U.S. News & World Report gives Sullivan South bronze ranking, researching D-B

Rick Wagner • May 5, 2013 at 12:41 AM

KINGSPORT — Sullivan South High School has brought home the academic bronze.

And Dobyns-Bennett High School might have been at the silver level and possibly in the top 10 or so statewide if it were not for more than 240 middle school students taking high school algebra I, a city school official said.

U.S. News & World Report’s national rankings of high schools for 2013, released April 23, has given South a bronze ranking nationally, although South did not rank in the top 23 schools statewide.

Out of all Tennessee high schools, five were awarded gold medals, 18 silver and 66 bronze.

“I’m glad we’re headed in the right direction,” Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said. “The question is we need all our (Sullivan County) schools in the right shape.”

In the top 23 high schools, the only Tri-Cities schools to make that list was University School of Washington County in Johnson City at No. 12 and Johnson City’s Science Hill at 19. Both those, and the top 23 out of 350 Tennessee high schools, ranked silver nationally.

Detailed information and explanations of the rankings are available at http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools. The rankings are based on 2010-11 data.

Andy True, spokesman for the Kingsport system, said that one of the filters U.S. News rankings use is algebra I scores, and that the scores of seventh- and eighth-graders who take high school algebra I are not counted toward D-B.

This year, he said 242 middle-schoolers are taking high school algebra I, which he said was a larger percentage than most systems.

In 2011-12, True said of 240 students in the middle schools enrolled in algebra I, one was absent, but out of the 239 that tested, 238 were proficient or advanced. That resulted in 99.6 percent proficient.

“Based on the metrics used by U.S. News, we don’t get ‘credit’ for almost 240 students (99 percent plus being proficient) that are skilled enough to test proficient in algebra I before they reach high school, ” True said.

A spokesman for U.S. News contacted Wednesday, Director of Data Research Robert J. Morse, indicated the publication would research the issue and respond, which is what True indicated a magazine official also told school officials.

“We’re actually seeking clarity from them,” True said of U.S. News officials. “All of those (middle school end-of-course test) scores get lost because that doesn’t track to D-B.”

He said the city system does what it believes is best for students regardless of outside rankings and that D-B’s situation in no way should take away from the achievements of other high schools.

Kingsport City Schools uses a unified math track for higher achieving students, who can begin in seventh grade with freshman algebra I, and he said eighth-graders can take algebra I even if not in unified math.

“If you don’t get past the hurdle of algebra I, you don’t even get the analysis taken in the other issues,” True said. “I think that we’d be at the top 10 in the state if we cleared that first hurdle.”

The No. 1 school in Tennessee, ranked 37th nationally, was the Hume-Fogg Academic High School in Metropolitan Davidson County/Nashville. It was a ranked gold school.

Across East Tennessee, Oak Ridge near Knoxville was 6th, while Hardin Valley Academy in Knoxville was 10th, Morristown West 16th and Greeneville 18th.

Nationwide, that put University School at No. 1,148 and Science Hill at No. 1,704.

Tennessee schools below the top 23 — including South — were not numerically ranked statewide or nationwide.

D-B, Science Hill and University High ranked well in college readiness compared to other area high schools, as measured by the percentage of students who take Advanced Placement exams and pass the test. They were ranked 29.5, 21.6 and 29.2, respectively.

South got a 6.0 in college readiness, compared to 1.4 for Sullivan North High, 2.5 for Sullivan Central and 3.1 for Sullivan East. Bristol’s Tennessee High got a 4.3. Hume Fogg was 92.9.

In algebra proficiency, South got a 2.8, compared to 2.0 for North, 2.2 for Central, 2.3 for East, 2.6 for D-B — a number True said does not include the middle-schoolers taking algebra I — and 2.9 for Tennessee High.

University School was at 3.5 and Science Hill 2.9. Hume-Fogg was 3.8.

In English proficiency, the numbers were 2.8 for South, D-B and Tennessee High, 2.2 for North, and 2.5 for Central and East. Hume Fogg was 3.4.

University School was at 3.3 and Science Hill 2.9.

And in student-teacher ratios, South was 17:1, compared to 13:1 at North, 14:1 at Tennessee High, 15:1 at East and D-B and 16:1 for Central. Hume-Fogg was 20:1.

University School was at 15:1 and Science Hill 16:1.

Tennessee, according to the U.S. News website, had 301,046 students in 123 districts served by 18,659 teachers in 2010-11.

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