How We Ranked the Top 100 Philadelphia-Area Public Schools 2012

An explanation of our methodology.

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Ranking Methodology

Philadelphia magazine researchers collected the following information for every public and charter high school in our eight-county area (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania; Burlington, Camden and Gloucester in New Jersey): 9th-grade (10th where applicable) through 12th-grade enrollment; percentage of students who graduate; percentage of graduates going to a two- or four-year college; average SAT scores for the past three years; percentage of 11th-grade students ranked proficient or above in state assessment tests (in Pennsylvania, the PSSA; in New Jersey, the HSPA) for the past three years; student/faculty ratio; instructional cost and total cost per student; number of designated Advanced Placement courses offered; number of varsity sports teams (boys’ and girls’ teams in the same sport were counted separately); and number of clubs and activities offered.

Every attempt was made to use the latest publicly available data at time of collection, primarily from the 2010–2011 school year. (Pennsylvania enrollment figures are from October 2011.) The majority of the information was compiled from the Pennsylvania Department of Education website and the New Jersey Department of Education’s School Report Card website, the National Center for Education Statistics website, individual school websites and communication with school officials. Some information about Philadelphia schools was obtained from the Philadelphia Public School Notebook’s annual online guide, and in a few instances otherwise missing data was found at greatschools.com.

We then sent our data to George Recck, a statistical expert at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. He calculated a standardized value for each school for each category. (An inverse standardized value was used for the following categories: Students to AP Courses, Students to Varsity Sports, Students to Clubs and Activities, Student/Faculty ratio, Instructional Cost per Student per SAT Point, and Total Cost per Student per SAT point. This is due to the fact that a lower value would be considered better than a higher value.) If a school had no data for a particular category, the mean of the category was substituted. Then, predetermined weights were applied to each category to compute an overall standardized Z-score for each school, and the schools were ranked accordingly. The following weights were used for each category:

Category/Weight

Graduation Rate 10%

College Attendance Rate 10%

SAT Critical Reading 10%

SAT Math 10%

SAT Writing 10%

SAT Participation Rate 5%

SAT Improvement 2010 to 2011 2.5%

SAT Improvement 2009 to 2010 2.5%

PSSA/HSPA Reading – Advanced 5%

PSSA/HSPA Reading – Total Proficiency 2.5%

PSSA/HSPA Math – Advanced 5%

PSSA/HSPA Math – Total Proficiency 2.5%

Student/Faculty Ratio 5%

Instructional Cost per Student 5%

Instructional Cost per Student per SAT Point 5%

Total Cost per Student per SAT Point 2.5%

Students to AP Courses 2.5%

Students to Varsity Sports 2.5%

Students to Clubs and Activities 2.5%

Total 100%

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