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April 16, 2014

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education:

U.S. News ranking of Green Valley High as 13th best in nation appears dubious

But principal welcomes the limelight, touts school’s achievements

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Christopher DeVargas

Green Valley High School

Green Valley High School

Circle time: Green Valley High students, during a read-through of The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later. Launch slideshow »

Green Valley High School is listed as the 13th best public high school in the nation, according to a U.S. News and World Report ranking released Tuesday.

However, some of the student data that the national magazine is using for the Henderson high school are incorrect, calling into question the validity of U.S. News’ rankings.

Green Valley High School Principal Jeff Horn alerted the Las Vegas Sun to the incorrect information late Monday night after U.S. News posted the rankings on its website. The rankings were embargoed from publication until early Tuesday morning.

According to the data used in the U.S. News rankings, Green Valley has a total student enrollment of 477 and a 100 percent Advanced Placement exam passing rate, both of which Horn says are incorrect.

Green Valley actually has 2,850 students and a 64 percent AP passing rate, Horn said. Both pieces of data are key criteria in the methodology used to determine the rankings.

Other data points derived from this information, such as student-teacher ratios, are also incorrect, Horn said.

Furthermore, U.S. News’ state profile of Nevada has several incorrect data points.

While U.S. News reports correctly that there are 17 school districts in Nevada, it erroneously reports that there are 5,864 full-time teachers and 123,697 students in the entire state.

In fact, the Clark County School District — which is the fifth-largest in the nation — has nearly 18,000 teachers and more than 308,000 students.

Calls to U.S. News were not immediately returned late Monday night. Researchers used data reported from state and federal departments of education and the College Board and the International Baccalaureate programs, according to the ranking report.

Earlier this year, U.S. News corrected previous years of its popular Best Colleges rankings after Claremont McKenna College was found to have misrepresented its SAT scores and percentage of high school students graduating in the top 10 percent of the graduating class. Claremont McKenna ranked No. 9 in the 2012 Best Colleges ranking, which uses self-reported data from colleges and universities around the country.

More than 21,000 public high schools across the nation were surveyed as part of U.S. News’ Best High Schools rankings 2012, which made a comeback after a two-year hiatus. The magazine partnered with the American Institutes for Research, one of the largest research organizations in the nation, to produce its fourth edition of the Best High Schools rankings.

Initially, the rankings were scheduled to be released May 1, but the launch date was moved a week later “due to the extensive amount of new data” and to extend “internal review and testing,” according to a recent U.S. News blog post.

U.S. News’ rankings list the best high schools in the nation based on its college readiness index, which was determined using Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate test scores.

College Board’s AP program provides college-level coursework in high school. The IB program also offers college-level courses at high schools around the world.

The schools were first whittled down based on standardized test scores, the performance of economically disadvantaged students and finally AP or IB test participation and passing rates in the senior class from the 2009-10 school year.

Click to enlarge photo

Green Valley celebrates after beating Foothill during the Sunrise Regional Championships at Foothill High School in Henderson on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012.

Only 4,813 high schools made the rankings.

Fifteen Nevada high schools received special recognition by U.S. News for preparing their students for college. Of the 15 schools, seven are in Clark County:

• Green Valley High School, ranked 13th in the nation

• Advanced Technologies Academy, ranked 339th in the nation

• Northwest Career and Technical Academy, ranked 1,950th in the nation

• Virtual High School

• College of Southern Nevada High School East

• College of Southern Nevada High School West

• Nevada State High School

Green Valley's Horn said he was surprised by his school’s ranking earlier Monday morning. Green Valley had been ranked several times by national publications such as Newsweek — which used a different methodology — but the Gators never broke past the top 100, much less the top 15 ranking.

Horn said he was confused by the U.S. News ranking when he discovered Monday night that some of the data used in the methodology was incorrect.

However, regardless of the ranking, Green Valley has much to be proud about, especially for a large comprehensive public high school, Horn said.

Green Valley has an 88 percent graduation rate, and a college-bound rate of about 77 percent. Last year’s seniors received about $11 million in college scholarships.

During the 2010-11 school year, Green Valley administered a total of 961 AP tests, of which 611 made the passing score. The school has produced eight National Merit Finalists and four National Merit Scholarship recipients, one of the most prestigious honors awarded to high school seniors.

Green Valley’s success extends outside the classroom. The school was one of two schools in Nevada selected as a “Grammy Gold Signature School,” one of just six schools across the country selected for the prestigious musical award.

Earlier this year, Green Valley’s forensics team captured its 12th state championship and has qualified students to the national tournament every year since 1994. The school’s newspaper, The InvestiGator, was named the best overall school newspaper in Clark County by the Las Vegas Review-Journal eight years in a row.

Green Valley also won three state championships in various sports, and its marching band became the only band ever from Clark County to perform in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The school’s orchestra and symphonic band have also performed at Carnegie Hall in New York.

“We teach to the whole individual,” Horn said, crediting his “amazing” teachers for Green Valley’s success. “(Nevada gets) slammed (in education rankings) nationally, but I’d put our students up against anyone. We have some of the brightest students in the nation.”

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  1. I guess the fact checkers at US News needed to go to a high school as good as Green Valley.

  2. Is there moderate literacy in media? We could use that. Facts are good too.

  3. Given their complete domination of area schools in this area, Green Valley should not be allowed to compete in any State academic competitions.....LMFAO

  4. There is some fact-checking needed in this story as well. CCSD does not have anywhere near 350 high schools as the story says. I believe the number is closer to 40. Our total number of schools, including HS, MS, and ES, is around that 350 figure.

  5. Thanks for the catch, LJ_Vegas. The Clark County School District has nearly 50 high schools. There are more than 350 total public schools in Clark County.