Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mercer Island Schools Don't Make Gold

Unlike several of our neighbors, Mercer Island schools are not in the top 100 nationwide, according to a new ranking by U.S. News and World Report.  Mercer Island High School received a "Silver", meaning we meet the ranking for "college readiness index" (a rough guide to how many students finish AP courses and other indicators of college success) , but we're out-classed by the following area schools:

School College Readiness Index Nationwide Rank
International Community (Kirkland) 88.2 17
Newport (Bellevue) 72.7 44
Garfield (Seattle) 53.2 N/A
Mercer Island 45.3 N/A

Too many Mercer Islanders will look at this and say "Oh this is great--we're better than average", but if you want your kids to have the best education possible, you should be disappointed.  Someday our kids will be competing worldwide for jobs and opportunities, and I don't want them left behind.  

Incidentally, here's how we compare to a few Silicon Valley schools:

Monte Vista (Cupertino) 67.8 59
Gunn (Palo Alto) 64 N/A
Homestead (Cupertino) 32.6 N/A

Interestingly, neither Los Altos nor Mountain View High made the list at all.

See for a comprehensive list of schools, with far more details about each one, including the Mercer Island School District.  The Seattle Schools Blog has more interesting information and commentary.


Anonymous said...

The college readiness index that US News used is quite controversial. A check of the US News website comment section identifies some of the concerns.

The best way to judge college readiness is to ask colleges how ready kids are. This isn't what US News does (but it is what the Seattle Times has done in their college guides -- which list MIHS as the best in the state at actual college readiness).

US News measures how many certain kinds of courses kids take. Hardly a reasonable measure - especially given the ability to manipulate that figure by stipulation, rules, etc. (manipulating actual student performance in college is much more difficult).

Richard Sprague said...

Thanks. There is no perfect way to rank schools, but I would like to see a measure of the number of kids who get into highly-selective schools (like Stanford or Ivys). Or how many go on to get advanced degrees. There are public schools out there that score very high on those measures, and I wonder how MI compares.

Anonymous said...

Careful there....only a small percentage of students are interested in Ivy League or Stanford...why would that be a good measurement? Also, as explained by experts, the chances of getting in to those top schools are extremely small -- and lots of factors play into what *qualified* applicants get accepted. Checking some blogs shows plenty of well qualified kids getting rejected from all schools throughout the country.

What about measuring the way kids perform in the colleges of their choice? Wouldn't that be best?

Anonymous said...

I strongly agree with the anonymous poster. The ranking systems try to distill incredibly complex institutions and systems to numbers. U.S. News's attempt to rank high school readiness by AP and other such factors is similar to ranking basketball teams by free-throw percentage and bench scoring alone.

To suggest that Garfield or International Community better prepare students for college is laughable. I don't mean this to be condescending, but Mercer Island is clearly superior in terms of college prep.

It is also very important to keep in mind that Mercer Island High School has long valued the existence of honors classes. Unfortunately, parent pressure has forced the decrease of honors and increase of AP. I do recognize the drawbacks inherit in both designations. As a recent admitted student to an ivy league school, I am cognizant of the fact that AP matters in terms of college applications to selective universities. It is foolish, however, to allow this to cloud our understanding of the schools or their students.

Despite all of the flaws of Mercer Island (entitlement, homogeneity, pettiness) the schools are great. Thanks mostly, in my opinion, to their teachers and resources.

Anonymous said...

Sam m:

thank you for the student view

how many kids are interested in ivy league schools in your grade?

how many want to go to UW or Western?

how important is where kids go to college?

Anonymous said...

It is impossible to quantify the number of students interested in Ivy League institutions. The number of students that apply to top tier schools (Ivy, Stanford...) is probably between 30 and 50, although that is a rough guess.

Some interesting numbers I've heard, but for whose accuracy I can not vouch.

This year.
Applications to Stanford early action: 20
Admissions: 3
Deferments: 3 or more

Acceptances to Brown University: 1
Deferments: 2

Acceptances to Penn: 1
Rejections: 1

Acceptances to Pomona: 2
Rejections: 1

This has been a very good year thus far

Last year.
MIHS students that went to UW: 80

A lot of students apply to instate schools, I don't know how many. I'd bet more than half apply to a Washington public university.

What college you go to is perceived, and I believe rightfully so, as being very important.