Rating change is unmerited, test scores still very high

A few weeks ago some students were with me after school completing an essay. When finished, one student expressed dismay at how far Marshall High School has dropped in the U.S. News and World Report rankings. In 2012 Marshall was ranked #3 in Virginia and #55 nationally, Gold Medal status. A large sign in front of the school on Leesburg Pike still proudly displays our achievement. However, if one clicks on the 2012 U.S. News Gold Medal emblem on the Marshall PTSA website, he or she will be directed to the 2013 U.S. News rankings of #16 in Virginia and #380 nationally. My student was distraught at this data and confused as to how we could have fallen so far so quickly.

I decided to compare the 2012 and 2013 U.S. News rankings, but I could not locate the 2012 results online. All links brought me to the #16 and #380 ranking. I decided to take a closer look at the magazine’s 2013 numbers for Marshall and see if they justified my subjective faith in the quality of GCM. The first thing I discovered is that Marshall still received a Gold Medal in 2013, the highest ranking from U.S. News. Fifty-eight percent of Marshall students took IB exams last year with an 84 percent participant pass rate. Of those who passed at least one IB exam, Marshall students passed on average over four IB exams. Couple that with Marshall’s 97 percent proficiency in mathematics and 98 percent proficiency in reading on the Virginia SOL exams, and my subjective opinion is clearly supported.

As far as rankings go, it is important to keep in mind that Marshall is measured against charter schools, such as Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. (Charter schools have very selective admissions whereas Marshall is dedicated to welcoming students of all backgrounds and abilities, providing each with the knowledge and tools necessary for success beyond high school). In addition, states’ standards and rigor differ, so it is difficult to compare schools from different states in terms of state test scores.

I would proudly drive past the sign on Leesburg Pike even if it reflected the 2013 #16 state and #380 national rankings. If there were a giant foam hand with 16 or 380 fingers, I’d wear that too. The administration, teachers, students, parents and staff know how great Marshall has been, is and will continue to be.