evaluating International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement test data.
The methodology differed from 2017 in these ways:
The minimum graduation rate needed in order to be ranked rose from 75 to 80 percent.High schools that use only International Baccalaureate exams, or both IB and AP exams, became eligible for the rankings.U.S. News changed the way it evaluates schools that tie on IB and AP exam performance.The minimum performance on IB and AP exams rose slightly.
Asked for an explanation as to why the district fell behind, Collier County schools spokesman Greg Turchetta said the outcome was a result of how college readiness was calculated. In addition to Advanced Placement, Collier schools offers Dual Enrollment and Cambridge programs, which are not factored into the rankings, he said.
U.S. News’ decision to include IB results “distinctly disadvantages schools that do not offer IB, such as in Collier County,” he wrote in an email.
“We are proud of the achievements and growth in our high schools, with the majority earning more overall points in 2016-17 as determined by the state accountability formula, along with a record high district graduation rate,” he wrote.
But U.S. News chief data strategist Robert Morse said a change in methodology was not at fault for Collier’s drop in rankings.
All Collier schools passed the first three steps of the evaluation, he said.
“They moved down in the rankings year over year due to their relative weaker performance on college readiness exams — either AP or IB tests or both — compared to other schools,” he wrote in an email.
Morse noted Lorenzo Walker and Golden Gate moved up in this year’s rankings.
The criteria used to calculate college readiness is not based on whether IB and AP exams are offered, Morse wrote.
“It is based on the percentages of each school’s students who took and passed AP and IB exams,” he wrote. “Not having IB does not disadvantage schools in the rankings.”
Go to www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools for the full data set and explanation of methodology.
National high school rankings
2016 2017 2018
Gulf Coast x 713 913
Barron Collier 608 910 1,093
Naples High 1,846 1,218 1,400
Lorenzo Walker 1,264 2,568 1,693
Golden Gate x x 2,148
Palmetto Ridge 1,986 1,816 2,176
Lely High 2,224 1,903 2,408
Source: U.S. News & World Report
State high school rankings
2016 2017 2018
Gulf Coast x 59 74
Barron Collier 40 81 93
Naples High x 103 114
Lorenzo Walker 93 175 134
Golden Gate x x 154
Palmetto Ridge 115 141 156
Lely High 128 147 162
Source: U.S. News & World Report