School administrators, and the entire community, are celebrating in New Hope, and Solebury, and Doylestown, and Warrington, and Souderton, and Abington. That dead silence you hear is coming from Quakertown, and Richland, and Milford, and Richlandtown, and Trumbauersville, and Haycock.
And QCSD Superintendent Lisa Andrejko.
According to the just-released U.S. News & World Report's 2012 ranking of Best High Schools, New Hope-Solebury is ranked seventh out of 752 public high schools in the state. Central Bucks West is 20th, Central Bucks East places 22nd and Central Bucks South comes in 30th. Souderton is 26th, and Abington 31st. Suffice to say, QCHS is not in the running for such honors.
U.S. News used a complicated and rigorous methodology to evaluate nearly 22,000 public high schools in 49 states and D.C., factoring in proficiency tests (PSSA's in PA), performance of economically disadvantaged and minorities students, and Advanced Placement test data.
The raw score for each school was not made available, and only the top 56 were identified by rank in PA. But U.S. News did give the public one metric to use in determining how a particular school is performing. And it is of particular relevance and importance to Andrejko, who has (so far unsuccessfully) made college prep, and AP test participation, her priorities. It is the "college readiness index".
The CRI is based on a school's AP or IB (International Baccalaureate) participation rate (the number of 12th-grade students in the 2009-2010 academic year who took at least one AP or IB test before or during their senior year, divided by the number of 12th graders) and how well the students did on those tests.
The median (statistical midpoint) of all the college readiness indexes of all public high schools in the country with AP or IB test takers was 16.3. (This already eliminates those schools which perform so poorly that no student takes those tests). The highest possible index is 100.0, which means that every 12th-grade student during the 2009-2010 academic year in a particular school took and passed at least one AP or IB test before or during their senior year.
There are 26 high schools in the country that received a perfect 100. At many of them, students take only AP-level courses. The best in PA is Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia, with a college readiness index of 83.8, and AP participation of 94 percent. The highest in Bucks County is New Hope-Solebury, at 47.7, and 62 percent AP participation, followed by Council Rock North (44.4 CRI) and Council Rock South (33.5). Central Bucks West is fourth (32.5), then CB East (30.6), neighboring Palisades (29.6), and CB South (28.0).
QCHS's college readiness index of 10.8 is the lowest of all public high schools in the eight districts within 10 miles, and just slightly more than half of the nation's 16.3 median. We are, roughly, in the bottom quarter of the entire country. Our AP rate of 18 percent is tied with Upper Perkiomen for second-worst locally, ahead of only Saucon Valley. Palisades and Souderton each index at 29.6, almost three times that of QCHS. Southern Lehigh is at 27.8, and Pennridge 18.6.
And U.S. News' methodology doesn't allow QCSD to make its usual inaccurate excuses about Economically Disadvantaged and minority students. Many schools in the survey have far more of each, and those groups are specifically taken into consideration. FYI, U.S. News reveals that QCHS has only seven percent minorities - and, interestingly, 17 percent Economically Disadvantaged, a far cry from the 23 percent declared by our administration.
Of the 14 public high schools in Bucks County rated by U.S. News, QCHS is 13th, beating out Bristol Township's 8.1 (with 34 percent minority students).
And if we expand our search into Montgomery County, seven of the eight nearest public high schools scored higher than QCHS, topped by Upper Dublin (37), Perkiomen Valley (29.6), and Souderton. The lone school to perform below QCHS is, interestingly, Norristown (4.8). That is also the answer to the question "Where was Andrejko the superintendent before she came here?" It does not answer the question of why our former school board would hire a superintendent from one of the historically worst-performing districts in the state. Or the question of how long the new board, and this community, will put up with horrendous performances here before she is asked to move on again.
Counting the 14 high schools in Bucks County, and the closest four in Lehigh, and seven in Montgomery, QCHS is 23rd out of 25.
This is consistent with what other independent organizations (that Andrejko can't control or censor) have found. The 2010 Philadelphia Inquirer Report Card on the Schools showed QCHS to be 46th of the 55 public high schools in Bucks, Montgomery, and Chester counties. On the 2009-10 PSSA's, QCHS ranked eighth out of 12 Upper Bucks high schools in reading proficiency, and ninth in math. In 2010-11, QCHS was one of only a handful of area schools that didn't make Adequate Yearly Progress. The Sunshine Review recently found important transparency omissions from the district's happy-talk website.
School Director Paul Stepanoff, who has been fighting the administration for complete transparency for years, acknowledged that there is a great deal kept from the board and the community. "The information the board and community receive is always heavily filtered. It is hard for board members like me (who have first hand experience) to reconcile the difference between the happy news we always receive on QCSD performance from the administration, and our actual experience with students after graduation. Also, there is a disconnect between the upbeat reports on Standard Based Grading from the administration, and the grumblings of the teachers."
Andrejko has been given almost unlimited authority over curriculum, personnel, spending, and control of information. Since she was hired here just over four years ago, virtually every administrative position has turned over, handing power - and responsibility - to her hand-picked cronies. Until five months ago, the board pretty much rubber-stamped anything that she wanted. School taxes and spending have outraged the community. And still, according to those outside impartial evaluations, we are in the educational basement.
Andrejko attacks critics, threatens to sue board members, ignores teacher dissatisfaction, and turns deaf ears to taxpayer complaints. In Norristown, she barely kept her job in a 5-4 board vote, before jumping ship and coming here. You can bet the ranch that this latest indictment, like the many before it, will never be publicly discussed, or acted on.
How many times do we have to read terrible QCSD evaluations before we actually do something about it?