Last week, Newsweek released its annual list of America's best high schools. The ranking is based on the number of college preparatory Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests taken last year by all students at each public school, then divided by the number of graduating seniors at those schools. Exams scores are not a factor in the rankings, and the list does not include private schools or schools requiring academic prerequisites for entrance.
Topping the list was Jefferson County High School in the small town of Irondale, Alabama. No school in Tennessee appeared on the list until the mid-300s. (Numbers one to 100 were included in the magazine's printed May 16th edition. Numbers 101-1,000 were featured in an extended online story.) Locally, White Station High School was ranked 621 (falling from 353 last year) and was the only Memphis or Shelby County school to make this year's list.
Flyer: White Station made Newsweek's list again this year. What do you think about that?
Winnette: Anytime you receive positive recognition, it's a good thing, but the ranking is definitely not the whole picture of a school. I would really like to see a ranking based on results of the tests and not just the number of students who took them. I think we would fare higher on that type ranking than a lot of the schools on the list.
White Station was the only Memphis school to make the list. What sets this school apart from other public high schools?
Our students are self-motivated and have lofty goals. They know that the AP tests and honors classes are important. We offer 18 AP classes. Two hundred sixty-two students took at least one AP test last year and our success rate was 83 percent. We also have a good mix of parents, teachers, and students who don't settle for doing or accepting less than they can.
These kids compete against each other in class and on the tests, and that makes a big difference. A teacher can do so much more when students already understand the importance of education than when he/she has to continually motivate her students. At my previous school, kids hid their smarts; here smarts are "in."
This ranking is based on only one criterion. What other criteria would better represent your school?
The amount of scholarships earned by our students -- more than $14 million last school year -- where the students were accepted [to college], and our National Merit Scholars. Things like that provide a more complete picture.