Posted on September 1, 2013
Hmmm…. I’m not quite sure how to start this blog post. For the last four years, I have been proudly lauding Weston for its top-three school ranking status per Boston Magazine. In 2012, 2010 and 2009, Weston High School ranked #1 in Boston Magazine’s Best Schools issues, and in 2011, it ranked #3. But this year is a different story; this year, Weston ranked #11.
I am a bit perplexed about Weston’s big drop from #1 to #11 in the span of a year, and I’d like to point out a few things. While last year’s issue focused on the public high schools, this year’s issue focused on the entire school system. In fact, in the chart rankings, I have never seen 8th grade, 5th grade and 3rd grade MCAS scores included as they were this year. Another difference is that for the first time since I started following these rankings in 2009, they broke apart the school districts. For example, Dover-Sherborn which houses its Middle and High Schools together were split into Dover and Sherborn. The same with Concord-Carlisle, Lincoln-Sudbury and Acton-Boxborough, among others. That seems to have influenced the rankings because school systems that were blended and thus evaluated as one have now been split apart and ranked by town. So in essence there is more competition.
In terms of how they got to these numbers, Boston Magazine reports, “To assemble this year’s Best Schools list, we spent months compiling numbers—released by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education—from 147 municipalities in Greater Boston. The schools in the cities and towns that topped our proprietary ranking stood out across 20 different categories, including student-to-teacher ratio, average class size, expenditures per pupil, rate of college matriculation, and results on tests such as the SAT and the MCAS.”
The ranking methodology seems ambiguous to me. In prior years, they have shared the percentage they gave to each criteria or they have shared which items were weighted more heavily. Here’s how they explain the methodology this year, “We gathered the most recent available data on area schools from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (doe.mass.edu). We also consulted town and school websites if necessary. Our rankings were then computed by statistician George Recck, who is the director of the Math Resource Center at Babson College. Recck calculated the mean scores for each category, and then ranked the towns based on a weighted average of each school data point’s difference from the mean. Only schools whose districts lie all or partially within the Greater Boston I-495 boundary were included. To calculate rankings for towns within regional school districts, we used data for regional high or middle schools where applicable.” There is no specific explanation about how these factors were weighted and how they influenced the rankings.
As a parent to three children in the Weston public school system, I must admit that I am disappointed that Weston has fallen from #1 to #11 this year, and I’m not sure the magazine clearly lays out how that happened. There is a disconnect here, in my humble (and biased) opinion. But I’m curious to hear your opinions and thoughts about these rankings. Does this year’s Boston Magazine’s analysis of the public schools seem on target? Many people consider these school rankings when determining where to live and raise a family. Were they an important factor in your decision on where to settle? I can’t wait to hear….
For more information on these schools or about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (781-267-2844 or www.homesalesbylisa.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.