West Hartford’s Conard High School Ranked in Top 10 of State Schools by U.S. News

West Hartford’s Hall High School could not meet the first step in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report ranking of more than 22,000 public high schools because not enough students took the statewide assessment test in 2014-15, the year on which the ranking is based.

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford’s Conard High School continues its legacy as a gold medal school, once again earning a no. 6 ranking in Connecticut in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of the country’s best high schools.

Ranked no. 450 overall in 2017, Conard earned the gold medal distinction that is awarded to the top 500 schools nationwide. Conard was ranked no. 309 in the country in 2016.

Hall High School was left off the list of the country’s top high schools this year, but West Hartford Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore said the reason was because too few students at the school took the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) to meet the criteria for consideration. Data from the 2014-2015 academic year was used for the 2017 ranking.

“That was the only year of SBAC for juniors,” Moore said Tuesday. “Hall didn’t even get to the table.” Only about a third of Hall’s Class of 2016 sat for the exam, he said, and a 95 percent participation rate was required.

“There was an anti-testing movement at Hall, but not at Conard,” said Moore. U.S. News & World Report, in their analysis, utilizes results of a statewide standardized assessment in determining its rankings. Other traditionally high-ranking schools – like Greenwich High School, where there was a strong anti-testing movement objecting to the SBAC – were also notably omitted from the list this year.

Although Moore said the absence of a ranking can be explained, “What this shows is that all of them not taking the test hurts Hall.”

Moore said he was very pleased to see Conard remain ranked as one of the top schools in the state.

“We’re thrilled with Conard’s performance and this is a testament to allowing students to take the courses which will challenge them appropriately,” Moore said.

He added that Hall is also a great high school, and ratings for top schools in the state and the nation often rank Hall higher than Conard, depending on the year and the metrics used. “Outside evaluations, with proper metrics, consistently rank both as top high schools,” said Moore.

In 2016, Connecticut switched to using the SAT as the standardized testing requirement for Connecticut’s high schoolers based on a waiver request submitted by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that was approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

Based on the “School Day SAT” results, Moore said he expects Hall will be back on the U.S. News & World Report list next year, “with a very high ranking.”

According to U.S. News & World Report, this year’s ranking was based on data reviewed from more than 28,000 public schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. using methodology established by North Carolina-based RTI International, a global nonprofit social science research firm.

This year’s ranking followed a four-step process that for the second year included graduation rates as the third step in the calculation, requiring a benchmark this year of at least 75 percent, up from 68 percent last year. “Schools that made it through the first three steps became eligible to be judged nationally on the final step – college-readiness performance – using Advanced Placement test data as the benchmark for success,” according to U.S. News & World Report. International Baccalaureate test data was not used because the International Baccalaureate Organization was unable to supply U.S. News with the required information.

Conard’s ranking for 2017 is in part due to the school’s score in the “College Readiness” category. Conard earned a 58.1 rating in that category, based on 72 percent of students taking at least one AP exam and 74 percent earning a passing score on at least one AP exam. 

Amistad Academy, a charter school in New Haven, was Connecticut’s top-ranked school for 2017, followed by Weston High School and East Granby High School. Ridgefield High School was ranked no. 4 and Staples (Westport) no. 5. Following Conard at no. 7 was New Canaan High School, and the only other gold medal school in the region, Farmington High School, was no. 8 in the state.

Schools were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals based on their performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college.

To read the full U.S. News & World Report ranking report, click here.

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