By Matt Perkins, Patch.com
Westwood High School is ending its 2010-2011 school year on a high note.
As students complete their final exams and embark on summer vacation today, administrators are basking in the results of a recent national ranking that placed Westwood High School among the Top 10 High Schools in Massachusetts.
The school ranked fifth in the state and 134th in the nation on Newsweek’s annual “America’s Best High Schools 2011″ list.
“It’s really exciting,” said Westwood Superintendent John Antonucci. “It’s a great validation of our work.”
The list ranked 500 high schools throughout the country based on a study of more than 1,000.
For Massachusetts, the following were among the Top 10 high schools:
- Boston Latin School – Boston
- Hopkinton High Shcool
- Belmont High School
- Mystic Valley Regional High School – Malden
- Westwood High School
- Manchester Essex Regional High School – Manchester by the Sea
- Longmeadow High School
- Sturgis Charter High School – Hyannis
- Tahanto Regional High School – Boylston
- Sandwich High School – East Sandwich
Newsweek, which in the past focused its rankings on AP tests taken per graduate, changed things up a bit this year, now using a group of experts to come up with a list that better reflects a school’s success for turning out college-prepared students.
Westwood High School Principal Emily Parks – who, as of July 1, will take on the role of Westwood’s Assistant Superintendent (Sean Bevan, currently the assistant principal at the high school, will fill the lead role that same day) – reiterated Antonucci’s comments.
“I think we’re doing really good work here, and I’m really proud of our faculty and our students, and it’s always great to have some recognition of that,” Parks said.
This isn’t the first time Westwood has been named on a list that recognizes various achievements.
The school system ranked fourth among the Top 10 Best Small City Public School Systems in the country last year by GreatSchools, a website providing information on more than 200,000 public and private schools in the United States.
As for a Newsweek’s rankings, Antonucci and Parks said they can’t recall for certain whether Westwood has made such a list in the past.
Parks did say that earlier this year she submitted various amounts of data to Newsweek for the ranking, which included Westwood’s student-to-teacher ratio (12.5), graduation rate (99 percent), college bound students (96 percent), and average SAT score (1756).
“It’s pretty solid data, and in my opinion, its a proper measure of school rankings,” Antonucci said.
As for why he thinks Westwood made the list, Antonucci said an effort to strengthen the system’s SAT scores over the years may have contributed, as more students have been able to attend Chyten Educational Services at a discounted rate through a partnership with the schools.
“I would point to that decision as something that’s really very pointedly driven our SAT scores up,” Antonucci said.
But he also noted the number of students the high school sends to college.
“Westwood is in fact a college preparatory school,” he said, “and our program is geared towards ensuring that a high percentage of students end up going to college.”
A poll taken for the 2008-2009 school year by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education showed that almost 50 public schools in Massachusetts had at least 80 percent of their high school grads move on to four year colleges, and more than 20 of those schools had more than 90 percent going on to do the same. Westwood was among those 20.
“That’s not an accident,” Antonucci said. “Our program is as rigorous as any high school in the Commonwealth. When you see scores and rankings like (in Newsweek), it’s a validation. It’s based on the kind of hard work and effort on making that happen.”
Adding to that, Westwood School Committee Vice-Chairperson Brian Kelly said Westwood’s success is due to three factors.
“We have a rigorous curriculum, we have excellent teachers, and we have motivated students with parents who care about education,” Kelly said.
He added, “This (ranking) is certainly outstanding. We have an outstanding school system, and it’s nice to receive well-deserved recognition.”
Parks agreed, but added that while the rankings are solid in their quantitative statistics, the one thing the list doesn’t reveal is qualitative data. She said the culture of Westwood High School is certainly a crucial part of a student’s experience.
“While I’m always pleased to see this recognition and ranking, what I realize is they don’t take into account the qualitative stuff, the kind of culture in the school,” Parks said. “That stuff is harder to measure, and adds quality to the experience that we have here.”
For more information on Newsweek’s list, click here.