RFA in top third of public high schools nationally, review says

Dave Gymburch
Staff writer
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Posted 7/3/19

A U.S. News and World Report review of over 23,000 public high schools placed Rome Free Academy within approximately the top third in a ranking of over 17,000 of those schools. The recently issued …

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RFA in top third of public high schools nationally, review says

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A U.S. News and World Report review of over 23,000 public high schools placed Rome Free Academy within approximately the top third in a ranking of over 17,000 of those schools.

The recently issued list for 2019 has RFA at 5,998th among 17,245 high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, plus 480th among 1,290 high schools in New York and ninth among 26 high schools in Oneida and Herkimer counties. It was eighth among 15 schools in Oneida County.

The highest-ranked local high school was New Hartford, at 525th nationally and 50th in the state. The top-ranked high school nationally was Academic Magnet School in Charleston, S.C., while New York’s highest-ranked entry was Townsend Harris High School in Flushing which is ranked 11th nationally.

Criteria for the new rankings, said usnews.com, included these indicators of school quality for the 2016-17 year: Proportions of seniors who took and passed Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate exams; math and reading proficiency and performance, based on state tests; performance on state tests by underserved students including black, Hispanic and low-income pupils; graduation rates for students who entered ninth grade in the 2012-13 year and graduated four years later.

Rome school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake said Monday that statistics such as the U.S. News rankings can be good for a community and can “help for the sale of homes” if a school has a positive ranking.

But he also said such compilations can involve “unfair metrics” that could favor certain schools in one survey yet place them near the bottom of a different survey depending on how the metrics are viewed. For example, compared to the U.S. News list, he said the Rome district received proportionately lower rankings in some reports issued in recent years by the Business First publication of Buffalo; its rankings have included regional and New York state compilations.

“It’s all about the metrics used,” commented Blake. He pointed out the U.S. News rankings looked at the extent of AP exams in high schools but not at schools’ links with community college courses and opportunities for credits toward degrees; RFA has links with Mohawk Valley Community College, for instance.

Blake said RFA offers a strong complement overall of college-level courses, especially compared to similar communities and schools of similar size, and he praised the Rome community’s support for education.

The Rome district’s socio-economic composition also can be a factor in how it fares in rankings. Some previous Rome district administrations have noted that such city school districts can include higher numbers of students whose primary language is not English, plus higher proportions of special education students and economically disadvantaged students.

Among the U.S. News rankings for other high schools in Oneida County besides New Hartford, which was first in the county, and RFA which was eighth behind Westmoreland:

New Hartford — 525th nationally; 50th in state.

Clinton — 1,553rd nationally; 140th in the state.

Whitesboro — 3,317th nationally; 280th in the state.

Oriskany — 3,534th nationally; 300th in the state.

Holland Patent — 4,002th nationally; 340th in the state.

New York Mills — 4,748th nationally; 386th in the state.

Westmoreland — 5,609th nationally; 451st in the state.

Rome Free Academy — 5,998th nationally; 480th in state.

Sauquoit — 6,798th nationally; 546th in the state.

Waterville — 6,810th nationally; 549th in the state.

Vernon-Verona-Sherrill — 7,254th nationally; 586th in the state.

Remsen — 8,764th nationally; 670th in the state.

Camden — 8,934th nationally; 683rd in the state.

Utica/Proctor —9,870 nationally; 731st in the state.

Adirondack — 11,021 nationally; 797th in the state.

Of more than 23,000 public high schools reviewed overall, U.S. News said it assigned numerical ranks to those performing in the top 75 percent, totaling 17,245, and the remainder below the 25th percentile were listed alphabetically with a ranking range.

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