Philadelphia magazine researchers first looked at SAT data for public high schools in our eight-county area (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania; Burlington, Camden and Gloucester in New Jersey). Schools whose average total SAT score fell outside of the top 75 were removed from consideration.
For the remaining schools, we collected data in the following additional areas: enrollment; percentage of graduates going to a two- or four-year college; percentage of 11th-grade students ranked proficient or above in state assessment tests (in Pennsylvania, the PSSA; in New Jersey, the HSPA); number of subjects in which students took AP exams; number of varsity sports; number of clubs and activities; student-faculty ratio; overall expenditure per student; percentage of expenditures dedicated to instruction; teacher education level; and percentage of students eligible for free lunch.
Information came from school websites and school district officials; the Pennsylvania department of education website; the New Jersey department of education website; and 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 subjects; students-to-varsity sports; students-to-clubs & activities, and student/teacher ratio. 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. The following weights were used for each category:
State Assessment Test Average: 15%
Students to AP Tests: 10%
% Going to College: 15%
Student-to-Varsity Sports: 5%
Student/Teacher Ratio: 10%
Teacher Post-Secondary Education: 5%
Overall Expenditure Per Student: 10%
Instructional Expenditure Percentage: 5%
Free Lunch Percentage: 5%