U.S. News & World Report: PWCS High Schools Rank Far Behind Fairfax Schools

| April 25, 2013 | 2 Comments | Education

According to U.S. News and World Report rankings for 2013, the top ten Virginia public schools are all located in Northern Virginia. However, while Fairfax and Loudoun schools top the list, no Prince William schools are listed among the top 51.

Criteria for Success

U.S. News states that, “to be eligible for a state ranking, a school must be awarded a national gold or silver medal.” The national publication bases its ranking system on student/teacher ratio, college readiness and math and reading proficiencies based upon standardized tests.

According to U.S. News, its editors, “calculates these values based on student performance on state exit exams and internationally available exams on college-level course work (AP/IB exams.)” Schools get credit for the number of students who take college level exams as well as how many students passed those exams.

Although many Prince William students take advanced courses, Prince William also has the highest class sizes in the state. Since Prince William County Schools have some of the highest student-teacher ratios, this may have automatically disqualified them from the top tier.

Most Selective of Schools

The top overall Virginia school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, is a magnet school that accepts Fairfax County, Prince William and students from other Northern Virginia districts. Prince William Public Schools provides a share of the funding towards the Fairfax County school system to pay for local students who attend the specialty school.

Thomas Jefferson also operates much like a private school in that it is highly selective and students have to be accepted to attend.

Here is how Thomas Jefferson ranked:

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

National Rank- #4

Student/Teacher Ratio- 17:1

College Readiness Index- 100*

Math Proficiency- 3.8*

Reading Proficiency- 4.0

*Although college readiness can reach 100, most schools overall scored well under 50, so it should not be confused with a letter grade, such as an A or B. 

**Reading and math proficiencies seem to measured on a 4.0 scale, much like a grade point average.

Fairfax County Schools Leads the Pack

However, unlike Thomas Jefferson, the rest of the top schools were regular public schools, where students attend based on their local school district.

Eight of the 10 top Virginia schools were Fairfax County Public Schools, whereas the other two came from Loudoun County Public Schools. Fairfax County had a total 18 of its 28 high schools listed in the top 51 spots ranked by the publication.

The top five schools in the commonwealth, after Thomas Jefferson, are all Fairfax County Public Schools. They are:

#2 Langley High School in Vienna

#3 McLean High School in McLean

#4 W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax

#5 Oakton High School in Vienna

#6 Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke

Loudoun County Public Schools also had two schools, Briar Woods High School in Ashburn at #8 and Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville at #9 in the top ten. Many more ranked among the top 51 spots.

Something the top ten schools have in common is they are all located in large suburban districts (with the possible exception of Loudoun Valley, which is a mixture of suburban and rural.) Minority enrollment varies from 29- 46 percent in those schools, with most around 30 percent. The total number of economically disadvantaged students ranges from 1 – 14 percent of school populations for the top ten schools, with most around 11 percent.

Prince William County Schools

After the 51 top spots, Virginia high schools are listed in alphabetical order. In general, Prince William County Schools fared nearly the worst in the state for faculty to student ratios, but fared well in college readiness, reading and math proficiencies.

Battlefield High School Haymarket- Specialty: Center for Information Technology

Ratio- 21:1            College Readiness- 41.6          Reading- 3.2                 Math- 3.5

Brentsville District High School Nokesville- Specialty: Cambridge Programme

Ratio- 22:1            College Readiness- 26.0         Reading- 3.1                 Math- 3.2

Osbourn Park High School Manassas- Specialty: The Biotechnology Center

Ratio- 20:1           College Readiness- 49.6          Reading- 3.6                 Math- 3.2

Stonewall Jackson High School* Manassas- Specialty: International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme

Ratio- 21:1           College Readiness- 23.6           Reading- 2.9                  Math- 3.3

Patriot High School was not listed, perhaps because being a new school there was not enough data to be included in this report.

Because U.S. News and World Report looked only at AP ® and IB tests, not Cambridge Programme exams, Brentsville High School may be underrepresented by its rankings.

The student/teacher ratio for all Prince William schools was deemed “larger than average.” Those ratios underestimate real classroom averages in all schools, as they measure the numbers of educators to students in the building, not actual class sizes.

College readiness for Prince William students was high in some schools, but comparatively low in others. After Battlefield, Woodbridge Senior High School ranked next in college readiness for PWCS, followed by Gar-field, Forest Park and Hylton.

Math and reading scores were generally high in most Prince William High Schools, meaning Prince William secondary schools remain competitive on Standards of Learning (SOL) exams.

* We apologize that when we originally published numbers for Stonewall Jackson High School, it was not Prince William County’s Stonewall Jackson, but but Stonewall Jackson High School in Quicksburg,Va. 



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  1. KuroHouou says:

    This is just sad, we need to be spending more of our tax dollars on schools in this county, class room sizes are insane, the worst in the state!! How can a county that gets as much money as this one be so bad!!

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