Sturgis Charter High School reacts to Newsweek ranking "drop"

Executive Director Eric Hieser says new campus skews data
The data behind the "drop".

Yesterday’s report that Sturgis Public Charter School in Hyannis had dropped 662 places in Newsweek’s ranking of public high schools caught many Cape Codders by surprise. Indeed, this morning our own editorial team was discussing whether “cracks” were starting to show in Sturgis’ sterling reputation.

As we researched test scores and pondered the ramifications of the “Newsweek Drop”, Sturgis Executive Director Eric Hieser sent an unsolicited email in which he explained the “drop”. We present his words below, exactly as submitted without any editing whatsoever.

Sturgis’ Head Responds to “Newsweek Drop”:

I wanted to let you know the data behind the "drop" in Sturgis ranking by Newsweek that was reported in CapeCodToday this a.m. The major difference between the data that Sturgis submitted to Newsweek in 2013 compared to 2012 was that due to the addition of Sturgis West with double the number of grade 9 & 10 students for 2011-12, the enrollment in the school for the Newsweek calculation for 630 students for the Newsweek 2013 ranking compared to 413 students reported to Newsweek for the 2012 ranking. The additional 217 students were grade 9 & 10 students who don't qualify to take IB exams.

One of the major pieces of the Newsweek methodology for calculating a school's rank is the AP/IB/AICE tests taken per student in the school. With approximately 50% more students, who of course are not eligible to take IB exams as they are in grades 9 & 10, the Sturgis AP/IB/AICE tests taken per student declined. All other Sturgis data was very similar to 2012, a couple of measures slightly higher and a couple of measures slightly lower. If Sturgis would have reported only the Sturgis East data, where students were qualified to take the IB exams, the 2013 Newsweek ranking would have been similar to 2012, not a "drop".

Here is the Newsweek explanation of how this part of the ranking is calculated:

AP/IB/AICE tests per student (25 percent): This metric is designed to measure the degree to which each school is challenging its students with college-level examinations. It consists of the total number of AP, IB, and AICE tests given in 2012, divided by the total enrollment in order to normalize by school size. AP exams taken by students who also took an IB or AICE exam in the same subject area were subtracted from the total.

We expect the 2014 Newsweek ranking to be similar to 2013 as only a few of the Sturgis West students are taking one IB exam this spring. We also expect the 2015 Newsweek ranking to be back up in the top 100 range like 2012 because all of the Sturgis West students will be taking a full set of IB exams that year.

Conclusions

In our own examination of underlying test scores we did not observe a significant variance in data over the past two years. At this time we have uncovered nothing to indicate that Sturgis’ students’ overall performance is anything other than outstanding.

Mr. Hieser’s explanation is credible and easily answers questions about the “Newsweek Drop”. Once Sturgis West matures to the point where it has a full, four-year suite of students we look forward to the combined campuses’ return to a higher ranking with Newsweek.


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