Both West Hartford high schools were once again ranked among the top schools in Connecticut, and in the top 2.5% nationally in the 2021 U.S. News & World Report ranking of the country’s public high schools.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford’s two public high schools – Conard High School and Hall High School – continue their legacy of earning top rankings in the state as well as nationally in the U.S. News & World Report 2021 list of the nation’s best high schools released Tuesday.
Hall and Conard were ranked in the top 10 traditional high schools – among the top 12 even when magnet and charter schools were also included. Conard was ranked No. 8 among traditional high schools this year (No. 10 among all high schools), and Hall was No. 10 (No. 12 among all high schools).
In Hartford County, the schools are first and second among traditional high schools.
West Hartford’s two schools have flipped positions for 2021. In 2020, Hall was ranked No. 8 in the state while Conard was No. 13.
Nationally, Conard is ranked No. 518 and Hall is No. 561, out of more than 24,000 high schools in the nation reviewed by U.S. News & World Report.
“I’m thrilled,” Superintendent Tom Moore told We-Ha.com. “This is a great testament to all of our schools, and a testament to challenging yourself. Our students accept that challenge.”
The efforts and challenges begin in the earliest years – in pre-K and kindergarten – and continue throughout the students’ careers in West Hartford Public Schools, Moore said, and he credited teachers at all grade levels for asking children to “strive for excellence.”
The traditional high schools ranked higher on the list this year are all in Fairfield County, with the exception of Lyme-Old Lyme which was ranked No. 9, and include (in order of ranking), Darien, Weston, Staples (Westport), New Canaan, Wilton, Greenwich, and Ridgefield high schools.
In comparison, West Hartford Public Schools have a high level of diversity, and currently about 29% of Conard students and 20% of Hall students qualify for free and reduced lunch. The minority enrollment at Conard is 48% and at Hall it’s 38%. There are 74 different primary languages spoken in the homes of students’ families in West Hartford.
Per pupil spending is also significantly lower in West Hartford than in any of the other districts ranked higher. And West Hartford is the only district with two schools achieving at virtual the same high level – and the only community in New England with two schools ranked in the top 1,500 nationally.
“It’s a reflection of how we support our kids, and the value our families get from our high schools,” Moore said.
As was the case with the 2020 rankings, each school was assigned a numerical score. This year’s score was based on the number of students who took at least on Advanced Placement (AP) exam, the number of students who passed at least one AP exam, and graduation rate. Mathematics and reading proficiency were also factors in the score.
Both Conard and Hall received A-plus level grades.
At Conard, 74% of students took at least one AP exam, and 63% received a grade of at least 3 or higher on one AP exam. The school ranks fourth in the state among all high schools on the U.S. News “College Readiness” index as well as on the “College Curriculum Breadth” index.
Specific details regarding Conard’s ranking can be found here.
At Hall, the AP exam participation rate was 78%, and 59% of students received a passing grade of at least 3. Hall is ranked fifth in the state among all high schools on the U.S. News “College Readiness” index and seventh on the “College Curriculum Breadth” index.
Specific details regarding Hall’s ranking can be found here.
“There are some that would do away with all high school rankings, as it leads some schools and towns to ‘chase’ the ratings,” Moore said in an email to teachers. “There are people that will say that this is why we want people to take Advanced Placement, which I am deeply offended by. I think that the rankings validate what we do, and our culture of asking students to challenge themselves, while supporting them when they decide to take a stretch class. This idea to challenge yourself, however, is not just in Advanced Placement, it is in moving out of one’s comfort zone.”
The data for the 2021 ranking was based on information from the 2018-2019 school year, and was not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vast majority of all public high schools in the country are ranked according to U.S. News’ 2021 methodology, the organization said in a news release.
“In coordination with North Carolina-based RTI International, a global nonprofit social science research firm, U.S. News ranked approximately 17,860 public high schools out of the nearly 24,000 reviewed. This is the count of public high schools that had a 12th grade enrollment of 15 or greater, or otherwise had sufficient enrollment in other high school grades during the 2018-2019 school year to be analyzed,” U.S. News stated.
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA, part of the Fairfax County Public Schools district, is once again ranked No. 1 in the country according to U.S. News.
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