Statistically Speaking, My High School Sucked


NBC, the Gates Foundation, and a bunch of other folks have put together a pretty nifty little school data project: The Education Nation Scorecard. Put in a school, and it spits out a handy-dandy graphical interface (thanks Fathom!) that tells you how the school stacks up against other schools, the district against other districts, the state against other states, and the country against other countries. You can get the comparisons for graduation rates, along with a variety of test scores for various grade levels.

Just for giggles, I put in my alma mater T.C. Williams, the only public high school in Alexandria, Virginia. Here's a screen grab of the district-level results:

don't need no

The interesting thing about making lots of data readily accessible: You learn things you didn't know that you didn't know. I was aware that my school had some serious failings. (In fact, it recently won the label "persistently low achieving.") But as a student there, I thought the experience was pretty OK. In fact, most people think their neighborhood public school is pretty OK, or even good.

That's because they don't know better. As a student at T.C. Williams, I could see that the school was relatively clean and relatively safe. I got a good education there. What I couldn't see was that all around me students were failing to learn to read and write, that they were dropping out at higher rates than almost anywhere else in the state. Nor could I see that Virginia's testing standards were significantly less rigorous than most states, making the failure to meet those standards all the more depressing. And if you don't know your school sucks, you're not going to complain.

An interesting coalition is forming around data-driven school reform. In the wake of the Los Angeles Times teacher quality data dump, NBC made what was essentially a weeklong infomerical for the excellent documentary Waiting for Superman, and Bill Gates announced that he was going to be dropping some more millions into education technology (for higher ed, but with more to come for K-12 later). Snazzy infographics are a nice early step.

The site anticipates that most people will react to their school's scores by asking "what can I do?" That isn't a good sign for the American education system. But the fact that they will now have the data to know to ask that question is a step in the right direction.

Via Flowing Data.

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  1. Mine is much worse. They have a graduation rate over 90%, coupled with a test-pass rate of 40%. It’s not hard to guess what part of not-quite-San Francisco I’m from, is it?

    I’m actually surprised how bad those numbers are. I wasn’t really paying attention while I was there?lazy child genius?but for a de facto diploma mill, it was a real pain in the ass to get into. It’s like the Harvard of high schools.

    B) Have you looked at the test-pass rates by state? California is straight-up retarded, yo.

    1. My school district in Northern Fort Worth has a 90%-ish pass rate for 4th AND 8th grade math and reading. Not too shabby.

  2. “Statistically Speaking, My High School Sucked”


    1. She didn’t learn much logic, but that’s pretty typical for professional scribblers; here’s the ignored and unmentioned stats that completely explain her schools poor current performance:…..0#students

  3. I got a good education there. What I couldn’t see was that all around me students were failing to learn to read and write, that they were dropping out at higher rates than almost anywhere else in the state.

    Just playing devil’s advocate, here:

    If you got a good education there, then obviously a good education was on offer there.

    The fact that lots of students decided not to avail themselves of it is a reflection on the school, how?

    1. to your point: it was obvious to me that my high school (small, rural district school in Michigan) sucked because I knew that a number of my classmates couldn’t read, couldn’t do percentages, could barely make change. Less than 10% went on to college of any kind. Yet I went to MIT. So they must have done something right.

  4. This is absolutely useless.

    I put in my old high school. I graduated 28 years ago, since then the neighborhood has gone to shit. As an example, the Chicago Sun-Times a few years ago published the average ACT scores for every public high school in the local counties. My high school scored the LOWEST in the entire suburban area, only the city high schools were worse. But you look at this data and the school looks like its doing fine. All because the Chicago Public schools are so bad you can’t honestly call them schools, and the other schools in the same district as mine are similarly bad – one is in a neighborhood with so much crime that the graduation rate is low in part because so many students get arrested.

  5. This actually makes me proud of how well I’ve done. I came up in the worst district in the 2nd-worst state.

  6. Katherine, please do as I advise my political journalism students to do. Put a sign over your desk: “Figures lie, and liars figure.” You learned because you came from a home that PREPARED you to learn, as I did in Southern Illinois in a very poor blue collar home, going to school with a lot of good women teachers, when women could be either teachers or nurses before the pill arrived. Many of your fellow classmates at T.C. Williams came from homes that DIDN’T PREPARE their children to be educated. The output data mean next to nothing in trying to inform solution of the problems of a particular school. Education reform HAS TO BEGIN WITH reforming attitudes and behaviors, including: the value placed on education in the home, parenting skills necessary to teach values, nourishment and sleep that occurs BEFORE school…I could go on and on. Michelle Rhee, whether she used a broom or a bull-dozer, could perhaps impact 5 or 10% of the problem in DC. Money’s certainly not the problem. Finding great teachers helps solve some of the problem. But receiving kids into the system who are prepared to learn is the HUGE part of the solution.

  7. From the results page for my state, looks like its better to drop out:

    “Education pays in Washington

    A high school graduate earns an annual income of $29,955.

    A high school dropout earns $20,004.”

    1. I’m guessing you’re one of the people bringing down your school’s stats.


  8. KMW, I mean seriously, you’re like my age, so you doubt it’s possible that maybe your school has started to suck *since* you went there?

    Incidentally my school, about 5 miles north of hers, is “data not available”.

  9. Eh, every school does well by some students and poorly by others. Mostly because they’re smart enough to pair the teachers that are qualified and give a shit with students that are smart and give a shit, and vice versa with underachievers.

    Granted, that sucks for the bad students, but a lot them probably need something other than high school. Vocational training if they’ve got more dedication than brains, boarding school (optionally) if the problem is a bad home environment, etc. And some people just can’t be helped.

  10. TC had that English teacher who used to write annoying columns in the Post about kids, is he gone?

    1. Nope. Still hunting comma-splices, I think I’ll be busy here.

      1. LOL @TC English Teach – u r still cool in my book. Annoying? no. Awesome? yes.


  11. Graduation rates are not all that useful. Any school can have a high graduation rate if it lowers the standards enough. Test scores give you a decent idea of the students’ IQs, but they aren’t so good at telling how well they are being taught writing, science, or history.

  12. What I couldn’t see was that all around me students were failing to learn to read and write, that they were dropping out at higher rates than almost anywhere else in the state. Nor could I see that Virginia’s testing standards were significantly less rigorous than most states, making the failure to meet those standards all the more depressing.

    Were you high? Did somebody gouge your eyes out with a spoon? Did you go blind from masturbating? What exactly prevented you from taking notice of what should have been intuitively obvious to the most casual observer?

  13. I did mediocre to low in a public high school ranked pretty high in the state. Rankings and grades don’t mean jack shit to me. They are not reliable indicators of accomplishment by them self.

    And the school was full of prep douche jock dipshits.

  14. The website doesn’t have data on private schools.

    1. Why do you hate poor people?

      1. It has my catholic school, grad rate at 90%. But that was back when there were still nuns…I believe it is like 80% laypeople now.

  15. T.C. Williams sucked? That can’t be true. It was so awesome in “Remember the Titans.”

  16. What’s up with NY? NYC must be so big every other district in the state is just a dot. Even Buffalo is barely noticeable

  17. Why does any of this matter? Are there really employers out there who are evaluating candidates based on the quality of the high school they attended? I did not realize The Gap was so thorough.

    1. Reread the post. Slowly this time. Read all of it. Read the last paragraph. Get it now?

  18. Some of the location data is off. While looking up the high school my sisters went to I found a school (Quest High School, 77044) with the correct address listed but placed a 35-minutes drive away from its actual location.

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