West Hartford’s Conard and Hall high schools were both included in Newsweek’s top 500 STEM high school schools nationwide.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford’s two public high schools have both earned another prestigious accolade – inclusion in Newsweek Magazine’s “Best STEM High Schools in America” – recognition that makes Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore extraordinarily proud.
“This isn’t a shot in time, isn’t a one-off,” Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore said, but rather a ranking based on five years of data, and it’s quite an achievement to have both Hall and Conard, neither of which is specifically a STEM school, ranked so high.
Ranking the top STEM high schools is a new undertaking for Newsweek, and the publication listed the top 5,000 on its website earlier this month, and printed a double issue listing the top 500 nationwide – a printed list that includes both Conard and Hall high schools. Schools included in the study were public, private, and charter schools.
Hall earned a ranking of 386 nationally, and Conard was ranked No. 469. Among Connecticut schools – public, private, and charter – the schools are 15th and 19th respectively.
Newsweek noted on its website that it partnered with STEM.org, and utilized the following methodology: “STEM.org Educational Research (SER) has developed a proprietary scoring logic utilizing the latest in regression analysis that takes into consideration a broad set of quantitative and qualitative data inputs, collected from Q2 2015 – Q3 2019. The purpose was to determine which primary/secondary institutions in America best offer students experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – as defined by the Congressional Research Service – while preparing them for post-secondary outcomes. Additional factors including affluence and median household income were taken into consideration in compiling the rankings.”
Schools that are highly ranked according to these metrics have a commitment to STEM, Moore said. And for West Hartford, it’s something to be truly proud of, he said. “This is a unique achievement, as we are the only community that looks like we do, with similar demographics, to make the list, not just once, but twice.”
STEM is not the sole focus for West Hartford’s comprehensive high schools, which makes it even more remarkable, but science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are a core part of the curriculum and the district is in the process of undertaking an initiative to make computer programming and coding a key element of learning at all grade levels.
“This work starts as soon as pre-K in our schools, as we seek to prepare our children for the world that they will enter through a focus on problem solving, not rote memorization of formulas and facts,” Moore said.
The Academy of Aerospace and Engineering in Windsor, which has a STEM focus, was ranked 45th nationally, and all of the other schools in Connecticut that ranked higher are either private or the only high school located in a wealthy Fairfield County town.
“As a history teacher, I wish they would also do one for humanities,” Moore said, noting that he believes West Hartford’s high schools would top that list as well.
Moore said he has never seen any other publication rank high schools based on STEM factors. Both Conard and Hall perennially receive high rankings from Newsweek, US News and World Report, and from other organizations that rank the. nation’s high schools on a variety of factors.
“It’s great for the community, great for our kids, and shows that in the larger picture people do pay attention to what we do,” Moore said.
“As always, I thank the teachers at all levels for the work that they do, our leaders for setting the right tone, our students for their effort and diligence, and our parents and the community for their support and demand for a great school system,” said Moore. “I am so fortunate to be the superintendent here, and to have my children go through our schools. Congratulations and thanks to you all.”
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