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OPRF: Snubbed by Newsweek, Hailed by WaPo

Differing methodologies land Oak Park-River Forest High School on Washington Post ranking list.

Last week, that missed the cut for Newseek's annual list of America's Best High Schools, a first since 2005.

Turns out, the high school was ranked. Just on a different national publication's list — Washington Post's "The High School Challenge," on which OPRF ranks 686 out of 2,000.

How does one big national publication snub the school and another place it on its revered list?

Good question. It's addressed by WaPo education columnist Jay Matthews.

Matthews was the founder and creator of the original Newsweek list. This year, he moved the list and its methodology over to Washington Post, leaving the Newsweek folks to their own devices to create a new list.

In a blog post, Matthews says the Newsweek list was compiled under a short deadline and "leaves holes," but is ripe for further parsing and tweaking by educators and policy wonks. 

According to the "High School Challenge" website, the formula for ranking a school goes like this: "Divide the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other college-level tests a school gave in 2010 by the number of graduating seniors. While not a measure of the overall quality of the school, the rating can reveal the level of a high school’s commitment to preparing average students for college."

Newsweek's methods were a bit more complex and relied heavily on school officials' responses to a survey. 

Besting OPRF in Chicagoland on the WaPo list are Evanston Township High School (638), Highland Park High School (623), Riverside Brookfield (238) and Chicago's Walter Payton College Prep (77), among others.

Still, Matthews issues a word of caution about the competing publications and their lists. He writes: 

Everything I say on this issue should be viewed with skepticism. I am talking about my long-cherished ideas and about what competing news organizations are doing with them. But I have been rating high schools longer than anybody else...

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