Top-Performing Public High Schools Methodology

More than three years removed from the start of the pandemic, schools have returned to something like normal. For most districts, the 2022–23 school year offered the first opportunity since 2019 for a full cycle of standardized testing, the results of which have always been a significant factor in our rankings. It will undoubtedly take years, however, to fully assess the impact these turbulent times had on area students.

To come up with a ranking of the top-performing city and suburban public high schools in the eight-county Philadelphia region, we first collected the latest available data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the New Jersey Department of Education, and the National Center for Education Statistics, supplemented with data from the School District of Philadelphia, in the following areas:

  • Enrollment for grades 9–12
  • Four-year graduation rate
  • Percentage of graduates attending a 2- or 4-year college
  • Student-teacher ratio
  • Percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations on state assessment tests (Keystones in Pennsylvania, NJSLAs in New Jersey) in English, math, and science
  • Classroom teacher experience (the average number of years a school’s classroom teachers have been professional educators)
  • Classroom teacher education level (i.e., whether the teachers have a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree)

We omitted highly specialized schools and schools reporting insufficient information, then separated the data into three subgroups: schools in Philadelphia; schools in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania; and schools in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties in New Jersey.

Each subgroup was analyzed independently by statistician George Recck, director of the Math Resource Center at Babson College in Massachusetts. Once the data was collected and regularized, we compared each high school’s data points to the overall average for the subgroup. We then applied a percentage weight to the standardized value for each high school to create an aggregate “score.” The high schools were then ranked based on that statistical score. If a school was missing data in a category other than state assessments (see note below), the weighted average of the other categories was used for that data point.

Notes for selected categories:

  • Student-teacher ratio: We considered it more desirable to have a lower ratio than a higher one.
  • State assessments: Schools that did not report assessment data in at least two of the three subject areas were eliminated from the analysis.
  • Classroom teacher experience: This is a new category in our analysis. We felt that it was more desirable to have teachers with more experience than less.
  • Classroom teacher education level: Schools with a greater percentage of teachers with master’s degrees scored higher in this category. Due to the way New Jersey reports this data, we did not include this category in the New Jersey analysis.